Film Review – AD ASTRA (2019)

Ad Astra (2019) — Contains Moderate PerilAD ASTRA (USA/Brazil/China, 2019) **
      Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Production Company: New Regency Pictures / Bona Film Group / Keep Your Head / MadRiver Pictures / Plan B Entertainment / RT Features / Regency Enterprises / Twentieth Century Fox; Release Date: 29 August 2019 (Italy), 18 September 2019 (USA/UK); Filming Dates: began August 2017; Running Time: 123m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: SDDS | Dolby Atmos | DTS (DTS: X) | IMAX 6-Track | Auro 11.1 | Datasat | 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX version) | Dolby Surround 7.1; Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: ARRIRAW (3.4K) (source format) (some scenes), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: James Gray; Writer: James Gray, Ethan Gross; Executive Producer: Marc Butan, Jeffrey Chan, Paul Conway, Sophie Mas, Yariv Milchan, Anthony Mosawi, Michael Schaefer, Lourenço Sant’ Anna, Dong Yu; Producer: Dede Gardner, James Gray, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Arnon Milchan, Yariv Milchan, Brad Pitt, Rodrigo Teixeira; Associate Producer: Christina Oh; Director of Photography: Hoyte Van Hoytema; Music Composer: Max Richter; Film Editor: John Axelrad, Lee Haugen; Casting Director: Douglas Aibel; Production Designer: Kevin Thompson; Art Director: Christa Munro; Set Decorator: Karen O’Hara; Costumes: Albert Wolsky; Make-up: Nana Fischer, Jaime Leigh McIntosh; Sound: Brad Semenoff; Special Effects: Scott R. Fisher; Visual Effects: Allen Maris.
      Cast: Brad Pitt (Roy McBride), Tommy Lee Jones (H. Clifford McBride), Ruth Negga (Helen Lantos), Donald Sutherland (Thomas Pruitt), Kimberly Elise (Lorraine Deavers), Loren Dean (Donald Stanford), Donnie Keshawarz (Captain Lawrence Tanner), Sean Blakemore (Willie Levant), Bobby Nish (Franklin Yoshida), LisaGay Hamilton (Adjutant General Vogel), John Finn (Brigadier General Stroud), John Ortiz (Lieutenant General Rivas), Freda Foh Shen (Captain Lu), Kayla Adams (Female Flight Attendant), Ravi Kapoor (Arjun Dhariwal), Liv Tyler (Eve), Elisa Perry (Woman in White Pants / Shirt), Daniel Sauli (Sal), Kimmy Shields (Sergeant Romano), Kunal Dudheker (Technician One).
      Synopsis: An astronaut undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.
      Comment: Whilst the film is a technical triumph it is also a dramatic failure. The mission for Pitt to seek out his father (Jones), who is perched in an experimental lab at the edge of the solar system, in order to prevent a life-threatening electrical pulse wave is fanciful and more than a little contrived. The space setting also ensures the story unfolds at a slow pace, with echoes of Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY but actually working against the story here because in reality, it takes a long time to get to Saturn and then to Neptune. The story’s main theme of a father-son relationship turned sour is set against a canvass so broad it feels inconsequential and saps the film of any dramatic core it hoped it would provide. The performances are one-level and the script totally lacks any saving grace of humour. The result is a depressing and monotonous experience. Occasional glimpses of a more exciting movie emerge in two scenes. A buggy chase across the surface of Saturn and a bizarre encounter for Pitt, answering a distress call, with two apes aboard a Norwegian space vessel. These two set-pieces aside there is little else to connect the viewer to the characters and their plight. The visuals are outstanding and well shot but are wasted on such a shallow story. A great example of how to blend of visuals with dramatic tension can be seen in 2013’s GRAVITY.

Film Review – SPACE COWBOYS (2000)

Image result for space cowboys 2000SPACE COWBOYS (USA, 2000) ***½
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Clipsal Films / Mad Chance / Malpaso Productions / Village Roadshow Pictures / Warner Bros.; Release Date: 1 August 2000 (USA), 22 September 2000 (UK); Filming Dates: 19 July 1999 – 19 October 1999; Running Time: 130m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS; Film Format: 35mm, D-Cinema (Texas Instruments DLP 1280 x 1024, 1.9 : 1 anamorphic); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Ken Kaufman, Howard Klausner; Executive Producer: Tom Rooker; Producer: Clint Eastwood, Andrew Lazar; Director of Photography: Jack N. Green; Music Composer: Lennie Niehaus; Film Editor: Joel Cox; Casting Director: Phyllis Huffman; Production Designer: Henry Bumstead; Art Director: Jack G. Taylor Jr.; Set Decorator: Richard C. Goddard; Costumes: Deborah Hopper; Make-up: Tania McComas, Francisco X. Pérez; Sound: Bub Asman, Alan Robert Murray; Special Effects: John Palmer; Visual Effects: Nelson Cabrera, Susan Greenhow, Michael Owens, Lisa Todd, Judith Weaver.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Frank Corvin), Tommy Lee Jones (Hawk Hawkins), Donald Sutherland (Jerry O’Neill), James Garner (Tank Sullivan), James Cromwell (Bob Gerson), Marcia Gay Harden (Sara Holland), William Devane (Eugene Davis), Loren Dean (Ethan Glance), Courtney B. Vance (Roger Hines), Barbara Babcock (Barbara Corvin), Rade Serbedzija (General Vostov), Blair Brown (Dr. Anne Caruthers), Jay Leno (Jay Leno), Nils Allen Stewart (Tiny), Deborah Jolly (Cocktail Waitress), Toby Stephens (Young Frank), Eli Craig (Young Hawk), John Asher (Young Jerry), Matt McColm (Young Tank), Billie Worley (Young Gerson), Chris Wylde (Jason), Anne Stedman (Jason’s Girlfriend), James MacDonald (Capcom), Kate McNeil (Female Astronaut #1), Karen M. Waldron (Female Astronaut #2), John Linton (Male Astronaut #1), Mark Thomason (Mission Control Tech), Georgia Emelin (Jerry’s Girlfriend), Rick Scarry (State Department Official), Paul Pender (JBC Security Guard), Tim Halligan (Qualls), Manning Mpinduzi-Mott (Press Reporter #1), Steve Monroe (Waiter), Jean-Michel Henry (Centrifuge Tech), Steven West (Construction Tech), Cooper Huckabee (Trajectory Engineer), Hayden Tank (Boy at NASA Tour), Jock MacDonald (Press Reporter (1958)), Gerald Emerick (T-38 Pilot), Renee Olstead (Little Girl), Don Michaelson (NASA Doctor), Artur Cybulski (Press Reporter #2), Gordy Owens (Simsupe), Steve Stapenhorst (Vice President), Lauren Cohn (Teacher at NASA Tour), Michael Louden (Young Pilot #1), Deborah Hope (Female Engineer), Jon Hamm (Young Pilot #2), Lamont Lofton (KSC Guard), Aleksandr Kuznetsov (Russian Engineer (as Alexander Kuznetsov)), Erica Grant (Female Engineer).
      Synopsis: When a retired engineer is called upon to rescue a failing satellite, he insists that his equally old teammates accompany him into space.
      Comment: Highly entertaining, if wildly implausible, space rescue thriller. It coasts on the charisma of its four veteran leads and generates much humour out of their character interactions. Also impressive are the in-space special and visual effects. Eastwood directs with confidence and generates a fair amount of tension in the movie’s final act. If you can accept the premise you’ll find much to enjoy, just don’t scrutinise the plot too closely.

Film Review – INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)

Image result for invasion of the body snatchers 1978INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (USA, 1978) ***½
      Distributor: United Artists; Production Company: Solofilm; Release Date: 22 December 1978 (USA); 22 March 1979 (UK); Filming Dates: 19 February 1978 – 29 April 1978; Running Time: 115m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Stereo (Dolby Stereo); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – contains one scene of strong gory violence and moderate horror.
      Director: Philip Kaufman; Writer: W.D. Richter (based on the novel “The Body Snatchers” by Jack Finney); Producer: Robert H. Solo; Director of Photography: Michael Chapman; Music Composer: Denny Zeitlin; Film Editor: Douglas Stewart; Casting Director: Mary Goldberg; Production Designer: Charles Rosen; Set Decorator: Doug von Koss; Costumes: Aggie Guerard Rodgers; Make-up: Thomas R. Burman, Edouard F. Henriques, Bob Westmoreland; Sound: Ben Burtt, Bonnie Koehler, John Nutt, Steve Powell, Art Rochester; Special Effects: Russel Hessey, Dell Rheaume.
       Cast: Donald Sutherland (Matthew Bennell), Brooke Adams (Elizabeth Driscoll), Jeff Goldblum (Jack Bellicec), Veronica Cartwright (Nancy Bellicec), Leonard Nimoy (Dr. David Kibner), Art Hindle (Dr. Geoffrey Howell), Lelia Goldoni (Katherine Hendley), Kevin McCarthy (Running Man), Don Siegel (Taxi Driver), Tom Luddy (Ted Hendley), Stan Ritchie (Stan), David Fisher (Mr. Gianni), Tom Dahlgren (Detective), Garry Goodrow (Dr. Boccardo), Jerry Walter (Restaurant Owner), Maurice Argent (Chef), Sam Conti (Street Barker), Wood Moy (Mr. Tong), R. Wong (Mrs. Tong), Rose Kaufman (Outraged Woman), Joe Bellan (Harry), Sam Hiona (Policeman #1), Lee McVeigh (Policeman #2), Al Nalbandian (Rodent Man), Lee Mines (School Teacher). Uncredited: Michael Chapman (Health Dept. Floor Cleaner), Robert Duvall (Priest on Swing), Anthony Garibaldi (Student), Kevin Harris (Dr. of pods), Philip Kaufman (City Official on Phone (voice)), Misty (Harry’s Boxer Dog), Al Perez (PG&E Man), Jeff Scheftel (Pod Person at Party).
      Synopsis: In San Francisco, a group of people discover the human race is being replaced one by one, with clones devoid of emotion.
      Comment: Well-made remake of the 1956 Don Siegel classic. Sutherland is excellent as the public health inspector caught up in the paranoia. He is well supported by a strong cast, which includes a young Goldblum and pre-ALIEN Cartwright. Nimoy is also effective as a psychologist with an ego. Zeitlin provides an eerie electronic score, whilst Chapman’s largely night-time photography makes inventive use of the locations. Tension builds throughout and it is only in its final act that the production becomes more formulaic. There is, however,  a closing scene that is guaranteed to live long in the memory.
      Notes: Second adaptation of the novel “The Body Snatchers” by Jack Finney. Previously filmed in 1956 and remade in 1993 as BODY SNATCHERS and 2007 as THE INVASION. Watch out for cameos by the original film star and director Kevin McCarthy and Don Siegel as well as Robert Duvall and director Philip Kaufman.

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 Round-up – VERONICA MARS (2014) and KLUTE (1971)

545454.Veronica-Mars-Movie-PosterVeronica Mars (2014; USA; Colour; 107m) ∗∗½  d. Rob Thomas; w. Rob Thomas, Diane Ruggiero; ph. Ben Kutchins; m. Josh Kramon; ed. Daniel Gabbe.  Cast: Kristen Bell, Enrico Colantoni, Jason Dohring, Martin Starr, Krysten Ritter, Tina Majorino, Gaby Hoffmann, Percy Daggs III, Ryan Hansen, Francis Capra, Brandon Hillock, Sam Huntington, Chris Lowell, Max Greenfield, Daran Norris, Christine Lakin, Ken Marino, Dax Shepard, Eddie Jemison, Kevin Sheridan, Justin Long, Jamie Lee Curtis, James Franco. Years after walking away from her past as a teenage private eye, Veronica Mars gets pulled back to her hometown – just in time for her high school reunion – in order to help an old flame, who’s embroiled in a murder mystery. Mystery elements are light and story is populated by annoying one-dimensional characters. This puts a heavy reliance on Bell’s charisma and smooth line in sarcastic humour to maintain interest. [12]

downloadKlute (1971; USA; Technicolor; 114m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Alan J. Pakula; w. Andy Lewis, David E. Lewis; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Michael Small; ed. Carl Lerner.  Cast: Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Charles Cioffi, Roy Scheider, Jean Stapleton, Rita Gam, Dorothy Tristan, Richard B. Shull, Vivian Nathan, Nathan George, Morris Strassbert, Barry Snider, Betty Murray, Jane White, Shirley Stoler. A small-town detective searching for a missing man has only one lead: a connection with a New York prostitute. Fonda’s call girl’s inner turmoil is the real focus of this thriller and she produces a magnetic Oscar-winning performance. Pakula manages to bring an authentic feel to the drama through naturalistic performances and dialogue alongside and uncompromising use of NYC locations. [18]