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 – TWILIGHT (1998)

Image result for twilight 1998TWILIGHT (USA, 1998) ***
     Distributor: Paramount Pictures; Production Company: Cinehaus / Paramount Pictures / Scott Rudin Productions; Release Date: 6 March 1998 (USA), 4 December 1998 (UK); Filming Dates: 11 November 1996 – March 1997; Running Time: 95m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong language.
     Director: Robert Benton; Writer: Robert Benton, Richard Russo; Executive Producer: Michael Hausman; Producer: Arlene Donovan, Scott Rudin; Associate Producer: Scott Ferguson, David McGiffert; Director of Photography: Piotr Sobocinski; Music Composer: Elmer Bernstein; Film Editor: Carol Littleton; Casting Director: Ilene Starger; Production Designer: David Gropman; Art Director: David J. Bomba; Set Decorator: Beth A. Rubino; Costumes: Joseph G. Aulisi; Make-up: Bron Roylance; Sound: Maurice Schell; Special Effects: Larry Fioritto, Ric San Nicholas.
     Cast: Paul Newman (Harry Ross), Susan Sarandon (Catherine Ames), Gene Hackman (Jack Ames), Reese Witherspoon (Mel Ames), Stockard Channing (Lt. Verna Hollander), James Garner (Raymond Hope), Giancarlo Esposito (Reuben Escobar), Liev Schreiber (Jeff Willis), Margo Martindale (Gloria Lamar), John Spencer (Capt. Phil Egan), M. Emmet Walsh (Lester Ivar), Peter Gregory (Verna’s Partner), Rene Mujica (Mexican Bartender), Jason Clarke (Young Cop #1), Patrick Malone (Younger Cop), Lewis Arquette (Water Pistol Man), Michael Brockman (Garvey’s Bartender), April Grace (Police Stenographer), Clint Howard (EMS Worker), John Cappon (Paramedic), Neil Mather (Young Cop #2), Ron Sanchez (Crime Scene Detective), Jack Wallace (Interrogation Officer), Jeff Joy (Carl), Jonathan Scarfe (Cop). Uncredited: Stephanie Beaton (Beth Koski), Jennifer Tolkachev (Sunbather), Ron von Gober (Man Walking Down the Street with Boy).
     Synopsis: Private eye Harry Ross lives in the garage of his movie-star, cancer-ridden friend Jack and is attracted to Jack’s wife Catherine. After elderly Lester Ivar shoots at Harry and then dies, Harry learns that Ivar was investigating the disappearance of Catherine’s first husband.
     Comment: Modern neo-film noir tries too hard to create the atmosphere of the 1940s in 1990s LA. The result feels a little incongruous. The strength of the story is with its cast. Newman is as good as ever as the private eye who is torn between his loyalties and doing the right thing. Hackman, Garner and Sarandon all deliver quality performances. Martindale also scores as a chancer with an incompetent accomplice. Bernstein delivers a moody but derivative score. Benton’s script tries hard to be convoluted, but underneath is a straight-forward story of blackmail and murder. The character interaction keeps the plot interesting, but the ultimate solution to the mystery is a little underwhelming.
     Notes: The Ames residence is actually the former Cedric Gibbons-Delores Del Rio home, and a never-completed Frank Lloyd Wright house near Malibu served as the Ames’ ranch house.

Liam Neeson set to be eighth big-screen Philip Marlowe

Reports Image result for liam neesonhave been issued of the casting of Liam Neeson to play Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye Philip Marlowe in an adaptation of Benjamin Black’s (pseudonym of John Banville) novel The Black-Eyed Blonde. Neeson will follow in the footsteps of Dick Powell (Murder, My Sweet in 1944), Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep in 1946), Rober Montgomery (Lady in the Lake in 1947), George Montgomery (The Brasher Doubloon also in 1947), James Garner (Marlowe in 1968), Elliott Gould (The Long Goodbye in 1973) and Robert Mitchum (Farewell, My Lovely in 1975 and The Big Sleep in 1978).

The script has been written by William Monahan (The Departed) who commented, “The book by Benjamin Black was a pleasure to adapt, and with Marlowe there’s no chance of even being asked to do it left-handed. You have to do Chandler justice, carry a very particular flame, or stay home.”

The adaptation, like the 1968 adaptation of The Little Sister is at this time simply titled Marlowe, will be brought to the screen by Nickel City Pictures and producer Gary Levinson.

James Garner (1928 – 2014)

James Garner

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of James Garner (on 19 July 2014 aged 86). I grew up watching Garner’s charismatic and charming performance as private eye Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files (1974-80). Garner was one of those actors who got by on the mere presence of his personality – although he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in 1985’s Murphy’s Romance. He had been a regular on the big screen through the 1950s and 1960s with his best known credits including Darby’s Rangers (1958),The Great Escape (1963), Grand Prix (1966), Hour of the Gun (1967) and Marlowe (1969).

Despite this he will be best remembered for his small screen starring roles in Maverick(1957-62) and the aforementioned The Rockford Files. During the 1970s he would have increasing problems with his knees, requiring surgery on a number of occasions. Finally he had to quit The Rockford Files when the demands of filming became too much.

His later career saw him resurrect his signature roles of Bret Maverick in the TV seriesBret Maverick (1981-2) and the film Maverick (1994) as well as Jim Rockford in a series of eight TV movies between 1994 and 1999. He also starred in the TV mini-series Streets of Laredo (1995) taking on the role of Woodrow Call from Tommy Lee Jones who portrayed Call in 1989’s Lonesome Dove. In 2000 he appeared with Jones alongside Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland in Space Cowboys.

Garner’s self-deprecating humour is summed up in this quote about his performance as Bret Maverick: “I’m playing me. Bret Maverick is lazy: I’m lazy. And I like being lazy.”

An actor from an increasingly distant generation, the likeable Garner will be sadly missed, but his legacy lives on through his work, which is widely available on DVD.

Biography: The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner and Jon Winokur (2011, Simon & Schuster)
Web: The Official James Garner Fan Page