Sugarland Express, The (1974; USA; Technicolor; 110m) **** d. Steven Spielberg; w. Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins, Steven Spielberg; ph. Vilmos Zsigmond; m. John Williams. Cast: Goldie Hawn, Ben Johnson, Michael Sacks, William Atherton, Gregory Walcott, Steve Kanaly, Louise Latham, Harrison Zanuck, A. L. Camp, Jessie Lee Fulton, Dean Smith, Ted Grossman. A woman attempts to reunite her family by helping her husband escape prison and together kidnapping their son. But things don’t go as planned when they are forced to take a police hostage on the road. Spielberg’s first theatrical feature is a winning combination of drama and humour. Balancing the tone is the director’s biggest challenge as he takes on this adaptation of real life events. Hawn and Atherton score strongly as the misguided couple, whilst Johnson gives a quietly effective performance as a sympathetic lawman. The tone shifts sharply in its final act, but this remains an engaging tale. [PG]
Fargo (1996; USA/UK; DuArt; 98m) ****½ d. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; w. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; ph. Roger Deakins; m. Carter Burwell. Cast: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, Peter Stormare, Steve Reevis, Kristin Rudrud, John Carroll Lynch, Tony Denman, Gary Houston, Warren Keith, Larry Brandenburg, Bruce Bohne. Jerry Lundegaard’s inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen’s bungling and the persistent police work of the quite pregnant Marge Gunderson. A darkly comic and violent thriller set against a cold and snowy backdrop with winning performances from a strong cast. McDormand and Buscemi are standouts who make the most of the Coen Bothers’ Oscar winning screenplay. Followed by a 60m pilot for a TV series, which didn’t sell, but a series was eventually taken up in 2014. 
“Crocodile” Dundee II (1988; Australia/USA; DuArt; 108m) **½ d. John Cornell; w. Paul Hogan, Brett Hogan; ph. Russell Boyd; m. Peter Best. Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Charles S. Dutton, John Meillon, Hechter Ubarry, Juan Fernandez, Luis Guzman, Kenneth Welsh. Australian outback expert protects his New York love from gangsters who’ve followed her down under. Tired re-tread, which reverses the scenario of the original. Hogan again evokes an easy-going charm, but the plot gets in the way of the laughs, which are few and far between once the action returns to Australia. Followed by “CROCODILE” DUNDEE IN LOS ANGELES (2001). [PG]
“Crocodile” Dundee (1986; Australia/USA; DuArt; 97m) ***½ d. Peter Faiman; w. John Cornell, Paul Hogan, Ken Shadie; ph. Russell Boyd; m. Peter Best. Cast: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Blum, John Meillon, Michael Lombard, David Gulpilil, Irving Metzman, Reginald VelJohnson. An American reporter goes to the Australian outback to meet an eccentric crocodile poacher and invites him to New York City. Hogan’s commentary on culture clashes is delightfully funny. The charm of the leads is enough to carry a formulaic plot and there is much fun to be derived from seeing Hogan’s “Crocodile” Dundee cope with multi-layered city life – from the trappings of the rich to the sleaze of street life. Finale is rushed, but a sequel was pretty much guaranteed. Followed by CROCODILE DUNDEE II (1988) and CROCODILE DUNDEE IN LOS ANGELES (2001). 
Murder on the Blackpool Express (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 91m) *½ pr. Jim Poyser; d. Simon Delaney; w. Jason Cook; ph. Ian Adrian; m. Samuel Karl Bohn. Cast: Johnny Vegas, Sian Gibson, Griff Rhys Jones, Mark Heap, Nina Wadia, Kimberley Nixon, Nigel Havers, Kevin Eldon, Una Stubbs, Sheila Reid. Feature-length comedy about a crime writer (Jones) who takes a group of his fans on a coach tour of locations from his books. The bus is soon leaving a string of bodies in its wake, and the passengers are faced with the possibility of a murderer in their midst. Woeful attempt to parody the Agatha Christie classic constantly misfires and long outstays its welcome. A good cast of comedy veterans is wasted with lame material and is poorly directed – even the few good jokes are badly delivered and executed.
Radio Days (1987; USA; DeLuxe; 88m) ***½ d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Carlo Di Palma; m. Dick Hyman (supervisor). Cast: Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton, Jeff Daniels, Tony Roberts, Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen, Seth Green, Julie Kavner, Michael Tucker, Wallace Shawn, David Warrilow, William Flanagan, Mick Murray, Paul Herman, Mike Starr. A nostalgic look at radio’s golden age focusing on one ordinary family and the various performers in the medium. Allen’s affectionate tribute to the 1940s is a series of vignettes based around a family of Jewish New Yorkers living in Brooklyn. Along the way we meet vulnerable characters encountering the challenges of poverty and life who get their pleasures from the radio programmes of the time. Warm and funny, its lack of a central plot is compensated by its strong ensemble cast of characters. [PG]
Porridge (1979; UK; Eastmancolor; 93m) *** d. Dick Clement; w. Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais; ph. Robert Huke; m. Terry Oates (supervisor). Cast: Ronnie Barker, Richard Beckinsale, Fulton MacKay, Brian Wilde, Peter Vaughan, Julian Holloway, Geoffrey Bayldon, Christopher Godwin, Barrie Rutter, Daniel Peacock, Sam Kelly, Ken Jones, Philip Locke, Gorden Kaye. This prison comedy is based on the popular British television series (1974-7) of the same name. Long-time Slade prison inmate Barker is ordered by Grouty to arrange a football match between the prisoners and an all-star celebrity team unaware that the match is only a diversion so that an escape can take place. Extended but good representation of a classic comedy series. The script is witty and the plot light enough to allow the characters room to breathe. Barker is excellent and is well supported by Beckinsale, Wilde and MacKay. US title: DOING TIME. [PG]
Sideways (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. 
Shirley 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. 
Fuzz (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.