Film Review – BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978)

Battlestar Galactica (1978) - Binge Watch Like A Pro!BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978, USA) **½
Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Glen A. Larson Productions / Universal TV; d. Richard A. Colla; w. Glen A. Larson; exec pr. Glen A. Larson; pr. John Dykstra; sup pr. Leslie Stevens; ass pr. Winrich Kolbe; ph. Ben Colman (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1 (Television ratio), 1.85:1 (theatrical ratio)); m. Stu Phillips; s. “It’s Love, Love Love” m/l. Sue Collins, John Andrew Tartaglia; m sup. ; ed. Robert L. Kimble, Leon Ortiz-Gil, Larry Strong; ad. John E. Chilberg II; set d. Lowell Chambers, Mickey S. Michaels; cos. Jean-Pierre Dorléac; m/up. Scott H. Eddo, Marvin C. Thompson, Paul Griffin, Joy Zapata; sd. James R. Alexander (Mono | Sensurround (theatrical print)); sfx. Joe Goss, Karl G. Miller, John Peyser; vfx. John Dykstra; st. Hubie Kerns Jr.; rel. 7 July 1978 (Canada), 12 April 1979 (UK), 18 May 1979 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 125m.

cast: Richard Hatch (Captain Apollo), Dirk Benedict (Lieutenant Starbuck), Lorne Greene (Commander Adama), Herbert Jefferson Jr. (Lieutenant Boomer), Maren Jensen (Lieutenant Athena), Tony Swartz (Flight Sergeant Jolly), Noah Hathaway (Boxey), Terry Carter (Colonel Tigh), Lew Ayres (President Adar), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Sire Anton), John Colicos (Count Baltar), Laurette Spang (Cassiopeia), John Fink (Dr. Paye), Jane Seymour (Serina), Ray Milland (Sire Uri), Ed Begley Jr. (Ensign Greenbean), Rick Springfield (Lieutenant Zac), Randi Oakes (Blonde Taurus), Norman Stuart (Statesman), David Greenan (Flight Officer Omega).

The Twelve Colonies of Man are annihilated by the Cylons. Adama (Greene), commanding the last surviving Battlestar, takes it upon himself to lead all remaining survivors aboard 220 ships to find a new home. After the Galactica’s fighter pilots successfully navigate a path through the Nova of Madagon minefield, the spoiled Sire Uri proposes to settle down on Carillon, where food and entertainment are provided by the natives. However, Adama suspects a Cylon trap. Released theatrically on the back of the phenomenal success of STAR WARS (1977), this edited version of the TV series pilot cannot escape its small-screen origins. This despite some excellent model work and a well-edited and pacey space battle in the opening scenes. The story meanders on from this point into standard episodic TV fare, with a workmanlike approach to photography and direction. Benedict’s roguish fighter pilot is an obvious riff on Han Solo, but the actor lacks Harrison Ford’s nuance, whilst Hatch makes a bland hero. There is a strong guest cast assembled, including Ayres, Milland, Hyde-White, Begley, Jr. and Seymour, which is underused. Costumes and set design are typical of genre TV of the period and there is even a disco-styled song sung by a unique female trio. The TV pilot version, broadcast in the USA on 17 September 1978 as “Saga of a Star World”, runs 133m. Followed by a TV series 1978-9, two more big-screen features MISSION GALACTICA: THE CYLON ATTACK (1979) and CONQUEST OF THE EARTH (1980) were compiled from TV episodes. Later followed by a re-imagined and far grittier TV series 2003-9.

Book Review – FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1957) by Ian Fleming

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1957) ****½
by Ian Fleming
This paperback edition published by Vintage, 2012, 356pp
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1957
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1957
Introduction by Tom Rob Smith (7pp)
ISBN: 978-0-099-57689-1

Blurb: A beautiful Soviet spy. A brand-new Spektor cipher machine. SMERSH has set an irresistible trap that threatens the entire Secret Service. In Fleming’s fifth 007 novel Bond finds himself enmeshed in a deadly game of cross and double cross.

Comment: This fifth novel in Fleming’s James Bond series sees the author flexing his literary muscles and experiment with structure. The result is his most satisfying book to this point. The story is split into two sections. The first deals with the development of SMERSH’s plot to discredit the British secret service through James Bond. It introduces the characters of Rosa Klebb, SMERSH’s head of operations, who is a loathsome manipulator; Red Grant, SMERSH’s assassin; Kronsteen, master chess player and key strategist; and Tatiana Romanova, the instrument of the Russian plot. This section takes up the first third of the book and painstakingly fleshes out each of the characters and their motivations. The second section deals with the execution of the Russian plot. Bond meets Darko Kerim, allied head of operations in Istanbul, and Kerim is the strongest and most likeable character in the book. The book really picks up from here, with the girl fight and shootout in the gypsy camp scene a highlight. Bond and Tania’s escape on the Orient Express builds in tension as the Russians and Grant close in. Then the final showdown between Bond and Klebb ends the book on a cliffhanger. There were rumours that Fleming had tired of his creation and was looking for a way out, fortunately that was not the case and Bond returned in DR. NO. The book was reported as one of President John F. Kennedy’s top 10, which kicked off the series’ popularity in the US. The 1963 film adaptation added elements, but stuck to Fleming’s core plot and characters and resulted in one of the strongest films in the series.

Film Review – FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956)

British Quad - Posterwire.comFORBIDDEN PLANET (1956, USA) ****½
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); pr co. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) / Toho Company; d. Fred M. Wilcox; w. Cyril Hume (based on a story by Irving Block and Allen Adler); pr. Nicholas Nayfack; ph. George J. Folsey (Eastmancolor. 35mm. CinemaScope. 2.55:1); m. Bebe Barron, Louis Barron; ed. Ferris Webster; pd. Irving Block, Mentor Huebner (both uncredited); ad. Cedric Gibbons, Arthur Lonergan; set d. Hugh Hunt, Edwin B. Willis; cos. Walter Plunkett, Helen Rose; m/up. John Truwe, William Tuttle, Sydney Guilaroff; sd. Wesley C. Miller (Mono (Perspecta Sound encoding) (Western Electric Sound System) | 4-Track Stereo (4 channels)); sfx. A. Arnold Gillespie, Joshua Meador, Warren Newcombe, Irving G. Ries; vfx. Bob Abrams, Max Fabian, Joshua Meador; rel. 23 March 1956 (USA), 8 June 1956 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 98m.

cast: Walter Pidgeon (Dr. Morbius), Anne Francis (Altaira Morbius), Leslie Nielsen (Commander Adams), Warren Stevens (Lt. ‘Doc’ Ostrow), Jack Kelly (Lt. Farman), Richard Anderson (Chief Quinn), Earl Holliman (Cook), George Wallace (Bosun), Robert Dix (Crewman Grey (as Bob Dix)), Jimmy Thompson (Crewman Youngerford), James Drury (Crewman Strong), Harry Harvey Jr. (Crewman Randall), Roger McGee (Crewman Lindstrom), Peter Miller (Crewman Moran), Morgan Jones (Crewman Nichols), Richard Grant (Crewman Silvers), Robby the Robot (Robby the Robot), James Best (Crewman (uncredited)), William Boyett (Crewman (uncredited)), Frankie Darro (Robby the Robot (uncredited)), Marvin Miller (Robby the Robot (uncredited) (voice)), Les Tremayne (Narrator (uncredited) (voice)).

When Captain J.J. Adams (Neilsen) and his crew are sent to investigate the silence from a planet inhabited by scientists, he finds all but two have died. Dr. Morbius (Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Francis) have somehow survived a hideous monster which roams the planet. Unknown to Adams, Morbius has made a discovery, and has no intention of sharing it with anyone. This was a highly influential sci-fi adventure and significantly ahead of its time. Its reach can be seen most clearly in the TV series Star Trek that followed eight years later. The script is full of intelligent and challenging concepts and Pidgeon exudes both charm and menace as the stranded scientist whose obsessions turn in on themselves. Nielsen, making his film debut, plays the rescue ship captain who becomes involved with Pidgeon’s daughter Francis leading to her loyalty and trust in her father slowly evaporating. Stunning visuals for the period, notably in the exploration of the Krell city. Robby the Robot is a great creation and would become a star in his own right. The only downsides are the sometimes creaky dialogue and the dated and condescending attitude of the crew to Francis, otherwise this is a classic of the genre. It was the first mainstream film to have the music performed entirely by electronic instruments. The eerie score contributes greatly to the otherworldly environment the production team created. Those thinking that story elements have some familiarity are not without justification, with the story loosely based on “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare.

Film Review – THE DEEP (1977)

THE DEEP (1977, USA) ***
Adventure, Mystery, Thriller
dist. Columbia Pictures (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); pr co. Columbia Pictures / EMI Films / Casablanca Filmworks; d. Peter Yates; w. Peter Benchley, Tracy Keenan Wynn (based on the novel by Peter Benchley); pr. Peter Guber; ass pr. George Justin; ph. Christopher Challis; underwater ph. Al Giddings, Stan Waterman (Metrocolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. John Barry; s. “Down Deep Inside” m/l. John Barry, Donna Summer (performed by Donna Summer); ed. David Berlatsky; pd. Anthony Masters; ad. Jack Maxsted; set d. Vernon Dixon; cos. Ron Talsky; m/up. Edouard F. Henriques, Pat McDermott; sd. Robin Gregory (4-Track Stereo | Mono); sfx. Ira Anderson Jr.; st. Howard Curtis, Bob Minor, Jimmy Nickerson, Richard Washington; rel. 17 June 1977 (USA), 23 September 1977 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 123m.

cast: Jacqueline Bisset (Gail Berke), Nick Nolte (David Sanders), Dick Anthony Williams (Slake), Robert Shaw (Romer Treece), Earl Maynard (Ronald), Bob Minor (Wiley), Louis Gossett Jr. (Henri Cloche), Eli Wallach (Adam Coffin), Teddy Tucker (The Harbor Master), Robert Tessier (Kevin), Lee McClain (Johnson).

Nolte and Bisset are a vacationing couple who are exploring shipwrecks for treasure off the coast of Bermuda. When they find an uncharted wreck of a WWII ship containing thousands of vials of morphine they enlist the help of local salvage expert Shaw then run into trouble with local gangster Gossett. Riding on the coat-tails of JAWS (1975), this underwater adventure lacks the sustained thrills and tight editing of its inspiration but is not without its moments of excitement. The positives include the sumptuous location and underwater photography and Barry’s lush score. Shaw is also at his abrasive best, whilst Nolte and Bisset look good for the camera. Wallach is on hand too, playing a war veteran looking to fill his own pockets. The stunt work is excellent and the sporadic action scenes are well shot. The version aired in the original ABC network telecast contained 53m of extra footage. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound.

Film Review – THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE FIFTEEN YEARS LATER AFFAIR (1983)

THE RETURN OF THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE FIFTEEN YEARS LATER AFFAIR (TV) (1983, USA) **½
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. Richard Sloan Productions / Viacom Productions; d. Ray Austin; w. Michael Sloan (based on the TV series created by Sam Rolfe); exec pr. Michael Sloan; pr. Nigel Watts; ph. Fred J. Koenekamp (DeLuxe. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Gerald Fried; th m. Jerry Goldsmith; ed. George Jay Nicholson; ad. Herman F. Zimmerman; set d. Charles Pierce; cos. Robert B. Harris, Barbara Siebert; m/up. Mike Moschella, Jean Austin; sd. Dale Johnson, William Randall, Jim Cook (Mono (Glen Glenn Sound)); sfx. Cliff Wenger; st. Ben Jensen; rel. 5 April 1983 (USA), 21 April 1984 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 96m.

cast: Robert Vaughn (Napoleon Solo), David McCallum (Illya Kuryakin), Patrick Macnee (Sir John Raleigh), Tom Mason (Benjamin Kowalski), Gayle Hunnicutt (Andrea Markovitch), Geoffrey Lewis (Janus), Anthony Zerbe (Justin Sepheran), Keenan Wynn (Piers Castillian), Simon Williams (Nigel Pennington-Smythe), John Harkins (Alexi Kemp), Jan Tríska (Vaselievich), Susan Woollen (Janice Friday), Carolyn Seymour (Actress), George Lazenby (J.B.), Judith Chapman (Z-65), Dick Durock (Guiedo), Lois De Banzie (Delquist), Randi Brooks (The Model), Jack Somack (The Tailor), Eddie Baker (Salesman).

The criminal organization THRUSH steals the A-bomb H957 and demands $350,000,000 to be delivered within 72 hours by their former antagonist Solo. So U.N.C.L.E. has to reactivate the super agents Solo (Vaughn) and Kuryakin (McCallum) after they were 15 years out of business. Equipped in the usual 007 fashion they start to seek the villains. This is a reunion with tongue firmly placed in cheek. The movie seems to push more into James Bond territory with its references (including Lazenby’s cameo as “J.B.” driving an Aston Martin DB5) and its big finale (which is well-staged for a TV budget). Vaughn and McCallum slip back easily into their roles and although the film gets off to a fairly ropey and hammy start (notably Hunnicutt’s overly forced Russian accent), it settles down into a slick, but light entertainment. the script is a mix of awful dialogue, in-jokes and knowing winks at the audience. A true guilty pleasure.

Film Review (re-watch): STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI (2017)

Here's your full-length 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' trailer | EngadgetSTAR WARS: EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI (2017, USA) ***½
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; pr co. Walt Disney Pictures / Lucasfilm / Ram Bergman Productions; d. Rian Johnson; w. Rian Johnson; exec pr. J.J. Abrams, Tom Karnowski, Jason D. McGatlin; pr. Ram Bergman, Kathleen Kennedy; ass pr. Jamie Christopher, Nour Dardari, Leopold Hughes, Nikos Karamigios; ph. Steve Yedlin (Colour. 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version). Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision. 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Bob Ducsay; pd. Rick Heinrichs; ad. Todd Cherniawsky, Chris Lowe; set d. Richard Roberts; cos. Michael Kaplan; m/up. Peter King (makeup), Kristyan Mallett (prosthetics); sd. Bonnie Wild (DTS (DTS: X) | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Digital | 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX 12 track) | IMAX 6-Track); sfx. Chris Corbould, Branko Repalust; vfx. Hybride Technologies / Important Looking Pirates (ILPvfx) / Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) / Jellyfish Pictures / Mark Roberts Motion Control / Rodeo FX; rel. 9 December 2017 (USA), 12 December 2017 (UK); cert: 12; r/t. 152m.

cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker / Dobbu Scay), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Andy Serkis (Snoke), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Holdo), Benicio Del Toro (DJ), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Amanda Lawrence (Commander D’Acy), Tim Rose (Admiral Ackbar), Adrian Edmondson (Captain Peavey).

Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past. An entertaining and action-packed addition to the saga, which revisits many of the themes explored earlier in the series and as such may seem overly familiar. It also suggests a new direction as the series moves toward its final instalment, which may upset die-hard fans. The basic chase plot is stretched a little thinly with some lazy plot progressions, but despite its over-length the film does not stand still for long and doesn’t outstay its welcome. Hamill and Fisher feature more heavily and there are some new twists along the way, but its mid-trilogy position inevitably leaves certain issues unresolved. The visual effects and location work are exemplary, and Johnson’s direction is energetic. The script and dialogue lack the wit of THE FORCE AWAKENS, substituting even more dynamic action instead. Also shot in 3-D.

AAN: Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Ben Morris, Michael Mulholland, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould); Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score) (John Williams); Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Matthew Wood, Ren Klyce); Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Michael Semanick, David Parker, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce)

Book Review – MOONRAKER (1955) by Ian Fleming

MOONRAKER  (1955) ****½
by Ian Fleming
This paperback edition published by Vintage, 2012, 325pp
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1955
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1955
Introduction by Susan Hill (20pp)
ISBN: 978-0-099-57687-7
Moonraker      Blurb: He’s a self-made millionaire, head of the Moonraker rocket programme and loved by the press. So why is Sir Hugo Drax cheating at cards? Bond has just five days to uncover the sinister truth behind a national hero, in Ian Fleming’s third 007 adventure.
      Comment: Anyone familiar with the 1979 film adaptation – the low point of Roger Moore’s tenure as James Bond – should lay any preconceptions at the door. This is one of the very best James Bond novels. Unlike the first two in the series, Fleming’s third 007 adventure gives his lead character room to breathe and as a result, he becomes a more human hero. The first part of the book is the set-up and is almost routine in its playout – showing Bond’s life between missions. The introduction of Sir Hugo Drax, who is suspected of cheating at cards at M’s private club, sets the foundation for the remainder of the story. Drax is something of a celebrity figure and is respected for his development of an atomic deterrent in the ever-escalating cold war environment. The death of Drax’a security chief raises suspicions and Bond replaces him. Slowly he infiltrates Drax’s operation, run by a team of German technicians and supported by Drax’s personal assistant Gala Brand, who is, in fact, an undercover special branch officer. As Bond and Gala slowly unravel the reality around Drax’s test flight for his Moonraker rocket – echoes of WWII resentment and Russian coercion come into play. The final section of the book is taut, suspenseful and one of the best passages of writing in Fleming’s bibliography. Drax is one of Fleming’s best villains and Krebs a sinister henchman. Gala is an appealing heroine, who is brave and resourceful. The lonely life of a spy is described in Bond’s routine work and the ironic coda and his relationship with his boss, M, is explored to some degree. This set the template for more fantastical plots and charismatic villains and as such is highly recommended as a great example of what the series offered.

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (USA, 2015) ****½
      Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Production Company: Lucasfilm / Bad Robot; Release Date: 14 December 2015 (USA), 16 December 2015 (UK); Filming Dates: 16 May 2014 – 3 November 2014; Running Time: 135m; Colour: FotoKem; Sound Mix: 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX 12 track) | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Dolby Digital; Film Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version), DCP (2K DCP) (Normal 3D versions), DCP (4K DCP) (IMAX Laser versions); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, IMAX (source format) (Escape from Jakku scene), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: J. J. Abrams; Writer: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt (based on characters created by George Lucas); Executive Producer: Tommy Harper, Jason D. McGatlin; Producer: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Kathleen Kennedy; Associate Producer: Michael Arndt; Director of Photography: Daniel Mindel; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; Casting Director: Nina Gold, April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg; Production Designer: Rick Carter, Darren Gilford; Art Director: Neil Lamont; Set Decorator: Lee Sandales; Costumes: Michael Kaplan; Make-up: Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin; Sound: David Acord, Matthew Wood; Special Effects: Chris Corbould; Visual Effects: Nina Fallon, Meredith Meyer-Nichols, Lillias Ng, Louise Bertrand, Ben Lock, Sophie Dawes, Chrysta Marie Burton, Janet Lewin.
      Cast: Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Max von Sydow (Lor San Tekka), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca Double), Pip Andersen (Lead Stormtrooper), Simon Pegg (Unkar Plutt), Kiran Shah (Teedo), Sasha Frost (Jakku Villager), Pip Torrens (Colonel Kaplan).
      Synopsis: 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of Heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
      Comment: The best of the STAR WARS films outside of the original trilogy, fans of which will no doubt readily accept this continuation and overlook some of its flaws – notably in originality in plot and character development. But as the start of a new trilogy, it also succeeds in capturing the uninhibited spirit of those first three films. The result is a lively, action-packed and thoroughly enjoyable addition to the series. It is great to see Ford back as Han Solo and his scenes will give older fans a warm and satisfying smile. The new characters portrayed by Ridley and Boyega are likeable and the script keeps the right tonal balance. Yes, it is a virtual replay of the original STAR WARS, but there is also a freshness here that was lacking in the second trilogy. Also shot in 3-D.

Film Review – THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (2017)

New on DVD in January 2018 - Netflix DVD BlogTHE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US (USA, 2017) **½
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox / Chernin Entertainment; Release Date: 9 September 2017 (Canada), 6 October 2017 (USA/UK); Filming Dates: 5 December 2016 – 17 February 2017; Running Time: 112m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: ARRIRAW (2.8K) (6.5K) (source format), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Hany Abu-Assad; Writer: Chris Weitz, J. Mills Goodloe (based on the book by Charles Martin); Executive Producer: Fred Berger, Becki Cross Trujillo; Producer: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, David Ready, Jenno Topping; Associate Producer: Amira Diab; Director of Photography: Mandy Walker; Music Composer: Ramin Djawadi; Film Editor: Lee Percy; Production Designer: Patrice Vermette; Art Director: James Steuart; Set Decorator: Shannon Gottlieb; Costumes: Renee Ehrlich Kalfus; Make-up: Natalie Cosco, Adrien Morot; Sound: Mildred Iatrou, Susan Dawes; Special Effects: Ron Kozier, Andrew Verhoeven; Visual Effects: Korey J. Cauchon, Edward Churchward, Thomas Tannenberger, Rebecca West.
      Cast: Kate Winslet (Alex Martin), Idris Elba (Ben Bass), Beau Bridges (Walter), Dermot Mulroney (Mark), Linda Sorensen (Pamela), Vincent Gale (Airline Customer Service), Marci T. House (Airline Rep), Dania Nassar (Female Patient (Mrs. Qabbani)), Lee Majdoub (Translator), Andres Joseph (Dinner Guest), Nancy Sivak (Nurse), Bethany Brown (New York Waiter), Orval Roberts (Logging Truck Driver).
      Synopsis: Stranded after a tragic plane crash, two strangers must forge a connection to survive the extreme elements of a remote snow-covered mountain. When they realize help is not coming, they embark on a perilous journey across the wilderness.
       Comment: Story of survival in the icy mountains following a plane crash turns into a cliched romance in its coda, undermining the elements of authenticity the filmmakers strived hard to achieve. Winslet and Elba are a reporter and doctor who are left stranded in the snowy mountains following the crash of their light aircraft with just the dead pilot’s dog for company. Initially antagonistic, they grow closer as they realise they need to rely on each other to survive. The survival elements of the story initially work well, but once the romance begins Abu-Assad follows the traditional Hollywood tropes. The result is a manipulative and manufactured drama, despite the strong performances by its two leads.

Book Review – LIVE AND LET DIE (1954)

LIVE AND LET DIE  (1954) ***½
by Ian Fleming
This paperback edition published by Vintage, 2019, 303pp
First published by Jonathan Cape in 1954
© Ian Fleming Publications Ltd., 1954
ISBN: 978-0-099-57686-0
      Blurb: Mr Big is brutal, brilliant and feared worldwide. Protected by Voodoo forces and the psychic powers of his prisoner Solitaire, he is an invincible SMERSH operative at the head of a ruthless smuggling ring. James Bond’s new assignment will take him to the heart of the occult: to infiltrate this secret world and destroy Mr Big’s global network. From Harlem’s throbbing jazz joints to the shark-infested waters of Jamaica, enemy eyes watch Bond’s every move. He must tread carefully to avoid a nightmarish fate.
      Comment: Ian Fleming’s follow-up to his debut James Bond novel Casino Royale is a fast-paced and entertaining read. It is also a relic of its time and the text, although softened in this version, should be taken in that context in the way it deals with its largely black cast of characters. Bond is up against Mr. Big, who is smuggling sunken pirate treasure to help fund the Russian spy network SMERSH. Bolstered by its action set-pieces – notably as Bond and Felix Leiter penetrate Mr Big’s empire resulting in Leiter “disagreeing with something that ate him” and the tense finale where Bond and Solitaire are hauled over a corral reef. The book has three settings – New York, the Florida keys and Jamaica and is the first of the books to introduce a globe-hopping element. Bond is presented as a tough and single-minded agent with little time for sentiment. Mr. Big is an impressive, if two-dimensional, villain. Themes of voodoo permeate throughout the plot, but are not fully explored. Solitaire is a little bland and her supposed powers to see into the future are underplayed as a potentially interesting character dissolves into the typical captive woman yearning for Bond to free her. Fleming was still honing his craft at this stage and better stories and plots would follow, but it remains a good example of why the series became so popular.