Film Review – BREAKOUT (1975)

BREAKOUT (1975, USA) **
Action, Adventure, Drama
dist. Columbia Pictures (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); pr co. Columbia Pictures / Persky-Bright-Vista; d. Tom Gries; w. Howard B. Kreitsek, Marc Norman, Elliott Baker (suggested by a book by Warren Hinckle & William Turner and Eliot Asinof); pr. Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler; ph. Lucien Ballard (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Jerry Goldsmith; ed. Bud S. Isaacs; ad. Alfred Sweeney; rel. 7 March 1975 (West Germany), 1 May 1975 (UK), 22 May 1975 (USA); BBFC cert: 15; r/t. 96m.
cast: Charles Bronson (Nick Colton), Robert Duvall (Jay Wagner), Jill Ireland (Ann Wagner), John Huston (Harris Wagner), Randy Quaid (Hawkins), Sheree North (Myrna), Jorge Moreno (Sosa), Emilio Fernández (J.V.), Paul Mantee (Cable), Alan Vint (Harve), Alejandro Rey (Sanchez), William B. White (2nd Officer), Roy Jenson (Spencer), Sidney Clute (Henderson), Chalo González (Border Guard), Antonio Tarruella (1st Prison Guard), Don Norgano Frill (2nd Prison Guard).
Vehicle for Bronson in which he plays a bush pilot hired by Ireland for fifty thousand dollars to go to Mexico to free her husband (Duvall), an innocent prisoner. Saddled with a weak script, Gries fails to find a consistent tone as the film veers uneasily between action drama and comedy. This is not helped by using Bronson in a character more suited to the likes of Burt Reynolds. The story is confusing, and the characters’ motives are never fully explored or explained leaving the audience with little to invest in them. The performances are mixed – Duvall has little to do, and his talent is wasted. There are better performances from Quaid and North, who manage to capture the tonal balance best. Huston has a couple of brief scenes as Duvall’s grandfather determined to keep him behind bars. Technical accomplishments are varied, the editing is often clunky, but there are some genuinely hairy stunts performed. Dan Frazer appears uncredited as a US Customs agent. Apparently the film was inspired by the real 1971 helicopter rescue and breakout of Joel David Kaplan from a Mexican prison.

Film Review – NOMADLAND (2020)

NOMADLAND (2020, USA/Germany) ****
Drama
dist. Searchlight Pictures / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (USA), Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment (UK); pr co. Cor Cordium Productions / Hear-Say Productions / Highwayman Films; d. Chloé Zhao; w. Chloé Zhao (based on the book by Jessica Bruder); pr. Mollye Asher, Dan Janvey, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, Chloé Zhao; ph. Joshua James Richards (Colour. D-Cinema. Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), ProRes 4444 (3.2K) (source format). 2.39:1, 1.90:1 (IMAX version)); m. Ludovico Einaudi; ed. Chloé Zhao; pd. Joshua James Richards; ad. Elizabeth Godar, Tom Obed; rel. 11 September 2020 (USA), 16 October 2020 (UK); BBFC cert: 12; r/t. 107m.
cast: Frances McDormand (Fern), Gay DeForest (Gay), Patricia Grier (Patty), Linda May (Linda), Angela Reyes (Angela), Carl R. Hughes (Carl), Douglas G. Soul (Doug), Ryan Aquino (Ryan), Teresa Buchanan (Teresa), Karie Lynn McDermott Wilder (Karie), Brandy Wilber (Brandy), Makenzie Etcheverry (Makenzie), Bob Wells (Bob), Annette Webb (Annette), Rachel Bannon (Rachel), Derrick Janis (Victor), Greg Barber (Greg), Carol Anne Hodge (Carol), Sherita Deni Coker (Deni), Merle Redwing (Merle), Forrest Bault (Forrest), Suanne Carlson (Suanne), Donnie Miller (Donnie), Roxanne Bay (Roxy), Matt Sfaelos (Noodle), Ronald O. Zimmerman (Ron), Derek Endres (Derek), Paige Dean (Paige), Paul Winer (Paul), Derrick Janis (Victor), Greg Barber (Greg), Carol Anne Hodge (Carol), Matthew Stinson (Nurse Matt), Terry Phillip (Terry), Bradford Lee Riza (Brad), Tay Strathairn (James), Cat Clifford (Cat), James R. Taylor Jr. (James), Jeremy Greenman (Jeremy), Ken Greenman (Ken), Melissa Smith (Dolly), Warren Keith (George), Jeff Andrews (Jeff), Paul Cunningham (Paul), Emily Jade Foley (Emily), Mike Sells (Mike), Peter Spears (Peter), Cheryl Davis (Cheri).
In this well-judged drama McDormand plays a woman in her sixties, who after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. The story is a slow-moving mosaic that manages to embody the frustrations of middle-America as recession hits and the victims are left without support or hope. Zhao’s film captures the beauty of the landscape and contrasts it against the harshness of economic decline and corporate mechanics as ghost towns spring up from the rugged landscape. McDormand gives a wonderfully naturalistic performance as the embodiment of the unsustainable ideals of modern America. The result is an ironic reversion to the pioneer mentality that formed the USA in the first place. The slow-pace and introspection will not be for everyone – and certainly may alienate the modern generation – but for those with longer memories and experiences it proves to be a rewarding and chastening experience.
AA: Best Motion Picture of the Year; Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Frances McDormand); Best Achievement in Directing (Chloé Zhao)
AAN: Best Adapted Screenplay (Chloé Zhao); Best Achievement in Film Editing (Chloé Zhao); Best Achievement in Cinematography (Joshua James Richards)

Film Review – THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946)

THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946, USA) ***½
Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller
dist. Paramount Pictures; pr co. Paramount Pictures; d. George Marshall; w. Raymond Chandler; pr. John Houseman ; ph. Lionel Lindon (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Victor Young; ed. Arthur P. Schmidt; ad. Hans Dreier, Walter H. Tyler; rel. 16 April 1946 (USA), 1 June 1946 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 96m.
cast: Alan Ladd (Johnny Morrison), Veronica Lake (Joyce Harwood), William Bendix (Buzz Wanchek), Howard Da Silva (Eddie Harwood), Doris Dowling (Helen Morrison), Tom Powers (Capt. Hendrickson), Hugh Beaumont (George Copeland), Howard Freeman (Corelli), Don Costello (Leo), Will Wright (‘Dad’ Newell), Frank Faylen (Man Recommending a Motel), Walter Sande (Heath).
Ladd stars as a returning vet from WWII with Beaumont and brain-injured Bendix. When Ladd tries to reunite with his wife, Dowling, he discovers her promiscuity and walks out. When Dowling ends up murdered, Ladd is the chief suspect and runs into Lake whilst trying to evade capture and clear his name. A largely effective film noir that has more than its share of melodrama and a resolution that feels overly manufactured. Chandler’s script is a little over-reliant on cliched dialogue and often lacks his verbal spark, whilst the ending was changed against his wishes. There are, though, many wonderful individual scenes and Lake’s confident performance coupled with Ladd’s toughness elevates the material.
AAN: Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Raymond Chandler)

TV Review – BEFORE WE DIE (2021)

BEFORE WE DIE (2021, UK) ***
Crime, Drama, Thriller

pr co. Caviar Films / DPG Media / Screen Flanders; net. Channel 4; exec pr. Walter Iuzzolino, Jo McGrath, Robert Franke, Bert Hamelinck; pr. Dimitri Verbeeck, Robin Kerremans; d. Jan Matthys; w. Matt Baker; ph. Seppe Van Grieken; m. Jeroen Swinnen; ed. Joris Brouwers; pd. Pepijn Van Looy; ad. Floris Van Looy, Melanie Light; cos. Jutta Smeyers; b/cast. 26 May 2021; r/t. 6 x 44m.

Lesley Sharp (Hannah Laing), Patrick Gibson (Christian Radic), Vincent Regan (Billy Murdoch), Rebecca Scroggs (Tina Carter), Toni Gojanovic (Davor Mimica), Ryszard Turbiasz (Zvonomir), Issy Knopfler (Bianca Mimica), Kazia Pelka (Dubravka Mimica), John O’Connor (Marcus), Tijmen Govaerts (Jovan), Rino Sokol (Pavle), Nisha Nyar (Fran), Tess Bryant (Rachel), Petar Cvirn (Stefan Vargic), Jonathon Sawdon (Darius), Bill Ward (Sean Hardacre), Steve Toussaint (Kane), Mickey Angelov (Andri Kabashi).

Detective Hannah Laing (Sharp) becomes deeply conflicted when she discovers her son (Gibson) is playing a crucial role as an undercover informant in a brutal murder investigation. Adapted from the 2017 Swedish TV series, this Channel 4 drama benefits from sure-handed central performances from Sharp and Gibson. The scenario of the mother/son and police/informer relationship may be manufactured to drive the drama, but the themes are explored by a taut script that unfortunately loses its credibility altogether during the final episode’s protracted, but admittedly neat, twist denouement. Gojanovich displays the necessary charisma to make the chief villain a three-dimensional character. The Bristol setting, however, feels at odds with the premise which would have sat more naturally with a bigger city location. Technical attributes are strong, with the story being nicely shot and the musical score, for once, complementary and not overly intrusive. The story ends where the first series of the Swedish version did, with some plot points remaining unresolved, before moving on to a second series.

PRESS REACTION:
The Guardian (Lucy Mangan): “…based on a Swedish series of the same name. It figures: viewing it felt exactly like watching something where all the important things had been lost in translation.” (**)
Independent(Sean O’Grady): “It’s the kind of bewilderingly complicated detective drama we’ve become used to, the sort where you can’t quite recall who’s doing what to whom, or why, but we still feel for the various complicated characters living their complicated lives.” (***)
Times(Carol Midgley): “sharp acting, but I don’t believe this monster mum.” (**)
Telegraph (Anita Singh): “…this crime thriller was patronisingly slow. Still, at least the actors provided some eye candy.” (**)
i (Emily Watkins): “The programme’s downfall was its occasional paint-by-numbers narrative beats, and there were a few too many coincidences. Still, it was terribly good fun – let’s say exemplary of a newly coined genre, Bristol Noir.  (***)

 

TV Review – INNOCENT (SERIES 2) (2021)

INNOCENT (Series 2) (2021, UK) **
Crime, Drama, Mystery

pr co. TXTV; net. ITV – Independent Television (UK); pr. Jeremy Gwilt; d. Tracey Larcombe ; w. Chris Lang (series created by Matthew Arlidge, Chris Lang) ; ph. Ian Moss (Colour. 1.78:1); m. Samuel Sim; ed. Matthew Tabern; pd. Kieran McNulty; ad. Irina Kuksova; b/cast. 17-20 May 2021; r/t. 4 x 45m.

Cast: Katherine Kelly (Sally Wright), Jamie Bamber (Sam Wright), Shaun Dooley (DCI Mike Braithwaite), Priyanga Burford (Karen), Laura Rollins (Paine) Andrew Tiernan (John Taylor), Lucy Black (Maria Taylor), Amy-Leigh Hickman (Bethany), Ellie Rawnsley (Anna Stamp), Nadia Albina (Jenny), Poppy Miller (Supt Denham), Michael Yare (Alf), Michael Stevenson (DC Dave Green).

Matthew Taylor, a 16-year-old school boy was brutally murdered in the quiet Lake District. Five years later the accused is found not guilty and released from prison, but who did kill him? The premise here is to take a wrongly convicted party and make them the centre of a drama in which a new police  investigation uncovers the real perpetrator of the crime.  The format then moves into familiar whodunnit territory, whilst dealing with the personal dramas affecting the wronged party (in this case the excellent Katherine Kelly) and those immediately involved with the scenario. The issue I have with this drama is that the premise is so manufactured it requires a considerable suspension of disbelief to assume the initial investigation was so inept as to have missed the multiple clues presented here to solve the case. This is driven by both the concept’s restrictive boundaries and the lack of skilled writing to extract any believable situations from the idea. The feeling therefore is that the characters have been created to serve the scenario rather than falling naturally into Lang’s  environment. Additionally the direction falls into the trap of many similar crime drama series in recent years by pushing the big melodramatic moments and manipulating the audience through overly manufactured false trails and constant incidental music. It manages to retain some interest through Kelly’s excellent lead performance, which is much more nuanced than the majority of the cast, who appear to have waltzed in off the soap opera conveyer belt. The series plays out over 4 episodes and three hours of screen time and as such it does not feel protracted, but when we do get to the final act and the unveiling of the killer, only those unfamiliar with the genre tropes will be surprised.

TV Review – MARE OF EASTTOWN (2021)

MARE OF EASTTOWN (2021, USA) *****
Crime, Drama, Mystery

pr co. Home Box Office (HBO) / Mayhem Pictures / wiip studios; net. Home Box Office (HBO) (USA), Sky Atlantic (UK); exec pr. Gordon Gray, Brad Ingelsby, Paul Lee, Gavin O’Connor, Mark Roybal, Kate Winslet, Craig Zobel; pr. Karen Wacker; d. Craig Zobel; w. Brad Ingelsby; ph. Ben Richardson (Colour. Video (HDTV). ARRIRAW (2.8K) (source format), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), 2.00:1); m. Lele Marchitelli; ed. Amy E. Duddleston, Naomi Sunrise Filoramo; pd. Keith P. Cunningham; ad. Gina B. Cranham, Michael Gowen, Michelle C. Harmon; b/cast. 18 April 2021 – 31 May 2021 (USA), 19 April 2021 – 1 June 2021 (UK); r/t. 403m (7 episodes).

Cast: Kate Winslet (Detective Mare Sheehan), Julianne Nicholson (Lori Ross), Jean Smart (Helen Fahey), Angourie Rice (Siobhan Sheehan), John Douglas Thompson (Chief Carter), Joe Tippett (John Ross), Cameron Mann (Ryan Ross), Jack Mulhern (Dylan Hinchey), Izzy King (Drew Sheehan), Justin Hurtt-Dunkley (Officer Trammel), Sosie Bacon (Carrie Layden), David Denman (Frank Sheehan), Neal Huff (Father Dan Hastings), James McArdle (Deacon Mark Burton), Guy Pearce (Richard Ryan), Ruby Cruz (Jess Riley), Enid Graham (Dawn Bailey), Chinasa Ogbuagu (Beth Hanlon), Kassie Mundhenk (Moira Ross), Mackenzie Lansing (Brianna Delrasso).

Kate Winslet stars as a detective in a small Pennsylvania town who investigates a local murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart. The result is one of the greatest crime TV series ever, driven by a superb script, expert direction and a lead performance from Winslet that is astonishing in its sincerity. Writer Brad Ingelsby has shown how to pace a mystery over 7 episodes whilst fleshing out fully rounded characters with flaws which show them to be real and believable. Where Ingelsby’s writing impresses most is that it avoids the pitfall of many modern crime dramas by refusing to manufacture melodrama and shock twists for the sake of it and instead relies on story progression through quality writing, strong characterisation and natural dialogue. Everything that happens here feels and looks real and is performed with integrity by a cast at the top of their game. Winslet holds the centre ground as the detective haunted by a tragedy in her family’s recent past and reminders in the disintegration of her best friend’s family as she investigates a murder case and a missing persons case, which may or may not be related. As Winslet unravels the mysteries and deals with ongoing personal dramas, she starts to come to terms with the tragedy that haunts her. The audience is pulled in to her life and feels everything she feels as her relationships with family and friends evolve with her investigation. US reviewers pointed to similarities in approach to TRUE DETECTIVE, and here there are parallels with BBC’s HAPPY VALLEY. MARE OF EASTTOWN surpasses the former and sits comfortably with the latter.

Film Review – THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1943)

SONG OF BERNADETTE, THE (1943, USA) ****
Biography, Drama

dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Twentieth Century Fox; d. Henry King; w. George Seaton (based on the novel by Franz Werfel); pr. William Perlberg; ph. Arthur C. Miller (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Alfred Newman; ed. Barbara McLean; ad. James Basevi, William S. Darling; set d. Thomas Little; cos. René Hubert; m/up. Guy Pearce; sd. Alfred Bruzlin, Roger Heman Sr. (Mono (Western Electric Recording)); vfx. Fred Sersen; rel. 21 December 1943 (USA); cert: U; r/t. 156m.

cast: Jennifer Jones (Bernadette), William Eythe (Antoine Nicolau), Charles Bickford (Father Peyramale), Vincent Price (Prosecutor Vital Dutour), Lee J. Cobb (Dr. Dozous), Gladys Cooper (Sister Marie Therese Vauzous), Anne Revere (Louise Soubirous), Roman Bohnen (François Soubirous), Mary Anderson (Jeanne Abadie), Patricia Morison (Empress Eugenie), Aubrey Mather (Mayor Lacade), Charles Dingle (Jacomet), Edith Barrett (Croisine Bouhouhorts), Sig Ruman (Louis Bouriette), Blanche Yurka (Aunt Bernarde Casterot), Ermadean Walters (Marie Soubirous), Marcel Dalio (Callet), Pedro de Cordoba (Dr. LeCramps), Jerome Cowan (Emperor Louis Napoleon III).

Based on the popular novel by Franz Werfel, this drama focuses on Bernadette Soubirous (Jones), a young French woman who experiences vivid visions of the Virgin Mary. While many dismiss her claims, certain people, including the priest Dominique Peyramale (Bickford), slowly begin to believe her. Eventually, Bernadette is deemed a saint, and becomes a nun at a convent, where she must deal with jealousy from others who resent her revered status. An earnest adaptation that nails its colours to the mast from its prologue. The deeply religious tale is played out at great length, perhaps overlength. The production, however, is very strong with King’s direction giving encouragement for an exceptional cast to deliver consistently excellent performances. Jones’ wide-eyed innocence perfectly embodies Bernadette’s voyage of discovery. Revere as her mother conveys the emotional turmoil of a woman torn between her familial struggles and the love of her daughter. Price is restrained and almost sympathetic as the cynical politician, whilst Bickford is sturdy as the priest who is initially sceptical of Bernadette’s claims. Technical attributes are also top-notch with Miller’s photography making the most of the production design and Newman’s score evocatively complementing the unfolding drama. Linda Darnell appears uncredited as the Virgin Mary.

AA: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jennifer Jones); Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Arthur C. Miller); Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White (James Basevi, William S. Darling, Thomas Little)’; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Alfred Newman)
AAN: Best Picture; Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Charles Bickford); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Gladys Cooper); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Revere); Best Director (Henry King); Best Writing, Screenplay (George Seaton); Best Sound, Recording (Edmund H. Hansen (20th Century-Fox SSD)); Best Film Editing (Barbara McLean)

Film Review – CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013, USA) ****½
Action, Drama, Thriller

dist. Columbia Pictures (USA), Sony Pictures Releasing (UK); pr co. Michael De Luca Productions / Scott Rudin Productions / Trigger Street Productions; d. Paul Greengrass; w. Billy Ray (based upon the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea” by Richard Phillips & Stephan Talty); exec pr. Eli Bush, Gregory Goodman, Kevin Spacey; pr. Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Scott Rudin; ph. Barry Ackroyd (Technicolor. 35 mm (anamorphic) (partial blow-up) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (2.8K) (source format) (some scenes), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Super 16 (source format) (some scenes), Super 35 (also 3-perf) (source format), VistaVision (source format) (visual effects). 2.39:1); m. Henry Jackman; ed. Christopher Rouse; pd. Paul Kirby; ad. Aziz Hamichi; set d. Dominic Capon; cos. Mark Bridges; m/up. Frances Hannon; sd. Oliver Tarney, Michael Fentum, James Harrison (SDDS | Datasat | Dolby Digital | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Surround 7.1); sfx. Dominic Tuohy; vfx. Daniel Barrow, Andy Taylor, Kris Wright, Charlie Noble, Adam Rowland; st. Rob Inch; rel. 27 September 2013 (USA), 9 October 2013 (UK); cert: PG-13/12; r/t. 135m.

cast: Tom Hanks (Captain Richard Phillips), Catherine Keener (Andrea Phillips), Barkhad Abdi (Muse), Barkhad Abdirahman (Bilal), Faysal Ahmed (Najee), Mahat M. Ali (Elmi), Michael Chernus (Shane Murphy), David Warshofsky (Mike Perry), Corey Johnson (Ken Quinn), Chris Mulkey (John Cronan), Yul Vazquez (Captain Frank Castellano), Max Martini (SEAL Commander), Omar Berdouni (Nemo), Mohamed Ali (Asad), Issak Farah Samatar (Hufan), Thomas Grube (Maersk Alabama Crew), Mark Holden (Maersk Alabama Crew), San Shella (Maersk Alabama Crew), Terence Anderson (Maersk Alabama Crew), Marc Anwar (Maersk Alabama Crew), David Webber (Maersk Alabama Crew), Amr El-Bayoumi (Maersk Alabama Crew), Vincenzo Nicoli (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kapil Arun (Maersk Alabama Crew), Louis Mahoney (Maersk Alabama Crew), Peter Landi (Maersk Alabama Crew), Angus MacInnes (Maersk Alabama Crew), Ian Ralph (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kristian Hjordt Beck (Maersk Alabama Crew), Kurt Larsen (Maersk Alabama Crew), Bader Choukouko (Somali Boy), Idurus Shiish (Pirate Leader), Azeez Mohammed (Pirate Leader), Abdurazak Ahmed Adan (Pirate Leader), Duran Mohamed Hassan (Asad’s Crew), Nasir Jama (Asad’s Crew), Kadz Souleiman (Asad’s Crew), Scott Oates (Navy SEAL Group), David B. Meadows (Navy SEAL Group), Shad Jason Hamilton (Navy SEAL Group), Adam Wendling (Navy SEAL Group), Billy Jenkins (Navy SEAL Group), Mark Semos (Navy SEAL Group), Dean Franchuk (Navy SEAL Group), Rey Hernandez (Navy SEAL Group), Christopher Stadulis (Navy SEAL Group), Roger Edwards (Navy SEAL Group), John Patrick Barry (Navy SEAL Group), Raleigh Morse (Navy SEAL Group), Dale McClellan (Navy SEAL Group), Hugh Middleton (Navy SEAL Group), Raymond Care (Navy SEAL Group), Stacha Hicks (UKMTO Officer), Will Bowden (US Maritime Officer), Len Anderson IV (USS Bainbridge VBSS Officer).

In April 2009, the U.S. containership Maersk Alabama sails toward its destination on a day that seems like any other. Suddenly, Somali pirates race toward the vessel, climb aboard and take everyone hostage. The captain of the ship, Richard Phillips (Hanks), looks to protect his crew from the hostile invaders, and their leader, Muse (Abdi). The pirates are after millions of dollars, and Phillips must use his wits to make sure everyone survives and returns home safely. Greengrass provides a masterclass in building tension and then holding it, whilst Hanks gives one of his absolute best performances and is totally believable as the experienced captain trying to stay one step ahead of the Somali pirates. Abdi is also excellent as the skinny leader of the pirate group. The film has been criticised for lacking sufficient background and motivation on the Somalians, but in fact there are subtle points made about the gulf between the might of those who have (represented by the US Navy) and the futility of those who have not (the Somalian fishermen forced into piracy). Credit to Greengrass for showing the shock and trauma of Hanks’ character once rescued – a scene devastatingly real as performed by Hanks.

AAN: Best Motion Picture of the Year (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca); Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Barkhad Abdi); Best Achievement in Film Editing (Christopher Rouse); Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Oliver Tarney); Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith, Chris Munro); Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Billy Ray)

Film Review – CAST AWAY (2000)

CAST AWAY (2000, USA) ****
Adventure, Drama, Romance

dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Twentieth Century Fox / Dreamworks Pictures / ImageMovers / Playtone; d. Robert Zemeckis; w. William Broyles Jr.; exec pr. Joan Bradshaw; pr. Tom Hanks, Jack Rapke, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis; assoc pr. Steven J. Boyd, Cherylanne Martin; ph. Don Burgess (DeLuxe. 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383). Spherical. 1.85:1); m. Alan Silvestri; ed. Arthur Schmidt; pd. Rick Carter; ad. Stefan Dechant, Elizabeth Lapp, William James Teegarden; set d. Rosemary Brandenburg, Karen O’Hara; cos. Joanna Johnston; m/up. Daniel C. Striepeke, Kathryn Blondell, Ronnie Specter; sd. Randy Thom, Dennis Leonard, William B. Kaplan, Ken Fischer, David C. Hughes (SDDS | DTS | Dolby Digital); sfx. John Frazier; vfx. Harry Gundersen, Eric Hanson, Ken Ralston; st. Doug Coleman, Bud Davis; rel. 7 December 2000 (USA), 12 January 2001 (UK); cert: PG-13/12; r/t. 143m.

cast: Tom Hanks (Chuck Noland), Helen Hunt (Kelly Frears), Nick Searcy (Stan), Jenifer Lewis (Becca Twig), Geoffrey Blake (Maynard Graham), Peter Von Berg (Yuri), Chris Noth (Jerry Lovett), Lari White (Bettina Peterson), Paul Sanchez (Ramon), Leonid Citer (Fyodor), David Allen Brooks (Dick Peterson), Yelena Popovic (Beautiful Russian Woman), Valentina Ananina (Russian Babushka), Semion Sudarikov (Nicolai), Dmitri S. Boudrine (Lev), François Duhamel (French FedEx Loader), Michael Forest (Pilot Jack), Viveka Davis (Lady from Dick Bettina farm), Jennifer Choe (Memphis State Student), Nan Martin (Kelly’s Mother).

Hanks stars as Chuck Noland, a FedEx systems engineer whose personal and professional life are ruled by the clock. His manic existence abruptly ends when, after a plane crash, he becomes isolated on a remote island – cast away into the most desolate environment imaginable. Hanks delivers a superb performance, holding then screen for the most its running time. He superbly relays the character’s instinct and will to survive in a hostile environment along with the mental impact and emotional scars the experience leaves on him. The film is bookended with a set-up and resolution to his relationship with Hunt. It is here the film admirably tries to keep a balanced view but falls into some of the trappings of soap opera, However, the two stars play the scenes perfectly and elevate them above the material. Also notable in a supporting role is Searcy as Hanks’ closest work colleague. Technical attributes are strong. The photography is colourful; the plane crash scene tensely portrays the terror and confusion; Zemeckis directs with a sure hand and uses the FedEx delivery system as a neat way of topping and tailing the story. But it is Hanks’ film and his solo turn on his desert island that is the heart and soul of the production. The film was shot in two blocks over a year apart to allow Hanks to lose weight and grow his hair for the four-year gap in the story.

AAN: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Tom Hanks); Best Sound (Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis S. Sands, William B. Kaplan)

Two new Sky series recall earlier classic British TV with differing results

Intergalactic (2021, UK, Episodes 1-4) **½
Fearless young cop and galactic pilot, Ash Harper (Savannah Steyn), who has her glittering career ripped away from her after being wrongly convicted of a treasonous crime and exiled to a distant prison colony. But on the way there, Ash’s fellow convicts stage a mutiny and seize control of their prison transfer ship.
Mare of Easttown (2021, USA, Episodes 1-3) *****
As her life crumbles around her, a small-town Pennsylvania detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) investigates a local murder. The series explores the dark side of a close community and provides an authentic examination of how family and past tragedies can define our present.

Intergalactic" (2021) British movie posterSky has two series currently available or broadcasting that have their roots in classic British TV series. The first is the heavily publicised British sci-fi action adventure Intergalactic (Sky One), with the whole series of 8 episodes (curtailed from 10 by the pandemic) available to download for subscribers. The series is the brainchild of Julie Gearey and has a largely multi-ethnic female led cast led by Savannah Steyn as a discredited cop forced to serve her sentence off-world, where she falls in with several other prisoners who take over their transport ship, the “Hemlock” (a cool Millenium Falcon styled spaceship) and go on the run from the Common World. In their midst is a terrorist leader, who has her own secrets the Common World need to suppress. An added complication is the Steyn’s mother is the the leader of the Common World security team in pursuit of the escapees. There is much murkiness behind the back story, which gradually becomes clearer as the series progresses. The plot sounds familiar because it is a direct riff on the 1970s classic “Blake’s 7” , only here the action is more violent, the language much coarser, the characters less likeable, the stories less original and the dialogue is a mix of the truly awful and the occasionally witty. The look and tone is also highly derivative in taking elements of “Mad Max”, “Firefly” and Con Air” blending together their more cliched elements. The cast is, on paper, a strong one that includes Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Eleanor Tomlinson, Thomas Turgoose, Natasha O’Keeffe, Oliver Coopersmith, Imogen Daines, Diany Samba-Bandza, Parminder Nagra and Craig Parkinson. Most of the performances are one dimensional and lacking in nuance as the cast struggle to take their characters beyond the machismo of their dialogue. That said there are moments where the potential for a stronger series emerges – I am currently half-way through the run and after a dodgy start there have been some genuinely funny moments as well as a few unintentional ones. Where the series truly scores is in its look. The production design and CGI visual effects are excellent, if occasionally a little over-processed, from the opening shots of London in ruins to the new raised city and beyond into the galaxy. Its often pulpy trash, but it is also somehow strangely addictive as it struggles to add a fun factor.  Hopefully the characters will settle down and become more rounded as the series progresses. For now it borders between the awful and the entertaining as a distinct guilty pleasure. I’ll come back later with my views on the last 4 episodes.

Kate Winslet as Mare SheehanMare of Easttown (Sky Atlantic), on the other hand, is a reminder of the high quality output from American production company HBO (Home Box Office). Here Kate Winslet plays a detective in a backwater Pennsylvania town. She is dogged by the fact she has been unable to solve a missing persons case and is embroiled with a current murder investigation where the suspects come close to home. No doubt the two cases will at some point be linked. In between time, she has her own domestic issues to address following the death of her son, the break-up of her marriage and her grand-parenting duties due to the absent mother, who is wrestling with a drug problem. It all sounds miserably downbeat, but here the writing is so strong and the characters totally believable with a razor-sharp script (written by Brad Ingelsby) injected with dark humour and witty dialogue. So far I have seen the first three episodes (of 7) of the series, which is being run weekly by Sky concurrently with HBO. The story has more than few echoes of one of British TV’s very best series, “Happy Valley”, and I would be surprised if it were not an influence on Ingelsby. Like “Happy Valley” this series has a gripping and multi-layered story with genuine character interactions and superb performances from its cast – most notably Winslet, who is flawless. It is a drama that sucks you into its world and holds you there in its vice-like grip. It looks set to be one of the best series since the turn of the century.