TV Review – CITY OF ANGELS: THE NOVEMBER PLAN (1976)

CITY OF ANGELS: THE NOVEMBER PLAN (1976, USA) ***
Crime, Mystery
dist. National Broadcasting Company (NBC) (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Roy Huggins-Public Arts Productions / Universal Television; d. Don Medford; w. Stephen J. Cannell (based on a story by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell); exec pr. Jo Swerling Jr.; pr. Roy Huggins; assoc pr. Dorothy J. Bailey; ph. Ric Waite (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Nelson Riddle; m sup. Hal Mooney; ed. Edwin F. England, Ronald LaVine, Larry Lester; ad. John W. Corso; set d. Jerry Adams; cos. Charles Waldo; sd. John K. Kean (Mono); rel. 3 February 1976 (USA – TV), April 1977 (UK); cert: -/PG; r/t. 3 x 47mm.

cast: Wayne Rogers (Jake Axminster), Elaine Joyce (Marsha), Philip Sterling (Michael Brimm), Clifton James (Lt. Murray Quint), Diane Ladd (Laura Taylor), Meredith Baxter (Mary Kingston (as Meredith Baxter Birney)), Laurence Luckinbill (Noel Crossman Jr.), Stephen Elliott (Harold Delaney), Jack Kruschen (Harry Kahn), Dorothy Malone (Dawn Archer), Lloyd Nolan (Gen. Smedley Butler), Robert Sampson (Wayne Fisher), G.D. Spradlin (Gen. Winfield), Laurence Hugo (Alex Sebastian), Steve Kanaly (Parker), Martin Kove (Stan), Pepper Martin (Reggie), Rod McCary (George Donaldson), Paul Jenkins (Terry), Ross Bickell (Murdock).

Jake Axminster (Rogers) is a hard-boiled, wise-cracking private eye in 1934 Los Angeles. Mary Kingston (Baxter) hires him to prove her innocence because she is being framed for murdering her boyfriend, and the police are seeking her whereabouts. Jake hides her in a beach house and begins his investigation. He discovers that Mary and her boyfriend witnessed a Alex Sebastian’s (Hugo) murder at a party on the previous night, and she fled but her boyfriend was captured and killed. Sebastien was a reporter who was about to publish a story of some importance, concerning the date of November thirteenth. Following in the wake of CHINATOWN (1974) this was a valiant attempt by Universal to capture the same blend of period atmosphere, themes of corruption and a Chandler-esque mystery. The result is a mixed bag with the positives being the period detail in the production design and some smart dialogue. On the minus side are the unimaginative and sometimes flat direction and a disappointing denouement. Rogers essays James Garner in his interpretation of the down-at-heel private eye but he lacks Garner’s charm. Nevertheless, his enthusiastic performance occasionally hits home. A strong support cast is on hand, notably the excellent Joyce as Rogers’ secretary who combines her work with running the phone lines for the city’s hookers. Joyce has a natural comic flair which elevates the material when she is on screen. James is the corrupt cop who beats on his prisoners and Baxter has fun as the fugitive starlet. The script, by veterans Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins, could have been sharpened further, but the production was a hasty one with the series being a mid-season replacement. The promise on show here would occasionally surface over the series’ next ten episodes before it was cancelled due to low ratings just as it was building a head of steam. Whilst this three-part story served to introduce the series to its US audience, it was edited to 103 minutes and released in cinemas in the UK, Europe, Australia, Central and South America. The film was based on a notorious 1933 American conspiracy known as the Business Plot, which involved wealthy businessmen trying to bring down United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a coup.

Film Review – THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (2017)

GREATEST SHOWMAN, THE (2017, USA) **½
Biography, Drama, Musical
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Bona Film Group / Chernin Entertainment / TSG Entertainment / Twentieth Century Fox; d. Michael Gracey; w. Jenny Bicks, Bill Condon (based on a story by Jenny Bicks); exec pr. Tonia Davis, Donald J. Lee Jr., James Mangold; pr. Peter Chernin, Laurence Mark, Jenno Topping; ph. Seamus McGarvey (Colour. D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (3.4K) (6.5K) (source format), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format). 2.39:1); m. Benj Pasek, Justin Paul; s. “The Greatest Show” (performed by Hugh Jackman, Keala Settle, Zac Efron, Zendaya & The Greatest Showman Ensemble) m/l. Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Ryan Lewis, “A Million Dreams” (performed by Ziv Zaifman, Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Skylar Dunn, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely), “Come Alive” (performed by Hugh Jackman, Keala Settle, Daniel Everidge, Zendaya & The Greatest Showman Ensemble), “The Other Side” (performed by Hugh Jackman & Zac Efron), “Never Enough” (performed by Loren Allred), “This Is Me” (performed by Keala Settle & The Greatest Showman Ensemble), “Rewrite the Stars” (performed by Zac Efron & Zendaya), “Tightrope” (performed by Michelle Williams), “From Now On” (Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams & The Greatest Showman Ensemble) m/l. Benj Pasek, Justin Paul; m sup. Mark Wike; chor. Shannon Holtzapffel, Ashley Wallen; ed. Tom Cross, Robert Duffy, Joe Hutshing, Michael McCusker, Jon Poll, Spencer Susser; pd. Nathan Crowley; ad. Laura Ballinger; set d. Debra Schutt; cos. Ellen Mirojnick; m/up. Nicki Ledermann, Whitney James, Jerry Popolis, Mary L. Mastro; sd. Dror Mohar, Lewis Goldstein (Dolby Digital | Dolby Atmos); sfx. Garry Elmendorf; vfx. Mathieu Raynault, Anish Ratna Tuladhar, Mark O. Forker, David Isyomin, Eran Dinur, Chris LeDoux, Gaia Bussolati, Radley Teruel, Prabhakar Maharjan, John Helms, Cliff Welsh, Dann Tarmy, Vincent Poitras, Martin Lipmann, Keith Sellers; st. Victor Paguia, Mathieu Leopold; rel. 20 December 2017 (USA), 26 December 2017 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 105m.

cast: Hugh Jackman (P.T. Barnum), Michelle Williams (Charity Barnum), Zac Efron (Phillip Carlyle), Zendaya (Anne Wheeler), Rebecca Ferguson (Jenny Lind), Austyn Johnson (Caroline Barnum), Cameron Seely (Helen Barnum), Keala Settle (Lettie Lutz), Sam Humphrey (Tom Thumb), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (W.D. Wheeler), Eric Anderson (Mr. O’Malley), Ellis Rubin (Young Barnum), Skylar Dunn (Young Charity), Daniel Everidge (Lord of Leeds), Radu Spinghel (O’Clancy), Yusaku Komori (Chang), Danial Son (Eng), Paul Sparks (James Gordon Bennett), Will Swenson (Philo Barnum), Linda Marie Larson (Mrs. Stratton).

Growing up in the early 1800s, P.T. Barnum (Jackman) displays a natural talent for publicity and promotion, selling lottery tickets by age 12. After trying his hands at various jobs, P.T. turns to show business to indulge his limitless imagination, rising from nothing to create the Barnum & Bailey circus. Featuring catchy musical numbers, exotic performers and daring acrobatic feats, Barnum’s mesmerizing spectacle soon takes the world by storm to become the greatest show on Earth. This is a triumph of style over content. The musical numbers are expansive, well-choreographed and wonderfully performed. The story , however, is given little room to breathe with short dialogue interludes serving to advance the plot between the songs. This would work well on stage, but in a movie it feels like the characters are short-changed and as a result the whole production is given an air of artificiality. This is not helped by the songs, which whilst memorable feel anachronistic. The result is a detached experience in which you can admire the spectacle without really caring about what is going on.

AAN: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) (Benj Pasek, Justin Paul for the song “This is Me”)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)

STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005, USA) ***½
Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Lucasfilm / Pandora Films / CTV Services; d. George Lucas; w. George Lucas; exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Rick McCallum; ph. David Tattersall (DeLuxe. 35mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), 70mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383). Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Dolby Vision, HDCAM SR (1080p/24) (source format). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Roger Barton, Ben Burtt; pd. Gavin Bocquet; ad. Peter Russell; set d. Piero Di Giovanni, Richard Roberts; cos. Trisha Biggar; m/up. Nikki Gooley, Annette Miles, Josh Head; sd. Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood (DTS-ES | Dolby Digital EX | SDDS (uncredited) | Dolby Atmos); sfx. Rodney Burke; vfx. Roger Guyett, John Knoll; st. Nick Gillard; rel. 12 May 2005 (USA), 16 May 2005 (UK); cert: PG-13/12; r/t. 140m.

cast: Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Natalie Portman (Padmé), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (Supreme Chancellor Palpatine), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Jimmy Smits (Senator Bail Organa), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), Keisha Castle-Hughes (Queen of Naboo), Silas Carson (Ki-Adi-Mundi / Nute Gunray), Jay Laga’aia (Captain Typho), Bruce Spence (Tion Medon), Wayne Pygram (Governor Tarkin), Temuera Morrison (Commander Cody), David Bowers (Mas Amedda), Oliver Ford Davies (Sio Bibble), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Rohan Nichol (Captain Raymus Antilles), Jeremy Bulloch (Captain Colton), Amanda Lucas (Terr Taneel), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Matt Sloan (Plo Koon), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Rebecca Jackson Mendoza (Queen of Alderaan), Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars), Bonnie Piesse (Beru Lars), Jett Lucas (Zett Jukassa), Tux Akindoyeni (Agen Kolar), Matt Rowan (Senator Orn Free Taa), Kenji Oates (Saesee Tiin), Amy Allen (Aayla Secura), Bodie Taylor (Clone Trooper), Graeme Blundell (Ruwee Naberrie), Trisha Noble (Jobal Naberrie), Claudia Karvan (Sola Naberrie), Keira Wingate (Ryoo Naberrie), Hayley Mooy (Pooja Naberrie), Sandi Finlay (Sly Moore), Katie Lucas (Chi Eekway), Genevieve O’Reilly (Mon Mothma), Warren Owens (Fang Zar), Kee Chan (Malé-Dee), Rena Owen (Nee Alavar), Christopher Kirby (Giddean Danu), Matthew Wood (General Grievous (voice)), Kristy Wright (Moteé), Coinneach Alexander (Whie), Olivia McCallum (Bene (as Mousy McCallum)), Michael Kingma (Wookiee General Tarfful), Axel Dench (Wookiee), Steven Foy (Wookiee), Julian Khazzouh (Wookiee), James Rowland (Wookiee), David Stiff (Wookiee), Robert Cope (Wookiee).

It has been three years since the Clone Wars began. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) and Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) rescue Chancellor Palpatine (McDiarmid) from General Grievous, the commander of the droid armies, but Grievous escapes. Suspicions are raised within the Jedi Council concerning Chancellor Palpatine, with whom Anakin has formed a bond. Asked to spy on the chancellor, and full of bitterness toward the Jedi Council, Anakin embraces the Dark Side. This is a visually impressive final instalment of parts 1-3 of the STAR WARS saga. Whilst many of the problems encountered in the first two films – notably the flat lead performances and leaden dialogue – remain, here the stakes are higher and as such the viewing experience is more rewarding. There is also a better balance between the political intrigue and the action sequences. The latter, however, often appear overly choreographed resulting in reduced tension as the viewer marvels at the movement rather than becomes embroiled in the struggle. The final act is largely engrossing but also feels manufactured in that it attempts to tie everything neatly into the set-up for part 4, which was released twenty-eight years earlier.

AAN: Best Achievement in Makeup (Dave Elsey, Nikki Gooley)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)

STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002, USA) ***
Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Lucasfilm / Recce & Production Services / Mestiere Cinema; d. George Lucas; w. George Lucas, Jonathan Hales (based on a story by George Lucas); exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Rick McCallum, Lorne Orleans; ph. David Tattersall (Colour. 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), Digital (Texas Instruments DLP 1280 x 1024, 1.9: 1 anamorphic). Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Dolby Vision, HDCAM (1080p/24) (source format) (matted to 2.39: 1). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Ben Burtt; pd. Gavin Bocquet; ad. Peter Russell; set d. Peter Walpole; cos. Trisha Biggar; m/up. Lesley Vanderwalt, Sue Love; sd. Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood (DTS-ES | Dolby Digital EX | SDDS | Dolby Atmos); sfx. David Young, Geoff Heron, Tom Harris; vfx. Pablo Helman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Ben Snow; st. Nick Gillard; rel. 12 May 2002 (USA), 14 May 2002 (UK); cert: PG/PG; r/t. 142m.

cast: Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Natalie Portman (Padmé), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku / Darth Tyranus), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Ian McDiarmid (Supreme Chancellor Palpatine), Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker), Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett), Jimmy Smits (Senator Bail Organa), Jack Thompson (Cliegg Lars), Leeanna Walsman (Zam Wesell), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks / Achk Med-Beq (voice)), Rose Byrne (Dormé), Oliver Ford Davies (Sio Bibble), Ronald Falk (Dexter Jettster (voice)), Jay Laga’aia (Capt. Typho), Andy Secombe (Watto (voice)), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO / Dannl Faytonni), Silas Carson (Ki-Adi-Mundi / Viceroy Nute Gunray), Ayesha Dharker (Queen Jamillia), Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars), Daniel Logan (Boba Fett), Bonnie Piesse (Beru), Anthony Phelan (Lama Su (voice)), Rena Owen (Taun We (voice)), Alethea McGrath (Madame Jocasta Nu), Susie Porter (Hermione Bagwa / WA-7), Matt Doran (Elan Sleazebaggano), Alan Ruscoe (Lott Dod), Matt Sloan (Plo Koon), Veronica Segura (Cordé), David Bowers (Mas Amedda), Steve John Shepherd (Naboo lieutenant), Bodie Taylor (Clone Trooper), Matt Rowan (Senator Orn Free Taa), Steven Boyle (Senator Ask Aak / Passel Argente), Zachariah Jensen (Kit Fisto), Alex Knoll (J.K. Burtola), Phoebe Yiamkiati (Mari Amithest), Kenny Baker (R2-D2).

Set ten years after the events of THE PHANTOM MENACE, the Republic continues to be mired in strife and chaos. A separatist movement encompassing hundreds of planets and powerful corporate alliances poses new threats to the galaxy that even the Jedi cannot stem. These moves, long planned by an as yet unrevealed and powerful force, lead to the beginning of the Clone Wars — and the beginning of the end of the Republic. This continuation of the STAR WARS saga delves deeper into the political intrigue, but has enough action sequences, some of which fail to convince with their logic, to keep the less demanding viewers entertained. Where the film pales in comparison to those that preceded it are in the characters and the actor’s performances. McGregor, Christensen and Portman lack the personality of Hamill, Ford and Fisher from the original trilogy. What humour is there is uninspired and largely repeats lines from earlier movies. Portman and Chsritensen, in particular, are given wooden dialogue to work with but fail to rise above their material in a way Christopher Lee in particular does. There is little emotional resonance despite the big themes at play. Technically, though, the film is a triumph. The visuals are highly impressive, albeit it increasingly CGI dependant. Lucas’s direction, though, is workmanlike and he fails to bring his own material to life in a way he did back in 1977. Followed by STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005).

AAN: Best Visual Effects (Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, John Knoll, Ben Snow)