Film Review – SIDEWAYS (2004)

Image result for sidewaysSideways (2004; USA; DeLuxe; 126m) ***** d. Alexander Payne; w. Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor; ph. Phedon Papamichael; m. Rolfe Kent.  Cast: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh, Marylouise Burke, Jessica Hecht, Missy Doty, M.C. Gainey, Alysia Reiner, Shaun Duke, Patrick Gallagher, Shake Tukhmanyan, Shaun Duke, Robert Covarrubias, Stephanie Faracy. Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment, embark on a week-long road trip through California’s wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle. Brilliantly written and highly entertaining exploration of male mid-life crisis featuring note-perfect performances from Giamatti, Church, Madsen and Oh. Moments of poignancy mix with laugh-out-loud comedy to produce a deft blend that matches the wines it celebrates. Won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Based on the novel by Rex Pickett. A Japanese remake was released in 2009. [15]

Film Review – SHIRLEY VALENTINE (1989)

Image result for shirley valentine dvdShirley Valentine (1989; UK/USA; Technicolor; 108m) ***½ d. Lewis Gilbert; w. Willy Russell; ph. Alan Hume; m. Willy Russell.  Cast: Pauline Collins, Tom Conti, Julia McKenzie, Joanna Lumley, Bernard Hill, Sylvia Syms, Alison Steadman, George Costigan, Anna Keaveney, Tracie Bennett, Ken Sharrock, Karen Craig, Gareth Jefferson, Gillian Kearney, Catharine Duncan. When her best friend wins an all-expenses-paid vacation to Greece for two, a housewife begins to see the world, and herself, in a different light. Beautifully observed exploration of mid-life crisis told from Collins’ point-of-view. The script and photography maximise the contrasts between the humdrum life of the northern housewife with the exotic life that can be explored in the Mediterranean. Collins is engaging and Conti adds charm to his heavily accented Greek tavern owner with whom Collins explores her fantasies. [15]

Film Review – FUZZ (1972)

Image result for FUZZ BLU-RAYFuzz (1972; USA; DeLuxe; 92m) ∗∗∗  d. Richard A. Colla; w. Evan Hunter; ph. Jacques R. Marquette; m. Dave Grusin.  Cast: Burt Reynolds, Jack Weston, Tom Skerritt, Yul Brynner, Raquel Welch, James McEachin, Steve Ihnat, Bert Remsen, Peter Bonerz, Dan Frazer, Stewart Moss, H. Benny Markowitz, James Victor, Tom Lawrence, Vince Howard. Police in Boston search for a mad bomber trying to extort money from the city. Well-intentioned attempt to bring Ed McBain’s “87th Precinct” novels to the big screen. Colla struggles to find the right balance between serious crime drama and the humour drawn from the everyday police work, by occasionally lapsing into slapstick. The result is a hodge-podge of good and bad execution. Brynner appears all too late as the charismatic villain, whilst Reynolds adopts his usual persona. The result is entertaining but decidedly uneven. Inhat’s final film. Hunter adapted his own novel written as Ed McBain. [18]

TV Review – CAR SHARE: SERIES 2 (2017)

Image result for car share series 2Car Share: Series 2 (2017; UK; Colour; 4x30m) ∗∗∗∗   pr. Gill Isles; d. Peter Kay; w. Paul Coleman, Peter Kay, Sian Gibson;.  Cast: Peter Kay, Sian Gibson, Guy Garvey, Conleth Hill, Loraine Calvert.  Ep 1: (∗∗∗∗∗) After moving in with her sister, Kayleigh is now travelling on her own to work, but will she manage to resist temptation or will she call her old car-share buddy John? Ep 2: (∗∗∗) John and Kayleigh are full of high spirits as they head off on their annual works do. Ep 3: (∗∗∗∗∗) Kayleigh has had enough of work and fancies a day off but John isn’t having any of it. Or is he? Ep 4: (∗∗∗∗) John enlists the help of his Nan to reluctantly wait in for a parcel delivery. The series returns after a one-year gap with four more episodes. Ep 1 re-captures the comedy chemistry between Kay and Gibson so evident in Series 1 and includes an hilarious altercation with a cyclist. The next two episodes look to expand on the concept, to varying degrees of success, by bringing in other characters. Ep 2 has Hill as an annoying drunk dressed as a Smurf cadging a lift home from the works fancy-dress do. This breaks up the dynamic set in the series to date and the laugh count fallls as a result. Ep 3 is superb fun with much comedy drawn from the pair bunking off work and going to a safari park. The finale promises to resolve the growing affection between the characters. This series proves to be another example of how Kay can derive laughter and character out of observation of every day life. By far the best comedy out there on the major networks, and while that’s not saying much it does demonstrate that Kay’s old school approach proves far more satisfying then that of many of his more fashionable peers. [15]

Film Review – ME BEFORE YOU (2016)

Me Before You (2016; USA; Colour; 110m) ∗∗∗  d. Thea Sharrock; w. Jojo Moyes, Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber; ph. Remi Adefarasin; m. Craig Armstrong.  Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Matthew Lewis, Charles Dance, Vanessa Kirby, Jenna Coleman, Janet McTeer, Brendan Coyle, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Hannah Flynn, Amber Elizabeth, Stephen Peacocke, Alexander Cooper, Richard Gouldin, Tony Paul West, Joanna Lumley. A relationship develops between a young quadriplegic man and the young woman employed to provide him with companionship. Populist approach to a sensitive subject may jar at times, but there’s no doubting the charming performances of Clarke and Claflin. The BRIDGET JONES crowd will find much to enjoy here, but those looking for a more serious approach will be left with a hollow feeling. Based on the novel by Jojo Moyes. [12]

Film Review – BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (1984)

Broadway Danny RoseBroadway Danny Rose (1984; USA; B&W; 84m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Dick Hyman (supervisor).  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte, Sandy Baron, Milton Berle, Craig Vandenburgh, Herb Reynolds, Paul Greco, Howard Cosell, Corbett Monica, Jackie Gayle, Morty Gunty, Will Jordan, Howard Storm, Jack Rollins. In his attempts to reconcile a lounge singer with his mistress, a hapless talent agent is mistaken as her lover by a jealous gangster. Delightful comedy with Allen is superb form as agent Danny Rose and farrow delivering an atypical performance as the gangster’s moll. It’s all wonderfully photographed in black & white by Gordon Willis. The character driven jokes work well in a charming tale. Many old comics appear to recount their favourite Danny Rose stories. [PG]

Film Review – SHADOWS AND FOG (1992)


Related imageShadows and Fog
(1992; USA; B&W; 85m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Carlo Di Palma.  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, John Malkovich, Madonna, Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, Kate Nelligan, Donald Pleasence, Lily Tomlin, John Cusack, Michael Kirby, Camille Saviola, David Ogden Stiers, Dennis Vestunis, Katy Dierlam. With a serial strangler on the loose, a bookkeeper wanders around town searching for the vigilante group intent on catching the killer. Allen mimics German Expressionism whilst channelling Bob Hope in this dark comedy. The cinematography and production design (by Santo Loquasto) is outstanding. There are star cameos throughout, which sometimes distracts from the story. Ultimately, the main plot goes nowhere and is a mere cypher for character interactions, which lack depth. An interesting, but flawed, experiment. Based on a one-act comedy play called “Death”, published in Allen’s “Without Feathers” (1972), the play and movie are themselves a pastiche of Franz Kafka’s work in general, and of his novel “The Trial” in particular. [15]

Film Review – CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989)

Image result for crimes and misdemeanors blu-rayCrimes and Misdemeanors (1989; USA; DuArt; 104m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Sven Nykvist; m. Joe Malin (co-ordinator).  Cast: Alan Alda, Woody Allen, Martin Landau, Claire Bloom, Jerry Orbach, Mia Farrow, Anjelica Huston, Dolores Sutton, Sam Waterston, Joanna Gleason, Stephanie Roth Haberle, Gregg Edelman, Daryl Hannah, Kenny Vance, Joel Fogel. An opthamologist’s mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife, while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated by another woman. Allen’s examination of the moral dilemma is played out over two intertwining stories – one deadly and darkly serious, the other satirically comic with Allen delivering incisive one-liners. That the cocktail works beautifully is a credit to Allen’s skills as writer and director. Landau and Huston deliver scintillatingly real performances. Alda is also superb as a pompous TV producer. [15]

Film Review – ZELIG (1983)

Image result for zelig blu-rayZelig (1983; USA; B&W/DuArt; 79m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Dick Hyman.  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Mary Louise Wilson, Sal Lomita, Michael Jeter, John Rothman, Marvin Chatinover, Patrick Horgan, John Buckwalter, Stanley Swerdlow, Paul Nevens, Howard Erskine, George Hamlin, Ralph Bell, Richard Whiting. “Documentary” about a man who can look and act like whoever he’s around, and meets various famous people. Technically brilliant and cleverly scripted this is one of Allen’s most original films. The actors are seamlessly blended into the archive footage through Willis’ superb cinematography. Allen’s absurdist wit shines through in this minor gem. [PG]

Film Review – CAFE SOCIETY (2016)

Café Society (2016; USA; Colour; 96m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Vittorio Storaro; m. Stewart Lerman (supervisor).  Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Corey Stoll, Jeannie Berlin, Ken Stott, Anna Camp, Gregg Binkley, Paul Schneider, Sari Lennick, Stephen Kunken, Sheryl Lee. A young man from the Bronx falls in love with his Uncle’s secretary in Hollywood. He then returns to New York and runs a high society night club. Allen revisits familiar themes of happenstance, misguided relationships and regrets in this sumptuous period piece. There are no surprises in Allen’s screenplay, but it does have its humorous and poignant moments and is not lacking in charm. First-rate production design and gorgeous use of colour, to accentuate the glitz of Hollywood, are real standouts. First time that Allen has narrated a film without appearing on screen since RADIO DAYS (1987). [12]