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. 
Car 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. 
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. 
Broadway 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]
Shadows 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.