Film Review – HOLLYWOODLAND (2006)

Hollywoodland (2006; USA; Technicolor; 126m) ∗∗∗½  d. Allen Coulter; w. Paul Bernbaum; ph. Jonathan Freeman; m. Marcelo Zarvos.  Cast: Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, Ben Affleck, Bob Hoskins, Robin Tunney, Joe Spano, Molly Parker, Kathleen Robertson, Lois Smith, Phillip MacKenzie, Larry Cedar, Eric Kaldor, Caroline Dhavernas, Zach Mills. Inspired by one of Hollywood’s most infamous real-life mysteries, follows a 1950’s private detective who, investigating the mysterious death of “Superman” star George Reeves, uncovers unexpected connections to his own life as the case turns ever more personal. The torrid affair Reeves had with the wife of a studio executive might hold the key to the truth. More a comment on fame and stardom than a murder mystery. It weaves between the lives of the star and the detective investigating his supposed suicide and in doing so often disturbs the flow of the story, but the performances are uniformly excellent and the subject matter is genuinely fascinating. Feature film debut for veteran TV director Coulter. [15]

Film Review – WHILE WE’RE YOUNG (2014)

While We’re Young (2014; USA; Colour; 97m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Noah Baumbach; w. Noah Baumbach; ph. Sam Levy; m. James Murphy.  Cast: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver, Charles Grodin, Brady Corbet, Maria Dizzia, Dree Hemingway, Adam Horovitz, Adam Senn, James Saito, Ryan Serhant, Greta Lee, Ashley James, Matthew Maher. An uptight documentary filmmaker and his wife find their lives loosened up a bit after befriending a free-spirited younger couple. Baumbach explores themes of generational values, integrity and the fear of getting old in this poignant and funny commentary on modern life. Fine performances from a strong cast who make the most of a bitingly witty script. [15]

Film Review – SILVER DREAM RACER (1980)

Silver Dream Racer (1980; UK; Eastmancolor; 111m) ∗∗½  d. David Wickes; w. David Wickes, Michael Billington; ph. Paul Beeson; m. David Essex.  Cast: David Essex, Beau Bridges, Cristina Raines, Clarke Peters, Harry H. Corbett, Diane Keen, Lee Montague, Sheila White, Patrick Ryecart, Ed Bishop, T.P. McKenna, David Baxt. A young hot-headed motorbike enthusiast inherits the prototype for an incredibly fast machine which was designed by his brother. Cliché ridden sports drama benefits from lively performances from Bridges and Peters, but is ultimately predictable. Star Essex, whose hot-headed character competes for Raines’ affections with Bridges, also provided the music score. Corbett’s last feature film. US shorter cut runs 101m. [15]

Film Review – STARDUST (1974)

Stardust (1974; UK; Technicolor; 111m) ∗∗∗½  d. Michael Apted; w. Ray Connolly; ph. Anthony B. Richmond; m. Dave Edmunds, David Puttnam (music producers).  Cast: David Essex, Adam Faith, Larry Hagman, Ines des Longchamps, Rosalind Ayres, Marty Wilde, Edd Byrnes, Keith Moon, Dave Edmunds, Paul Nicholas, Karl Howman, Richard LeParmentier, Peter Duncan, John Normington, James Hazeldine. The rise and fall of a rock singer (Essex), in the mid 60s, with his manager and his group, “The Stray Cats.”  Sequel to THAT’LL BE THE DAY is a well-made parable on the trappings of fame. Apted authentically captures the mayhem with well-staged crowd scenes. Strong performances from Faith and Hagman dominate, whilst Essex struggles manfully to convey the angst of the artist caught up in the business and media frenzy that surrounds him. [15]

Film Review – THAT’LL BE THE DAY (1973)

That’ll Be the Day (1973; UK; Technicolor; 91m) ∗∗∗  d. Claude Watham; w. Ray Connolly; ph. Peter Suschitzky; m. Neil Aspinall, Keith Moon (music supervisors).  Cast: David Essex, Ringo Starr, Rosemary Leach, James Booth, Billy Fury, Keith Moon, Rosalind Ayres, Brenda Bruce, Robert Lindsay, Verna Harvey, James Ottaway, Deborah Watling, Beth Morris, Daphne Oxenford, Kim Braden. Abandoned by his father at an early age, Jim MacLaine (Essex) seems to have inherited the old man’s restlessness. Director Watham mirrors the kitchen-sink dramas of the era in his approach to this episodic rights-of-passage tale. Essex creates an unlikeable central character with a colourless performance, but a strong cameo from Ringo and excellent period detail make this an interesting and authentic depiction of youth in the 1950s. It spawned a sequel, STARDUST (1974). [15]

Film Review – FLIGHT (2012)

Flight (2012; USA; DeLuxe; 138m) ∗∗∗½  d. Robert Zemeckis; w. John Gatins; ph. Don Burgess; m. Alan Silvestri.  Cast: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Nadine Velazquez, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo, James Badge Dale, Tamara Tunie, Brian Geraghty, Garcelle Beauvais, Michael Beasley, Rhoda Griffis, E. Roger Mitchell, Dylan Kussman. An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling. Intense study of a man’s denial of his alcohol and substance abuse and self-destructive tendencies. The film often glosses over the more extreme struggles of the addicted, but Washington is superb as the hero pilot with a secret to hide. [15]

Film Review Round-up – CARRY ON COWBOY (1966); PATRIOT GAMES (1992) and THE MAGDALENE SISTERS (2002)

Carry on Cowboy (1966; UK; Eastmancolor; 93m) ∗∗∗  d. Gerald Thomas; w. Talbot Rothwell; ph. Alan Hume; m. Eric Rogers.  Cast: Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Jim Dale, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Angela Douglas, Bernard Bresslaw, Peter Butterworth, Percy Herbert, Jon Pertwee, Sydney Bromley, Edina Ronay. Stodge City is in the grip of the Rumpo Kid and his gang. Mistaken identity again takes a hand as a “sanitary engineer” (plumber) by the name of Marshal P. Knutt is mistaken for a law marshal. Pretty good spoof from the team with most of the team thriving on change. Slapstick and wordplay are to the fore with Pertwee and Hawtrey particularly funny. [PG]

Patriot Games (1992; USA; Technicolor; 117m) ∗∗∗½  d. Phillip Noyce; w. W. Peter Iliff, Donald Stewart; ph. Donald McAlpine; m. James Horner.  Cast: Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Sean Bean, Thora Birch, James Fox, Samuel L. Jackson, Polly Walker, James Earl Jones, Richard Harris, J.E. Freeman, Alex Norton, David Threlfall, Alun Armstrong, Hugh Fraser. When CIA Analyst Jack Ryan interferes with an IRA assassination, a renegade faction targets him and his family for revenge. Slick and efficient action thriller with Ford in excellent form. Lacks the sophistication of the first Jack Ryan adventure, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, but is undeniably entertaining. Followed by CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994). [15]

Magdalene Sisters, The (2002; Ireland/UK; Colour; 119m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Peter Mullan; w. Peter Mullan; ph. Nigel Willoughby; m. Craig Armstrong.  Cast: Geraldine McEwan, Anne-Marie Duff, Nora-Jane Noone, Dorothy Duffy, Eileen Walsh, Mary Murray, Britta Smith, Frances Healey, Eithne McGuinness, Phyllis McMahon, Rebecca Walsh, Eamonn Owens, Chris Simpson, Sean Colgan, Alison Goldie. Three young Irish women struggle to maintain their spirits while they endure dehumanizing abuse as inmates of a Magdalene Sisters Asylum. This is a powerful and harrowing drama, brilliantly directed and acted. Its downbeat tone is often lifted by moments of humour making this both a touching and disturbing film. [18]

Film Review Round-up – 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2014); THE MAN FROM COLORADO (1948) and DUCK SOUP (1933)

51sTNjOLpGL._SY300_12 Years a Slave (2013; USA/UK; DeLuxe; 134m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Steve McQueen; w. John Ridley; ph. Sean Bobbitt; m. Hans Zimmer; ed. Joe Walker.  Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodard, Michael K. Williams, Garret Dillahunt, Quvenzhané Wallis, Scoot McNairy, Taran Killam, Bryan Batt, Dwight Henry. Based on a true story, this is a riveting account of a free black man kidnapped from New York and sold into brutal slavery in mid-1850s Louisiana, and the inspiring story of his desperate struggle to return home to his family. A tough watch that holds the viewer through the brilliant performances of the cast – notably Ejiofor. The screenplay serves to tell the story without recourse to Hollywood conventions. Won Oscars for Best Picture; Supporting Actress (Nyong’o) and Adapted Screenplay. Based on the biography by Solomon Northup. [15]

download (3)Man from Colorado, The (1948; USA; Technicolor; 100m) ∗∗∗  d. Henry Levin; w. Robert Hardy Andrews, Ben Maddow; ph. William E. Snyder; m. George Duning; ed. Charles Nelson.  Cast: Glenn Ford, William Holden, Ellen Drew, Ray Collins, Edgar Buchanan, Jerome Courtland, James Millican, Jim Bannon, William Phillips. Two friends return home after their discharge from the army after the Civil War. However, one of them has had deep-rooted psychological damage due to his experiences during the war, and as his behaviour becomes more erratic–and violent–his friend desperately tries to find a way to help him. Attempts to comment on the effects of war, but Ford descends into the melodramatic in his interpretation of the tortured judge. Good production values and serviceable script are pluses. Based on a story by Borden Chase. [PG]

0023969Duck Soup (1933; USA; B&W; 68m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Leo McCarey; w. Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, Arthur Sheekman, Nat Perrin; ph. Henry Sharp; m. John Leipold; ed. LeRoy Stone.  Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Edmund Breese, Louis Calhern, Margaret Dumont, Edgar Kennedy, Charles Middleton, Edwin Maxwell, Raquel Torres, Verna Hillie, Leonid Kinskey, William Worthington, Eric Mayne. Rufus T. Firefly is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale. This is top-drawer Marxian humour. A satirical and zany masterpiece with numerous memorable set-pieces. Unlike many of their other films this one not only sustains the laughter level to the end but actually ramps it up a level in the last fifteen minutes. Last appearance of Zeppo Marx in The Marx Brothers films. In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #60 Greatest Movie of All Time. [U]

Film Review – SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977)

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977, Paramount Pictures, USA, 118 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, Dolby Stereo, Cert: 18, Drama) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: John Travolta (Tony Manero), Karen Lynn Gorney (Stephanie Mangano), Barry Miller (Bobby C.), Joseph Cali (Joey), Paul Pape (Double J.), Bruce Ornstein (Gus), Donna Pescow (Annette), Val Bisoglio (Frank Manero, Sr.), Julie Bovasso (Flo Manero), Martin Shakar (Frank Manero, Jr.), Nina Hansen (Grandmother), Lisa Peluso (Linda Manero), Sam J. Coppola (Dan Fusco), Lisa Peluso (Linda), Denny Dillon (Doreen), Bert Michaels (Pete).
      Producer: Robert Stigwood; Director: John Badham; Writer: Norman Wexler (based on the article “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” by Nik Cohn); Director of Photography: Ralf D. Bode (Movielab); Music: Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb, David Shire; Film Editor: David Rawlins; Production Designer: Charles Bailey; Costume Designer: Patrizia Von Brandenstein.

Saturday Night FeverRobert Stigwood purchased the rights to a magazine article “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night” by Nik Cohn published in New York Magazine on 7 Jun 1976 and the resultant movie became a smash hit by tapping into the then current disco fever and through the magnetic performance of its new star, John Travolta. Cohn was initially involved in the screenplay before Wexler was brought in to produce the shooting script. Initially John Avildsen was to direct, but conceptual disagreements with producer Stigwood led to him being replaced by Badham.

Travolta plays Tony Manero, a 19 year-old Brooklyn resident in a dead-end job and with a family on struggling financially following his father being layed off from the construction company he worked for all his life. The family are much prouder of the elder son (Shakar) who has left and become a priest. In order to escape his family Travolta cruises the disco clubs with his pals and is a hot dancer admired by all around him – particularly the girls. He hooks up with another dancer he admires (Gorney) to enter a competition. In the meantime the gang get into trouble with another gang resulting in one of them being hospitalised. The junior member of the gang has got his girlfriend pregnant and is at a loss what to do. The story unfolds around these plot threads and shows Travolta’s transition from teenage boy to man.

The musical backdrop provided by The Bee Gees and other disco acts of the time gives the film an added energy, but it is Travolta who drives the story forward in a career making performance. His dancing is fluid and his acting impressively natural. He gets good support from a talented cast – notably Bisoglio and Bovasso as his bickering parents. Bode’s photography of the New York locations captures the economic problems the city had at the time and Badham convincingly captures the spirit of youngsters in the city.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is a highly influential movie, but also is a period piece in that it captures its moment in time so well. An inferior sequel, STAYING ALIVE, followed in 1983.