TV Review – CRACKER: MAD WOMAN IN THE ATTIC (1993)

Image result for cracker mad woman in the atticCRACKER: MAD WOMAN IN THE ATTIC (TV) (UK, 1993) ****
      Distributor: ITV – Independent Television; Production Company: A&E Television Networks / Granada Television; Release Date: 27 September & 4 October 1993; Running Time: 103m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Michael Winterbottom; Writer: Jimmy McGovern; Executive Producer: Sally Head; Producer: Gub Neal; Director of Photography: Ivan Strasburg; Music Composer: Julian Wastall; Film Editor: Trevor Waite; Casting Director: Gail Stevens; Production Designer: Chris Wilkinson; Art Director: Deborah Morley; Set Decorator: ; Costumes: Janty Yates; Make-up: Helen King; Sound: Phil Smith.
      Cast: Robbie Coltrane (Fitz), Barbara Flynn (Judith Fitzgerald), Christopher Eccleston (D.C.I. Bilborough), Geraldine Somerville (D.S. Penhaligon), Lorcan Cranitch (D.S. Beck), Adrian Dunbar (Kelly), Nicholas Woodeson (Hennessy), Kieran O’Brien (Mark), Don Henderson (Hennessy Senior), Seamus O’Neill (D.C. Jones), Ian Mercer (D.C. Giggs), Paul Copley (Pathologist), Alan Partington (Mr Hobbs), Romy Baskerville (Irene Hobbs), Daryl Fishwick (Mrs Forbes), Kika Markham (Ann Appleby), John Grillo (Simon Appleby), Edward Peel (Chief Super), David Crellin (Quinlan), Andrew Brittain (Presenter), Diane Adderley (Mrs Royle).
      Synopsis: A young woman is brutally murdered on a train, the victim of a serial killer. The prime suspect is an amnesiac man, who cannot confess to the crime if he cannot remember committing it unless a troubled psychologist can crack him.
      Comment: The premiere episode of the Cracker TV series (1993-6) introduces us to Coltrane’s dynamite performance as the flawed psychologist, addicted to gambling and booze, and lays the template for a series that would reach new highs for crime TV in the UK. Fitz is such a compelling character he threatens to dwarf all around him. Fortunately, a very strong support cast is also on hand and Winterbottom’s inventive direction gets the best out of them. The story is intriguing as a ‘did he or didn’t he do it’ and that it succeeds in keeping you guessing for so long is down to McGovern’s strong script and a good supporting performance from Dunbar as the amnesiac suspect. Often a tough watch, this is never less than engrossing and is only let down by the rushed finale. Better was to follow, but this is still a great introduction.

Film Review – GOODFELLAS (1990)

Image result for goodfellas 1990GOODFELLAS (USA, 1990) ****½
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Warner Bros; Release Date: 17 September 1990 (USA), 26 October 1990 (UK); Filming Dates: 3 May 1989 – 9 August 1989; Running Time: 146m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Dolby SR; Film Format: 35mm (Eastman 5384); Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Martin Scorsese; Writer: Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese (based on the book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi); Executive Producer: Barbara De Fina; Producer: Irwin Winkler; Associate Producer: Bruce S. Pustin; Director of Photography: Michael Ballhaus; Music Editor: Christopher Brooks; Film Editor: James Y. Kwei, Thelma Schoonmaker; Casting Director: Ellen Lewis; Production Designer: Kristi Zea; Art Director: Maher Ahmad; Set Decorator: Leslie Bloom; Costumes: Richard Bruno; Make-up: Carl Fullerton, Ilona Herman, Allen Weisinger; Sound: Skip Lievsay; Special Effects: Connie Brink.
      Cast: Robert De Niro (James Conway), Ray Liotta (Henry Hill), Joe Pesci (Tommy DeVito), Lorraine Bracco (Karen Hill), Paul Sorvino (Paul Cicero), Frank Sivero (Frankie Carbone), Tony Darrow (Sonny Bunz), Mike Starr (Frenchy), Frank Vincent (Billy Batts), Chuck Low (Morris Kessler), Frank DiLeo (Tuddy Cicero), Henny Youngman (Henny Youngman), Gina Mastrogiacomo (Janice Rossi), Catherine Scorsese (Tommy’s Mother), Charles Scorsese (Vinnie), Suzanne Shepherd (Karen’s Mother), Debi Mazar (Sandy), Margo Winkler (Belle Kessler), Welker White (Lois Byrd), Jerry Vale (Jerry Vale), Julie Garfield (Mickey Conway), Christopher Serrone (Young Henry), Elaine Kagan (Henry’s Mother), Beau Starr (Henry’s Father), Kevin Corrigan (Michael Hill), Michael Imperioli (Spider), Robbie Vinton (Bobby Vinton), Johnny Williams (Johnny Roastbeef), Daniel P. Conte (Dr. Dan), Tony Conforti (Tony), Frank Pellegrino (Johnny Dio), Ronald Maccone (Ronnie), Tony Sirico (Tony Stacks), Joseph D’Onofrio (Young Tommy), Steve Forleo (City Detective #1), Richard Dioguardi (City Detective #2), Frank Adonis (Anthony Stabile), John Manca (Nickey Eyes), Joseph Bono (Mikey Franzese), Katherine Wallach (Diane), Mark Evan Jacobs (Bruce), Angela Pietropinto (Cicero’s Wife), Marianne Leone (Tuddy’s Wife), Marie Michaels (Mrs. Carbone), LoNardo (Frenchy’s Wife), Melissa Prophet (Angie), Illeana Douglas (Rosie), Susan Varon (Susan), Elizabeth Whitcraft (Tommy’s Girlfriend at Copa), Clem Caserta (Joe Buddha), Samuel L. Jackson (Stacks Edwards), Fran McGee (Johnny Roastbeef’s Wife), Paul Herman (Dealer), Edward McDonald (Edward McDonald), Edward Hayes (Defense Attorney), Bo Dietl (Arresting Narc).
      Synopsis: Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy.
      Comment: Stylish adaptation of Pileggi’s book about real-life gangster Henry Hill. Scorcese extracts dark humour from the violent drama and moves the story along in expert fashion assisted by editors Kwei and Schoonmaker. DeNiro, Liotta and Pesci each give exceptional performances as the Goodfellas of the title trying to find their own way in a world of organised crime. The inevitable descent into mistrust and retribution is brilliantly handled.
      Notes: Pesci won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Film Review – COLD PURSUIT (2019)

Image result for cold pursuit 2019COLD PURSUIT (USA, 2019) ***½
      Distributor: Lionsgate (USA), StudioCanal (UK); Production Company: StudioCanal / Paradox Films; Release Date: 8 February 2019 (USA), 22 February 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: March 2017; Running Time: 119m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital (7.1 surround); Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence.
      Director: Hans Petter Moland; Writer: Frank Baldwin (based on a screenplay by Kim Fupz Aakeson); Executive Producer: Michael Dreyer, Shana Eddy-Grouf, Ron Halpern, Didier Lupfer, Paul Schwartzman; Producer: Finn Gjerdrum, Stein B. Kvae, Michael Shamberg, Ameet Shukla; Associate Producer: Nicolai Moland; Director of Photography: Philip Øgaard; Music Composer: George Fenton; Film Editor: Nicolaj Monberg; Casting Director: Avy Kaufman; Production Designer: Jørgen Stangebye Larsen; Art Director: Kendelle Elliott; Set Decorator: Peter Lando; Costumes: Anne Pedersen; Make-up: Krista Young; Sound: James Boyle; Special Effects: Jason Paradis; Visual Effects: Jan Guilfoyle, Martin Lake, Noga Alon Stein.
      Cast: Liam Neeson (Nels Coxman), Laura Dern (Grace Coxman), Micheál Richardson (Kyle Coxman), Michael Eklund (Speedo), Bradley Stryker (Limbo), Wesley MacInnes (Dante), Tom Bateman (Trevor ‘Viking’ Calcote), Domenick Lombardozzi (Mustang), Nicholas Holmes (Ryan), Jim Shield (Jaded Coroner), Aleks Paunovic (Detective Osgard), Glenn Ennis (Night Club Bouncer), Benjamin Hollingsworth (Dexter), John Doman (John ‘Gip’ Gipsky), Emmy Rossum (Kim Dash), Chris W. Cook (Ski Bum), Venus Terzo (Mother), Dani Alvarado (Daughter), Julia Jones (Aya), Michael Adamthwaite (Santa), William Forsythe (Brock), Elizabeth Thai (Ahn), David O’Hara (Sly), Gus Halper (Bone), Elysia Rotaru (Diner Waitress), Kyle Nobess (Simon Legrew), Victor Zinck Jr. (Drunken Ski Dude), Raoul Max Trujillo (Thorpe), Nathaniel Arcand (Smoke), Glen Gould (War Dog), Mitchell Saddleback (Avalanche), Christopher Logan (Shiv), Tom Jackson (White Bull), Bart Anderson (Blizzard Bartender), Gary Sekhon (Denver Cabbie), Arnold Pinnock (The Eskimo), Ben Cotton (Windex), Emily Maddison (Gorgeous Woman), Glenn Wrage (Kurt), Michael Bean (Parson), Ben Sullivan (Teen), Travis MacDonald (Ski Lift Attendant), Manna Nichols (Minya), Loretta Walsh (Resort Clerk), Nels Lennarson (Chuck Schalm), Max Montesi (Paragliding Instructor), Peter Strand Rumpel (Viking’s Thug).
      Synopsis: A grieving snowplough driver seeks out revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son.
      Comment: Darkly comic thriller has much to commend it as Neeson plays it straight against a quirky cast of characters. The extreme violence is delivered via a series of well-shot action sequences. Where the story falls down is in not seeing through some of the elements of its plot – the relationship between Neeson and his wife Dern is not fully resolved and the theme of father-son relationships heavily hinted at across a number of the core characters is not fully explored. What remains is an entertaining and stylish story that only scratches at the surface of its potential.
      Notes: Based on the 2014 Norwegian film IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE.

Film Review – EVEREST (2015)

Image result for everest 2015EVEREST (USA/UK/Iceland, 2015) ***½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK); Production Company: Working Title Films / RVK Studios / Walden Media / Universal Pictures / Cross Creek Pictures; Release Date: 18 September 2015 (USA and UK); Filming Dates: Began 13 January 2014; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital | 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX 12 track) | Dolby Atmos | Auro 11.1 | IMAX 6-Track | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Sonics-DDP; Film Format: D-Cinema (also 3-D version); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Baltasar Kormákur; Writer: Lem Dobbs, Justin Isbell, William Nicholson; Executive Producer: Brandt Andersen, Liza Chasin, Randall Emmett, Evan Hayes, Mark Mallouk, Peter Mallouk, Angela Morrison, Lauren Selig; Producer: Nicky Kentish Barnes, Tim Bevan, Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner, Evan Hayes, Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson; Director of Photography: Salvatore Totino; Music Composer: Dario Marianelli; Music Supervisor: Maggie Rodford; Film Editor: Mick Audsley; Casting Director: Fiona Weir; Production Designer: Gary Freeman; Art Director: Tom Still; Set Decorator: Raffaella Giovannetti; Costumes: Guy Speranza; Make-up: Carmel Jackson; Sound: Glenn Freemantle; Special Effects: Richard Van Den Bergh; Visual Effects: Måns Björklund, Tim Caplan, Chaya Feiner, Hjortur Gretarsson, Roma O’Connor, Dominic Parker, Melody Woodford.
      Cast: Jason Clarke (Rob Hall), Jake Gyllenhaal (Scott Fischer), Josh Brolin (Beck Weathers), Robin Wright (Peach Weathers), John Hawkes (Doug Hansen), Sam Worthington (Guy Cotter), Michael Kelly (Jon Krakauer), Keira Knightley (Jan Arnold), Emily Watson (Helen Wilton), Thomas Wright (Michael Groom), Martin Henderson (Andy “Harold” Harris), Elizabeth Debicki (Dr. Caroline Mackenzie), Naoko Mori (Yasuko Namba), Clive Standen (Ed Viesturs), Vanessa Kirby (Sandy Hill), Tom Goodman-Hill (Neal Beidleman), Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson (Anatoli Boukreev), Charlotte Bøving (Lene Gammelgaard), Micah Hauptman (David Breashears), Chris Reilly (Klev Schoening), Chike Chan (Makalu Gau), Vijaya Lama (Lt. Col. Madan Khatri Chhetri), Mark Derwin (Lou Kasischke), Mia Goth (Meg Weathers).
      Synopsis: The story of New Zealand’s Robert “Rob” Edwin Hall, who on May 10, 1996, together with Scott Fischer, teamed up on a joint expedition to ascend Mount Everest.
      Comment: Based on a true story this is a Hollywood-ised treatment that nevertheless is an engaging experience due to some breathtaking location photography and strong performances by the ensemble cast. The set-pieces are immaculately staged and often thrilling, but the main theme is one of endurance and will. Clarke and Brolin are particularly excellent, whilst Gyllenhaal is also memorable in a hippy-style turn. Whilst the movie lacks the emotional impact it tries to create, by not letting us get close enough to the characters, it more than makes up for with its technically spectacular sequences
      Notes: Also shot in 3-D.

Film Review – THE MULE (2018)

Image result for the mule 2018THE MULE (USA, 2018) ***½
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Imperative Entertainment / Warner Bros. / Bron Studios / Malpaso Productions; Release Date: 10 December 2018 (USA), 25 January 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: Began 2 June 2018; Running Time: 116m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital (7.1 surround); Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Nick Schenk (inspired by the New York Times Magazine Article “The Sinaloa Cartel’s 90-Year Old Drug Mule” by Sam Dolnick); Executive Producer: David Bernad, Jason Cloth, Ruben Fleischer, Aaron L. Gilbert, Todd Hoffman; Producer: Clint Eastwood, Dan Friedkin, Jessica Meier, Tim Moore, Kristina Rivera, Bradley Thomas; Associate Producer: Holly Hagy; Director of Photography: Yves Bélanger; Music Composer: Arturo Sandoval; Music Supervisor: ; Film Editor: Joel Cox; Casting Director: Tara Feldstein, Geoffrey Miclat, Chase Paris; Production Designer: Kevin Ishioka; Art Director: Rory Bruen, Julien Pougnier; Set Decorator: Ronald R. Reiss; Costumes: Deborah Hopper; Make-up: Luisa Abel; Sound: Alan Robert Murray; Special Effects: J.D. Schwalm; Visual Effects: Adam Ohl, Suraj Kaur Khalsa, Rick Sander.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Earl Stone), Bradley Cooper (Colin Bates), Laurence Fishburne (Carl), Michael Peña (Trevino), Dianne Wiest (Mary), Ignacio Serricchio (Julio), Andy García (Latón), Taissa Farmiga (Ginny), Alison Eastwood (Iris), Richard Herd (Tim Kennedy), Lobo Sebastian (Bug), Manny Montana (Axl), Noel G. (Bald Rob), Loren Dean (DEA Agent Brown), Victor Rasuk (Rico), Clifton Collins Jr. (Gustavo), Robert LaSardo (Emilio), Eugene Cordero (Luis Rocha).
      Synopsis: A 90-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran is caught transporting $3 million worth of cocaine through Illinois for a Mexican drug cartel.
      Comment: Entertaining, if slight, story that fully capitalises on Eastwood’s charisma – which still burns bright into his 88th year. Evenly paced and directed with a sure hand, it benefits by concentrating on bringing character development to the forefront and using the plot as the device to do so. Cooper also gives a nicely judged performance as the drug enforcement officer closing in on the drug cartel’s operation. The scenes between Eastwood and Cooper are sublimely understated adding to the bittersweet nature of the story’s resolution.
      Notes: The movie was inspired by the story of Leo Sharp, a World War II veteran in his 80s who became the world’s oldest and most prolific drug mule for the Sinaloa Cartel.

Film Review – BLOOD WORK (2002)

Image result for BLOOD WORK 2002BLOOD WORK (USA, 2002) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: Malpaso Productions / Warner Bros. Pictures; Release Date: 6 August 2002 (USA), 27 December 2002 (UK); Filming Dates: Began 19 February 2002 – March 2002; Running Time: 110m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS; Film Format: 35mm (Fuji); Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Brian Helgeland (based on the novel by Michael Connelly); Executive Producer: Robert Lorenz; Producer: Clint Eastwood; Director of Photography: Tom Stern; 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: Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman; Special Effects: Steve Riley; Visual Effects: Michael Owens.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Terry McCaleb), Jeff Daniels (Jasper ‘Buddy’ Noone), Anjelica Huston (Dr. Bonnie Fox), Wanda De Jesus (Graciella Rivers), Tina Lifford (Detective Jaye Winston), Paul Rodriguez (Detective Ronaldo Arrango), Dylan Walsh (Detective John Waller), Mason Lucero (Raymond Torres), Gerry Becker (Mr. Toliver), Rick Hoffman (James Lockridge), Alix Koromzay (Mrs. Cordell), Igor Jijikine (Mikhail Bolotov), Dina Eastwood (Reporter #1), Beverly Leech (Reporter #2), June Kyoto Lu (Mrs. Kang), Chao Li Chi (Mr. Kang), Glenn Morshower (Captain), Robert Harvey (Restaurant Manager), Matt Huffman (Young Detective), Mark Thomason (James Cordell), Maria Quiban (Gloria Torres), Brent Hinkley (Cab Driver), Natalia Ongaro (Receptionist), Amanda Carlin (Office Manager), Ted Rooney (Forensics #1), P.J. Byrne (Forensics #2), Sam Jaeger (Deputy), Derric Nugent (L.A.P.D. Officer).
       Synopsis: Still recovering from a heart transplant, a retired FBI profiler returns to service when his own blood analysis offers clues to the identity of a serial killer.
      Comment: Interesting premise is occasionally undone by lapses in logic and implausibilities. The production also feels a little too routine. Eastwood is as charismatic as ever in the lead role, but as director, he fails to inject sufficient suspense, even in its finale. The strongest moments are the character conflicts that arise during the story – notably Eastwood and his doctor Huston as well as with the two cops (Rodriguez and Walsh). It remains an entertaining enough and serviceable mystery despite its flaws.

Book Review – THE DEEP BLUE GOODBYE (1964) by John D. MacDonald

THE DEEP BLUE GOODBYE (1964) ***½
by John D. MacDonald
First published In Great Britain by Robert Hale, 1965
This edition published by Orion, 2002, 200pp (195pp)
ISBN: 0-75284-767-8

Image result for the deep blue goodbyeBlurb: Travis McGee is a self-described beach bum who won his houseboat in a card game. He’s also a knight-errant who’s wary of credit cards, retirement benefits, political parties, mortgages, and television. He only works when his cash runs out, and his rule is simple: He’ll help you find whatever was taken from you, as long as he can keep half. McGee isn’t particularly strapped for cash, but how can anyone say no to Cathy, a sweet backwoods girl who’s been tortured repeatedly by her manipulative ex-boyfriend Junior Allen? What Travis isn’t anticipating is just how many women Junior has torn apart and left in his wake. Enter Junior’s latest victim, Lois Atkinson. Frail and broken, Lois can barely get out of bed when Travis finds her, let alone keep herself alive. But Travis turns into Mother McGee, giving Lois new life as he looks for the ruthless man who steals women’s spirits and livelihoods. But he can’t guess how violent his quest is soon to become. He’ll learn the hard way that there must be casualties in this game of cat and mouse.

This is the first of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels and also the first of his books I have read. My only previous experience of Travis McGee being via the 1972 film Darker Than Amber, which was based on MacDonald’s seventh book in the series and I remember it being a pretty good movie. The Deep Blue Goodbye was first published in 1964 and in both title and the actions of its hero the book has echoes of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye.  McGee takes it upon himself to take into his care a psychologically damaged woman dependant on alcohol and resolve to put things right. The opening chapters in which McGee lives in the house with Lois Atkinson are reminiscent of Philip Marlowe and his obligation to the writer Roger Wade in Chandler’s masterpiece. McGee, however, blows much more hot and cold in his temperament and has less of Marlowe’s world-weary cynicism.

The plot unfolds as McGee looks to trap his target, the sadistic Junior Allen. McGee is a hero looking to right wrongs and as such is quite traditional. He manages his own time and is in control of his own destiny as he picks and chooses who he decides to help. He balances his need for income with his moral obligations to his clients. His relationships with women in the book are largely manipulative and whilst the character grows close to Lois, he also maintains a detached emotional involvement. This makes McGee’s character more complex and also more interesting. The book’s finale is both exciting and surprising and, as was customary for the day, its relatively short page count makes for a quick and entertaining read. MacDonald wrote 21 Travis McGee novels and the book left me wanting to revisit the character to see how the series developed.

 

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 – TRUE CRIME (1999)

Image result for true crime 1999TRUE CRIME (USA, 1999) ***½
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Warner Bros. / The Zanuck Company / Malpaso Productions; Release Date: 19 March 1999 (USA), 14 May 1999 (UK); Filming Dates: 4 May 1998 – 26 June 1998; Running Time: 127m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: Larry Gross, Paul Brickman, Stephen Schiff (based on the novel by Andrew Klavan); Executive Producer: Tom Rooker; Producer: Clint Eastwood, Lili Fini Zanuck, Richard D. Zanuck; 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: ; Make-up: Tania McComas; Sound: Bub Asman, Alan Robert Murray; Special Effects: John Frazier.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Steve Everett), Isaiah Washington (Frank Louis Beechum), LisaGay Hamilton (Bonnie Beechum), James Woods (Alan Mann), Denis Leary (Bob Findley), Bernard Hill (Warden Luther Plunkitt), Diane Venora (Barbara Everett), Michael McKean (Reverend Shillerman), Michael Jeter (Dale Porterhouse), Mary McCormack (Michelle Ziegler), Hattie Winston (Angela Russel), Penny Bae Bridges (Gail Beechum), Francesca Eastwood (Kate Everett), John Finn (Reedy), Laila Robins (Patricia Findley), Sydney Tamiia Poitier (Jane March), Erik King (Pussy Man), Graham Beckel (Arnold McCardle), Frances Fisher (D.A. Cecilia Nussbaum), Marissa Ribisi (Amy Wilson), Christine Ebersole (Bridget Rossiter), Anthony Zerbe (Henry Lowenstein), Nancy Giles (Leesha Mitchell), Tom McGowan (Tom Donaldson), William Windom (Neil), Don West (Dr. Roger Waters), Lucy Liu (Toy Shop Girl), Dina Eastwood (Wilma Francis), Leslie Griffith (Herself – TV Anchor), Dennis Richmond (TV Anchor), Frank Somerville (Afternoon News Anchor), Dan Green (Field Producer), Nicholas Bearde (Reuben Skycock), Frances Lee McCain (Mrs. Lowenstein), Cecil Williams (Reverend Williams), Casey Lee (Warren Russell), Jack Kehler (Mr. Ziegler), Colman Domingo (Wally Cartwright), Linda Hoy (Counter Woman at Pocum’s Grocery), Danny Kovacs (Atkins), Kelvin Han Yee (Zachary Platt), Kathryn Howell (Nurse), Beulah Stanley (Female Guard), George Maguire (Frederick Robertson), Bill Wattenburg (Radio Reporter), Cathy Fithian (Nancy Larson), Roland T. Abasolo (Guard), Michael Halton (Guard), Jade Marx-Berti (Waitress), Velica Marie Davis (Purse Whacker), John B. Scott (Colonel Drummond), Edward Silva (Colonel Hernandez), Jordan Sax (Colonel Badger), Rob Reece (Executioner), Walter Brown (Beechum Family Member).
      Synopsis: Can an over-the-hill journalist uncover the evidence that can prove a death row inmate’s innocence just hours before his execution?
      Comment: Taut, gripping race-against-time thriller may stretch credibility but is nonetheless well-crafted. Washington delivers a superb performance as the innocent man on death row, whilst Eastwood’s star quality cuts through as the alcoholic and womanising reporter out to clear his name. Hill gives a nicely balanced portrayal as the prison governor at odds with his conscience. A tighter script would have made this an absolute winner, but it too often relies on a significant suspension of disbelief from its audience. Fortunately, due to its strong cast, it just about delivers.

Film Review – ABSOLUTE POWER (1997)

Image result for absolute power 1997ABSOLUTE POWER (USA, 1997) **½
      Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Production Company: Castle Rock Entertainment / Malpaso Productions; Release Date: 4 February 1997 (USA), 30 May 1997 (UK); Filming Dates: 3 June 1996 – 14 August 1996; Running Time: 122m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital | SDDS; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Clint Eastwood; Writer: William Goldman (based on the novel by David Baldacci); Executive Producer: Tom Rooker; Producer: Clint Eastwood, Karen S. Spiegel; Associate Producer: Michael Maurer; 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, Anne D. McCulley; Costumes: Deborah Hopper; Make-up: Tania McComas, Francisco X. Pérez; Sound: Bub Asman, Alan Robert Murray; Special Effects: Steve Riley.
      Cast: Clint Eastwood (Luther Whitney), Gene Hackman (President Richmond), Ed Harris (Seth Frank), Laura Linney (Kate Whitney), Scott Glenn (Bill Burton), Dennis Haysbert (Tim Collin), Judy Davis (Gloria Russell), E.G. Marshall (Walter Sullivan), Melora Hardin (Christy Sullivan), Kenneth Welsh (Sandy Lord), Penny Johnson Jerald (Laura Simon), Richard Jenkins (Michael McCarty), Mark Margolis (Red Brandsford), Elaine Kagan (Valerie), Alison Eastwood (Art Student), Yau-Gene Chan (Waiter), George Orrison (Airport Bartender), Charles McDaniel (Medical Examiner), John Lyle Campbell (Repairman), Kimber Eastwood (White House Tour Guide), Eric Dahlquist Jr. (Oval Office Agent), Jack Stewart Taylor (Watergate Doorman), Joy Ehrlich (Reporter), Robert Harvey (Cop).
      Synopsis: A career thief witnesses a horrific crime involving the U.S. President.
      Comment: Highly implausible and lacking in pace, this is made watchable by the presence of Eastwood as the burglar who witnesses the crime and Harris as the cop who tries to hunt him down. Hackman is solid as ever as the President but is given little to work with by the script after the tense opening scenes. Davis’ performance is completely misjudged as if she is acting in another, more comedic, movie. The plot plays out in routine fashion and lacks heightened drama in its climax. A disappointing effort from Eastwood after a golden run.
      Notes: Marshall’s final appearance in a theatrical film.