Film Review – JASON BOURNE (2016)

Image result for jason bourne 2016 posterJason Bourne (2016; USA; Colour; 123m) ∗∗∗½  d. Paul Greengrass; w. Paul Greengrass, Christopher Rouse; ph. Barry Ackroyd; m. David Buckley, John Powell.  Cast: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Vincent Cassel, Ato Essandoh, Riz Ahmed, Scott Shepherd, Bill Camp, Vinzenz Kiefer, Stephen Kunken, Ben Stylianou, Kaya Yuzuki, Matthew O’Neill, Lizzie Phillips, Paris Stangl. Jason Bourne, now remembering who he truly is, tries to uncover hidden truths about his past. Damon returns to the franchise after a one film absence and it is business as usual with Greengrass at the helm. Dizzying, frenetically cut action sequences propel the story at a fast pace across globe-trotting locations glossing over some of the conveniences in the script. But ultimately this is a satisfying fifth instalment. [12]

Film Review – THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002)

Image result for the bourne identity blu-rayBourne Identity, The (2002; USA/Germany/Czech Republic; Colour; 119m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Doug Liman; w. Tony Gilroy, W. Blake Herron; ph. Oliver Wood; m. John Powell.  Cast: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Clive Owen, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Julia Stiles, Gabriel Mann, Walton Goggins, Nicky Naude, Josh Hamilton, Orso Maria Guerrini, Tim Dutton, Denis Braccini, Anthony Green. A man is picked up by a fishing boat, bullet-riddled and without memory, then races to elude assassins and recover from amnesia. Fast-paced and tightly, almost frenetically, edited action movie never lets up. Tense and violent, this proved to be an influential addition to the spy thriller genre with Damon proving highly effective as the assassin who has lost his memory and tries to unpick the knotted threads of his life. Based on the novel by Robert Ludlum. Followed by a number of sequels commencing with THE BOURNE SUPREMACY (2004). [12]

Film Review – TAXI DRIVER (1976)

Taxi Driver (1976; USA; Metrocolor; 113m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Martin Scorsese; w. Paul Schrader; ph. Michael Chapman; m. Bernard Herrmann.  Cast: Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle, Leonard Harris, Martin Scorsese, Joe Spinell. A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process. Intense character study with De Niro excellent in the lead. His descent from both engagement and disgust in the sleaze he sees all around him to violent redemption is portrayed with troubling authenticity. Herrmann’s imposing score and Scorsese’s use of New York locations add to the noirish nightmare atmosphere. The violent finale is shocking, whilst the film’s coda confused many with its contradictions. [18]

Film Review – EVEREST (2015)

Everest (2015; USA/UK/Iceland; Colour; 121m) ∗∗∗½  d. Baltasar Kormákur; w. Lem Dobbs, Justin Isbell, William Nicholson; ph. Salvatore Totino; m. Dario Marianelli.  Cast: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Elizabeth Debicki, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, John Hawkes, Clive Standen, Michael Kelly, Martin Henderson, Vanessa Kirby, Thomas Goodman-Hill, Mia Goth. A group of expeditionaries attempt to climb Mount Everest. Based on a true story this is a Hollywood-ised treatment that nevertheless is an engaging experience due to some breath-taking photography and strong performances. The set-pieces sometimes lack the thrills one would expect, but this is a more a tale of endurance and will. Clarke and Brolin are excellent, whilst Gyllenhaal is also memorable in a hippy-style turn. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review – SICARIO (2015)

Sicario (2015; USA; Colour; 121m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Denis Villeneuve; w. Taylor Sheridan; ph. Roger Deakins; m. Jóhann Jóhannsson.  Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Maximiliano Hernández, Dylan Kenin, Frank Powers, Bernardo P. Saracino, Edgar Arreola, Marty Lindsey. An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico. Absorbing and tense thriller powered by excellent performances from Blunt and Del Toro and realistically staged and shot action sequences. Dark operations are presented as the only solution to an escalating drug war and the film carries no prisoners. Thought-provoking script by Sheridan. [15]

Film Review – THE GHOST BREAKERS (1940)

Ghost Breakers, The (1940; USA; B&W; 85m) ∗∗∗½  d. George Marshall; w. Walter DeLeon; ph. Charles Lang; m. Ernst Toch.  Cast: Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Richard Carlson, Paul Lukas, Willie Best, Anthony Quinn, Noble Johnson, Paul Fix. A radio broadcaster, his quaking manservant, and an heiress investigate the mystery of a haunted castle in Cuba. Hope and Goddard look to repeat the success they had with THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1939) and largely succeed. Hope is more assured here and his one-liners are sharper. The set-up is a little protracted, but the payoff in the haunted castle is suitably spooky. Top class art direction by Hans Dreier and Robert Usher adds to atmosphere. Based on the play by Paul Dickey and Charles W. Goddard. Previously filmed in 1914 and 1922 then remade as SCARED STIFF (1953). [PG]

Film Review – THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1939)

Cat and the Canary, The (1939; USA; B&W; 74m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Elliott Nugent; w. Walter DeLeon, Lynn Starling; ph. Charles Lang; m. Ernst Toch.  Cast: Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, John Beal, Douglass Montgomery, Gale Sondergaard, Elizabeth Patterson, George Zucco, Nydia Westman, John Wray. When an eccentric family meets in their uncle’s remote, decaying mansion on the tenth anniversary of his death for the reading of his will, murder and madness follow. The archetypal haunted house comedy thriller with Hope in a career defining role as the reluctant hero and Goddard making an effective debut as the heiress who is being victimised. Some nifty one-liners from Hope mix with effectively spooky atmosphere heightened by cinematographer Lang’s superb use of lighting. Sondergaard is also excellent as the mysterious housekeeper. Goddard and Hope would re-team for a follow-up a year later in the similarly themed THE GHOST BREAKERS. Based on the play by John Willard. Previously filmed in 1927 and remade in 1978. [PG]

Book Review – STARSTRUCK (1975) by Ernest Tidyman

image1STARSTRUCK by ERNEST TIDYMAN (1975, W.H. Allen, 217pp) ∗∗∗

Blurb: A violent summer storm over New York hits an incoming private jet and sends it crashing into the side of the Empire State Building where it rests precariously embedded. Disturbing passions are already simmering among the VIP passengers, many of whom have secrets to hide – secrets that are sure to be revealed whether they survive or not. And now fear comes to grow as the nail-biting hours draw themselves out. The world’s most famous singer… the country’s vice-president… the new black hope prize fighter… the terrified funny man whose pregnant wife is about to go into labour… these are some of the passengers whose lives depend on Drummond, the explorer, and his co-adventurer, Hitachi, called in to secure the remains of the plane, lodged like a huge arrow nearly seventy storeys up.

Ernest Tidyman’s 1975 novel was the writer’s first foray into the disaster genre. Indeed a screenplay was developed simultaneously in the hope of cashing in on the success of movies such as Airport and The Poseidon Adventure. It also resonates closely with The Towering Inferno in its skyscraper setting. The first half of the book is taken up by slowly introducing a sleazy set of celebrity characters in Las Vegas. All the genre elements are played out through this familiar VIP cast, which includes a singer and his home-loving brother and fiancee, a comedian, a boxer and his doctor mentor, the vice-president and his mistress, a reporter, etc. Tidyman is excellent at giving these characters depth through his third-person subjective approach. Once the plane hits a storm and is smashed into the sixty-eighth floor of the Empire State Building leaving the surviving passengers stranded inside as the plane is suspended above West 33rd Street, Tidyman racks up the tension and introduces the book’s two heroes – explorer and mountaineer Drummond and his sidekick Hitachi. His heroes, though, are less well drawn than the passengers as their introduction is brief before they are immediately plunged into the action. The book gathers pace during the attempted rescue as the tensions between the fire department, the secret service and Drummond rise, whilst the passengers are pulled together as a group by their survival instinct. The resulting finale, however, is somewhat disappointing in that many of the character plot threads are left unresolved. It all feels a little rushed. Whilst Tidyman’s book is largely derivative and has its flaws, at 217 pages it is also a quick and entertaining read, but it does little to push his credentials as a writer.

Film Review – THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Man from U.N.C.L.E., The (2015; USA/UK; Colour; 116m) ∗∗½  d. Guy Ritchie; w. Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, Jeff Kleeman, David C. Wilson; ph. John Mathieson; m. Daniel Pemberton.  Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris, Christopher Sciueref, Susan Gillias, Luca Calvani, Nicon Caraman. In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons. Shallow and lightweight, but increasingly entertaining rework. Cavill is too smug and Hammer too psychotic to capture the charm of the original characters. Ritchie, however, elicits a certain kitsch feel from the derivative script. Based on the TV series that ran from 1964-8. [12]

TV Review – THE MUSKETEERS (2014-6)

THE MUSKETEERS (2014-2016, UK, Colour, 30 X 60m episodes) ∗∗∗∗

Cast: Tom Burke (Athos); Santiago Cabrera (Aramis); Peter Capaldi (Cardinal Richelieu – series one only); Howard Charles (Porthos); Alexandra Dowling (Anne of Austria); Ryan Gage (King Louis XIII); Tamla Kari (Constance Bonacieux); Maimie McCoy (Milday de Winter); Luke Pasqualino (D-Artagnan); Hugo Speer (Captain Treville); Marc Warren (Rochefort – series two only); Matthew McNulty (Grimaud – series three only); Rupert Everett (Governor Feron – series three only).

Created by Adrian Hodges
Executive Producers: Jessica Pope; Adrian Hodges (series one and two); Simon Allen & Simon J. Ashford (series three)
Music: Murray Gold, Paul Englishby

Series One (2014) ∗∗∗½
Set on the streets of 17th Century Paris, the Musketeers, Athos, Aramis and Aorthos, are far more than merely royal bodyguards for King Louis XIII; they are inseparable, loyal unto death and committed to upholding justice. when D’Artagnan arrives in Paris to avenge his father’s death he soon impresses the three Musketeers and quickly discovers kindred spirits in these boisterous soldiers. Together they must fight for honour, for valour and for love, whilst outwitting the shadowy Cardinal Richelieu.

Series Two (2015) ∗∗∗∗½
The Musketeers return in a stunning second series that explodes from the screen with more thrills, action and adventure than ever before. As France teeters on the brink of war with Spain, the death of Cardinal Richelieu has left a void that could yet be filled by an even darker threat. More mercurial and combustible than the Cardinal, Rochefort has a concealed agenda that may bring the whole realm to ruin. Vividly evoking the grit and grime of 17th century Paris’s mean streets, this gripping take on the iconic classic is visually spectacular and bursting with invention.

Series Three (2016) ∗∗∗½
Heroes on the battlefield, the Musketeers return from the Spanish front to a Paris seething with resentment, a city on the brink of starvation. The corrupt Governor Feron has been running the capital for his own ends, aided by the brutal Red Guard. But behind Feron hides an even greater menace. Lucien Grimaud is a vicious gangster with a powerful hold over the governor. While Feron might be reasoned with, Grimaud deals only in chaos and rage. Ordered to the heart of this simmering crisis, the Musketeers must face their most treacherous test yet. It’s a task that will challenge their allegiances to the crown, throw their personal lives into turmoil and compromise their loyalty to those they love – and to each other.

A series that started a little shakily in trying to establish a serious tone amidst the good humoured banter and the swashbuckling action, ultimately found its stride during a riveting second series dominated by Warren’s colossal performance as the scheming spy Rochefort. The final series took an even darker turn but drained a little of the good humour and spark from between the leads. A splendid penultimate episode set us up for a fan-pleasing finale that would tug at the heartstrings and thrill in even measures. Mixing standalone episodes and both season and series long plot threads concerning intrigue in the palace, it was always interesting and often enthralling. The cast was strong with Maimie McCoy making an alluring and evil Milady, whilst Burke is perfect as the brooding Athos. Gage was delightfully eccentric as King Louis and Dowling stoic as Anne, who has a secret she must keep from the King. The location work and photography are superb and give the series its authentic and rewarding period feel.

A blu-ray of series three alongside a collection BD box-set containing all three series will be released on Monday 15 August and comes highly recommended.