TV Review – BERGERAC: FIRES IN THE FALL (1986)

BERGERAC: FIRES IN THE FALL (UK, 1986) ***½
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 26 December 1986; Running Time: 89m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Tom Clegg; Writer: Chris Boucher; Producer: Jonathan Alwyn; Director of Photography: Alec Curtis, Adrian Smith; Music Composer: Ray Russell; Theme Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby, Paul Garrick; Production Designer: Ken Ledsham; Costumes: Andrew MacKenzie; Make-up: Marilyn MacDonald; Sound: Bill Chesneau; Visual Effects: Simon Tayler.
      Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Amanda Redman (Pauline Taylor), Barrie Ingham (Raoul Barnaby), Margaretta Scott (Roberta Jardine), Sean Arnold (Crozier), Louise Jameson (Susan Young), Donald Churchill (David MacKenzie), Paul Brooke (Malcolm Croxted), Ron Pember (Jack Plemont), Deborah Grant (Deborah Bergerac), Lindsay Heath (Kim Bergerac), Geoffrey Leesley (DC Terry Wilson), Jolyon Baker (DC Barry Goddard), Mela White (Diamante Lil), Nancy Mansfield (Peggy Masters), Jim McManus (Filing Clerk), Tony Westrope (Jeavans), Nicholas McArdle (Doctor), Guy Standeven (Vicar), Salomi Oxberry (Maria).
      Synopsis: When an elderly millionairess puts her trust in a psychic who claims to speak to the dead, Jim is asked to debunk some supernatural myths.
      Comment: The first of six feature-length Bergerac specials (broadcast at Christmas just ahead of series 5) builds on the approach tested in the earlier fourth series episode “What Dreams May Come?” by delving into the supernatural thriller genre. Like the earlier episode “Fires in the Fall” looks to explain these supernatural elements through a gradual reveal of its mystery. That it is both relatively successful, sometimes scary and often entertaining is testement to the directorial skills of Tom Clegg and the scripting of Chris Boucher. Ingham also adds greatly to the story with a creepy guest turn as a medium seemingly in contact with the dead. There’s also an early role for Redman as the put-upon niece of Scott’s wealthy retiree. All the series regulars are involved, with some lighter moments built around heating problems at the bureau. Whilst not totally satisfying, largely because it tries to introduce one twist too many during the finale, it remains a strong episode in a consistently entertaining series.

Book Review – RESURRECTION MEN (2001) by Ian Rankin

RESURRECTION MEN (1995) ****
by Ian Rankin
First published by Orion 2001
This edition published by Orion, 2011, 512pp (484pp)
ISBN: 978-0-7528-8365-6
includes an introduction by Ian Rankin and Reading Group Notes.
      Blurb: Rebus is off the case – literally. A few days into the murder inquiry of an Edinburgh art dealer, Rebus blows up at a colleague. He is sent to the Scottish Police College for ‘retraining’ – in other words, he’s in the Last Chance Saloon. Rebus is assigned to an old, unsolved case, but there are those in his team who have their own secrets – and they’ll stop at nothing to protect them. Rebus is also asked to act as a go-between for gangster ‘Big Ger’ Cafferty. And as newly promoted DS Siobhan Clarke works the case of the murdered art dealer, she is brought closer to Cafferty than she could ever have anticipated…
      Comment: Ian Rankin leaves Rebus out in the cold and takes him into darker territory than ever before in this long, but expertly written crime mystery thriller. Rankin weaves two distinct investigations together with great skill giving a much more prominent role for DS Siobhan Clark, enabling him to draw parallels between the two detectives. Rebus, working undercover for the Chief Constable to expose a group of corrupt cops, is as dogged and avuncular as ever. The separate cases become connected as Rankin gradually unveils the hidden secrets of the so-called “Wild Bunch” of detectives in the last-chance saloon. The story only really falters during its finale, where a plot twist feels a little too convenient but otherwise, this is a very satisfying and first-class example of crime fiction writing.
This completes my reading of Ian Rankin’s Rebus series and it is one of my favourites. Rankin relly hit his straps with Let if Bleed and then Black & Blue and from there the series reamined of a consistently high standard up until Rebus’ retirement in 2007’s Exit Music. That he returnede again five years later as a retired cop working cold cases was very welcome, but those books, whilst all well-written,  lack the bite of the core series. I still hope there is more to come and look forward to seeing where Rankin takes Rebus next.

The Rebus Series:

Knots and Crosses (1987) ***
Hide and Seek (1991) ***
Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992) ***
Strip Jack (1992) ***½
The Black Book (1993) ***
Mortal Causes (1994) ***
Let it Bleed (1996) ****
Black and Blue (1997) ****½
The Hanging Garden (1998) ****
Dead Souls (1999) ****
Set in Darkness (2000) ****
The Falls (2001) ****
Resurrection Men (2002) ****
A Question of Blood (2003) ****
Fleshmarket Close (2004) ****
The Naming of the Dead (2006)  ****½
Exit Music (2007) ****
Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012) ***½
Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013) ***
Even Dogs in the Wild (2015) ****
Rather Be the Devil (2016) ***½
In a House of Lies (2018) ***½

Film Review – QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967)

QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (UK, 1967) ****
PRODUCTION: Distributor: Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK), Twentieth Century Fox (USA); Production Company: Hammer Film Productions; Release Date: 29 September 1967 (UK), 7 February 1968 (USA); Filming Dates: 27 February 1967 – 25 April 1967; Running Time: 97m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
CREW: Director: Roy Ward Baker; Writer: Nigel Kneale (based on an original story by Nigel Kneale); Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys; Director of Photography: Arthur Grant; Music Composer: Tristram Cary; Music Supervisor: Philip Martell; Film Editor: James Needs; Casting Director: Irene Lamb; Art Director: Kenneth Ryan; Costumes: Rosemary Burrows; Make-up: Michael Morris; Sound: Sash Fisher, Roy Hyde; Special Effects: Les Bowie, Sydney Pearson.
CAST: James Donald (Doctor Roney), Andrew Keir (Quatermass), Barbara Shelley (Barbara Judd), Julian Glover (Colonel Breen), Duncan Lamont (Sladden), Bryan Marshall (Captain Potter), Peter Copley (Howell), Edwin Richfield (Minister), Grant Taylor (Police Sergeant Ellis), Maurice Good (Sergeant Cleghorn), Robert Morris (Watson), Sheila Steafel (Journalist), Hugh Futcher (Sapper West), Hugh Morton (Elderly Journalist), Thomas Heathcote (Vicar), Noel Howlett (Abbey Librarian), Hugh Manning (Pub Customer), June Ellis (Blonde), Keith Marsh (Johnson), James Culliford (Corporal Gibson), Bee Duffell (Miss Dobson), Roger Avon (Electrician), Brian Peck (Technical Officer), John Graham (Inspector), Charles Lamb (Newsvendor).
SYNOPSIS: An ancient Martian spaceship is unearthed in London and proves to have powerful psychic effects on the people around.
COMMENT: Splendid feature film adaptation of Nigel Kneale’s 1958 6-part BBC TV serial with, despite budget constraints, impressive visual and special effects work. Baker directs with flair and with inventive use of the camera. Keir adds gravitas in a strong performance as Quatermass, whilst Glover plays the typically closed-minded army captain. Donald and Shelley are the scientists who work alongside Keir to prevent the alien threat from being released. The thrilling final act makes for an exciting conclusion.
NOTES: Originally released in the USA as FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH. Followed by THE QUATERMASS CONCLUSION (1979).

Film Review – JAWS (1975)

Image result for jaws 1975JAWS (USA, 1975) *****
PRODUCTION: Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); Production Company: Zanuck-Brown Productions / Universal Pictures; Release Date: 20 June 1975 (USA), 25 December 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: 2 May 1974 – 18 September 1974 and October 1974 – December 1974; Running Time: 124m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System) | Dolby (Dolby Digital Surround 5.1) | Dolby Surround 7.1 (Blu-ray release); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
CREW: Director: Steven Spielberg; Writer: Peter Benchley, Carl Gottlieb (based on the novel by Peter Benchley); Producer: David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck; Director of Photography: Bill Butler; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Verna Fields; Casting Director: Shari Rhodes; Production Designer: Joe Alves; Set Decorator: John M. Dwyer; Costumes: Louise Clark, Robert Ellsworth, Irwin Rose; Make-up: Del Armstrong, John Chambers, Jim Gillespie; Sound: John R. Carter, Robert L. Hoyt; Special Effects: Robert A. Mattey.
CAST: Roy Scheider (Brody), Robert Shaw (Quint), Richard Dreyfuss (Hooper), Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Murray Hamilton (Vaughn), Carl Gottlieb (Meadows), Jeffrey Kramer (Hendricks), Susan Backlinie (Chrissie), Jonathan Filley (Cassidy), Ted Grossman (Estuary Victim), Chris Rebello (Michael Brody), Jay Mello (Sean Brody), Lee Fierro (Mrs. Kintner), Jeffrey Voorhees (Alex Kintner), Craig Kingsbury (Ben Gardner), Robert Nevin (Medical Examiner), Peter Benchley (Interviewer).
SYNOPSIS: When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.
COMMENT: Brilliantly filmed and edited with not a minute of screen time wasted. It was credited as the movie that created the summer blockbuster, but this remains an everyman movie full of thrills. Spielberg’s inventive framing and decision to leave the shark largely unseen until the final act demonstrate his astute approach to genre direction. Great performance from Shaw, Scheider and Dreyfuss and memorable music score from Williams helps to heighten the tension. The movie remains today a textbook example on how to shoot a thriller and maximise character empathy through great direction to actors.
NOTES: Won three Oscars – for Editing, Music and Sound. Extended version runs to 130m. Followed by three sequels beginning with JAWS 2 (1978).

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.