Film Review – KELLY’S HEROES (1970)

Image result for kelly's heroesKELLY’S HEROES (Yugoslavia/USA, 1970) ***½
      Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Production Company: Avala Film / Katzka-Loeb / The Warriors Company; Release Date: 23 June 1970 (USA), 17 September 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: 30 June 1969 – December 1969; Running Time: 144m; Colour: Metrocolor; Sound Mix: 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) | Stereo (35 mm prints); Film Format: 35mm (70mm blow-up); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG – contains mild language and violence.
Director: Brian G. Hutton; Writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin; Producer: Sidney Beckerman, Gabriel Katzka; Associate Producer: Irving L. Leonard; Director of Photography: Gabriel Figueroa; Music Composer: Lalo Schifrin; Film Editor: John Jympson; Production Designer: John Barry; Set Decorator: Mike Ford; Costumes: Anna Maria Feo; Make-up: Trevor Crole-Rees; Sound: Jonathan Bates, Cyril Swern, Harry W. Tetrick; Special Effects: Karl Baumgartner.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Kelly), Telly Savalas (Big Joe), Don Rickles (Crapgame), Carroll O’Connor (General Colt), Donald Sutherland (Oddball), Gavin MacLeod (Moriarty), Hal Buckley (Maitland), Stuart Margolin (Little Joe), Jeff Morris (Cowboy), Richard Davalos (Gutowski), Perry Lopez (Petuko), Tom Troupe (Job), Harry Dean Stanton (Willard), Dick Balduzzi (Fisher), Gene Collins (Babra), Len Lesser (Bellamy), David Hurst (Colonel Dankhopf), Fred Pearlman (Mitchell), Michael Clark (Grace), George Fargo (Penn), Dee Pollock (Jonesey), George Savalas (Mulligan), John G. Heller (German Lieutenant), Shepherd Sanders (Turk), Karl-Otto Alberty (German Tank Commander), Ross Elliott (Booker), Phil Adams (Third Tank Commander), Hugo De Vernier (French Mayor), Frank J. Garlotta (Tanker), Harry Goines (Supply Sergeant), David Gross (German Captain), Sandy McPeak (Second Tank Commander), James McHale (Guest), Robert MacNamara (Roach), Read Morgan (U.S. Lieutenant), Tom Signorelli (Bonsor), Donald Waugh (Roamer), Vincent Maracecchi (Old Man in Town).
      Synopsis: A group of U.S. soldiers sneaks across enemy lines to get their hands on a secret stash of Nazi treasure.
      Comment: Entertaining, if overlong, WWII heist caper coasts on the performances of its charismatic cast. Hutton, who previously worked with Eastwood on 1968’s  WHERE EAGLES DARE, handles the action scenes and pyrotechnics with great aplomb. Eastwood is the former US army officer who persuades Savalas and his platoon of misfits to venture behind enemy lines in search of a bounty of gold bars. They are joined along the way by Sutherland, as the anachronistic hippie “Oddball” who is surprisingly leading a squadron of three Sherman Tanks. Rickles is a supplies man operating his own black market and O’Connor gives an OTT performance as the unwitting General who assumes the assault on the German lines is out of sheer bravery. Lalo Schifrin’s score is amusing in a sequence where it recalls Ennio Morricone’s scores for Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns. Some may grumble at the levity in what was a bloody war and yes there are uneasy moments where you feel guilt at your enjoyment. A longer cut (circa 20 minutes were cut) would have carried more character focus and perhaps created a more complete story, but what we have is a loud, brash and often humorous caper movie.
      Notes: Songs: “Burning Bridges,” words and music by Lalo Schifrin and Mike Curb, sung by Mike Curb Congregation; “Si tu me dis,” music and lyrics by Lalo Schifrin and Gene Lees, sung by Monique Aldebert; “Sunshine,” composer undetermined, sung by Hank Williams.
The film is based on a true incident. The caper was covered in a book called “Nazi Gold: The Sensational Story of the World’s Greatest Robbery–and the Greatest Criminal Cover-Up” by Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting. The heist was perpetrated by a combination of renegade Nazi and American officers. It was also listed as the “biggest” robbery ever in the Guinness Book of Records, in the 1960s.

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 – THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION (2001)

Image result for the curse of the jade scorpionCurse of the Jade Scorpion, The (2001; USA; Technicolor; 103m) ***½  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Fei Zhao; m. Jill Meyers (clearances).  Cast: Woody Allen, Dan Aykroyd, Helen Hunt, Charlize Theron, Elizabeth Berkley, Wallace Shawn, David Ogden Stiers, Brian Markinson, John Schuck, Peter Linari. An insurance investigator and an efficiency expert who hate each other are both hypnotized by a crooked hypnotist with a jade scorpion into stealing jewels. Lightweight Allen film has some nice touches of parody on 1940s film noir and Raymond Chandler. The verbal sparring between Allen and Hunt is also reminiscent of screwball comedies from the era. High production values and a good supporting cast add much to the mix. Notable amongst them is Theron as a spoilt rich floozy. This was Allen’s most expensive film to date. [12]

Film Review – YOU’VE GOT MAIL (1998)

Image result for you've got mail 1998You’ve Got Mail (1998; USA; Technicolor; 119m) ***½ d. Nora Ephron; w. Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron; ph. John Lindley; m. George Fenton.  Cast: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Steve Zahn, Dave Chappelle, Greg Kinnear, Dabney Coleman, Jeffrey Scaperrotta, John Randolph, Heather Burns, Hallee Hirsh, Cara Seymour, Katie Finneran, Michael Badalucco. Two business rivals hate each other at the office but fall in love over the internet. Hanks and Ryan replicate their SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE routine in this amiable romantic comedy. Their on-screen chemistry adds significantly to the predictability of the story. Whilst much of the scenario is overly contrived it maintains a warmth and a sprinkling of satire that proves enough to win through. Based on the play “Parfumerie” by Nikolaus Laszlo previously filmed as THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940). [PG]

Film Review – McLINTOCK! (1963)

McLintock! (1963; USA; Technicolor; 127m) ***  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. James Edward Grant; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Frank De Vol.  Cast: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Yvonne De Carlo, Patrick Wayne, Stefanie Powers, Chill Wills, Jerry Van Dyke, Edgar Buchanan, Strother Martin, Aissa Wayne, Jack Kruschen, Bruce Cabot, Perry Lopez, Robert Lowery, Hank Worden. A cattle baron fights his wife, his daughter, and political land-grabbers, finally “taming” them all in this Western comedy with “Taming of the Shrew” overtones. High-spirited, if rather empty, Western-comedy is carried by the performances of its leads, with Wayne and O’Hara sparring off each other as they trade insults. The movie’s two big set-pieces – a slapstick fight in a mud pool and Wayne’s pursuit of O’Hara through the town in the climax are the most memorable sequences in this big, brawling and politically incorrect entertainment. [U]

Film Review – NORTH TO ALASKA (1960)

Related imageNorth to Alaska (1960; USA; DeLuxe; 122m) ***  d. Henry Hathaway; w. John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin, Claude Binyon; ph. Leon Shamroy; m. Lionel Newman.  Cast: John Wayne, Stewart Granger, Fabian, Ernie Kovacs, Capucine, Mickey Shaughnessy, Karl Swenson, Joe Sawyer, Kathleen Freeman, John Qualen, Stanley Adams, Frank Faylen, Kermit Maynard, Roy Jenson, Alan Carney. When Wayne and Granger strike gold in Alaska. Granger sends Wayne to Seattle to bring Granger’s fiancé back to Alaska. Very broad Western, driven by high-spirited performances and helped by strong production values and use of locations. Lacks any real depth and its main purpose is as a time filler. Based on the play “Birthday Gift” by Ladislas Fodor and an idea by John H. Kafka. [U]

Film Review – JET PILOT (1957)

Image result for jet pilot 1957Jet Pilot (1957; USA; Technicolor; 112m) **  d. Josef Von Sternberg; w. Jules Furthman; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Bronislau Kaper.  Cast: John Wayne, Janet Leigh, Jay C. Flippen, Paul Fix, Richard Rober, Hans Conried, Denver Pyle, Roland Winters, Kenneth Tobey. An Air Force colonel is assigned to escort defecting Soviet pilot and falls in love with her, but she is scheming to lure him back to the USSR. Poorly directed story fails to engage on any level and only the superb aerial photography and flight sequences make this film interesting. Tone veers uneasily from drama to comedy as Wayne and Leigh, who is at least appealing in her Russian spy role, skirt around each other. Filmed in 1949-50, this long held-back movie was finally released seven years later. [U]

Film Review – THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS (1974)

Image result for the sugarland express posterSugarland 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]

Film Review – FARGO (1996)

Image result for fargo 1996 blurayFargo (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. [18]

Film Review – “CROCODILE” DUNDEE II

Image result for CROCODILE DUNDEE II DVD“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]