Film Review Round-up – THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS (1941); MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (2011) and SHANE (1953)

Shepherd of the Hills, The (1941; USA; Technicolor; 98m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Henry Hathaway; w. Stuart Anthony, Grover Jones; ph. W. Howard Greene, Charles Lang; m. Gerard Carbonara.  Cast: John Wayne, Betty Field, Harry Carey, Beulah Bondi, James Barton, Samuel S. Hinds, Marjorie Main, Ward Bond, Marc Lawrence, John Qualen, Fuzzy Knight, Tom Fadden. A mysterious stranger arrives in the Missouri hills and befriends a young backwoods girl. Much to the dislike of her moonshiner fiancé who has vowed to find and kill his own father. Excellent adaptation with superb production values and strong performances from the cast and superb direction from Hathaway. Gorgeous cinematography beautifully captures the San Bernardino National Forest in California. Based on the novel by Harold Bell Wright. Previously filmed in 1919 and 1928 and remade again in 1964. [PG]

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011; USA/United Arab Emirates/Czech Republic; DeLuxe; 133m) ∗∗½  d. Brad Bird; w. Christopher McQuarrie, Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec; ph. Robert Elswit; m. Michael Giacchino.  Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Michael Nyqvist, Anil Kapoor, Léa Seydoux, Josh Holloway, Vladimir Mashkov, Tom Wilkinson, Samuli Edelmann, Ivan Shvedoff, Miraj Grbic, Ving Rhames. Fourth instalment in the action-adventure franchise follows Ethan Hunt as he works to defuse a potentially-cataclysmic conflict between the United States and Russia. Implausible action thriller propelled by admittedly impressive action sequences, but lacking intelligent plotting and any respect for its audience. Followed by MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION (2015) [12]

Shane (1953; USA; Technicolor; 118m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. George Stevens; w. A.B. Guthrie Jr., Jack Sher; ph. Loyal Griggs; m. Victor Young.  Cast: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Jack Palance, Van Heflin, Brandon DeWilde, Ben Johnson, Edgar Buchanan, Elisha Cook Jr., Ellen Corby, Emile Meyer, Douglas Spencer, John Dierkes, Paul McVey, Edith Evanson. A weary gunfighter attempts to settle down with a homestead family, but a smouldering settler/rancher conflict forces him to act. Classic Western memorable for many aspects, not least the beautiful scenery, photography and authentic production design. Ladd, Heflin and Palance all deliver career best performances and De Wilde is superb as the hero-worshipping young boy. Won an Oscar for Best Cinematography. Final film of Jean Arthur. Based on the novel by Jack Schaefer. Followed by a TV series (1966) with David Carradine in the title role. [PG]

Film Review Round-up – COWBOYS & ALIENS (2011); THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (1985) and REBECCA (1940)

10531351-1322658704-826498Cowboys & Aliens (2011; USA; DeLuxe; 119m) ∗∗∗  d. Jon Favreau; w. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby; ph. Matthew Libatique; m. Harry Gregson-Williams.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Abigail Spencer, Buck Taylor, Matthew Taylor, Cooper Taylor, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Chris Browning, Adam Beach, Sam Rockwell, Ana de la Reguera, Noah Ringer, Brian Duffy, Keith Carradine, Walton Goggins. A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys and natives are all that stand in their way. Starts out well but quickly descends into formula. Technical aspects are strong and Ford and Craig add much needed weight to an otherwise uninspired story.  Based on the comic book by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. Extended version runs to 135m. [12]

41WAWC1EV0LPurple Rose of Cairo, The (1985; USA; DuArt; 82m) ∗∗∗½  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Dick Hyman.  Cast: Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello, Van Johnson, Alexander H. Cohen, Dianne Wiest, Zoe Caldwell, John Wood, Milo O’Shea, Deborah Rush, Edward Herrmann, Karen Akers, Michael Tucker, Glenn Headly. In 1930s New Jersey, a movie character walks off the screen and into the real world. Clever fantasy comedy with sharp observations about the importance of escapism in the cinema during the depression era and wry observations about the Hollywood machine. [PG]

3003_frontRebecca (1940; USA; B&W; 130m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Alfred Hitchcock; w. Robert E. Sherwood, Joan Harrison, Philip MacDonald, Michael Hogan; ph. George Barnes; m. Franz Waxman.  Cast: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson, Nigel Bruce, Reginald Denny, C. Aubrey Smith, Gladys Cooper. A self-conscious bride is tormented by the memory of her husband’s dead first wife. Absorbing and atmospheric mystery drama brilliantly acted and directed with evocative cinematography. Winner of Oscars for Best Picture and Best Cinematography, and received nominations for nine additional Oscars. Based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier. [PG]

Film Review Round-up – THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (2014); HORSE FEATHERS (1932) and FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)

B00R3DO58KHobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The (2014; New Zealand/USA; Colour; 144m) ∗∗∗½  d. Peter Jackson; w. Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Guillermo del Toro; ph. Andrew Lesnie; m. Howard Shore. Cast: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Aidan Turner, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Ryan Gage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, James Nesbitt, Jed Brophy, Stephen Hunter, John Callen, Adam Brown, Dean O’Gorman, William Kircher, Peter Hambleton, Mark Hadlow, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Billy Connolly, Christopher Lee, Stephen Fry, Ian Holm, Sylvester McCoy, Manu Bennett. As the dwarves dwell in the mountains, forces of Orcs and Elves descend on them, bringing possibility of a war that threatens all of Middle-earth. Bilbo must take it upon himself to end the conflict, but his actions may come at a terrible cost. Spectacular, action-packed finale, which is light on plot and characterisation and includes some implausible set-pieces. This is essentially one long battle. The visuals are stunning, however. Based on the novel “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

220px-HorseFeaHorse Feathers (1932; USA; B&W; 68m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Norman Z. McLeod; w. Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby, S.J. Perelman, Will B. Johnstone; ph. Ray June; m. John Leipold.  Cast: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Zeppo Marx, Thelma Todd, David Landau, Florine McKinney, Nat Pendleton, James Pierce, Robert Greig. Quincy Adams Wagstaff, the new president of Huxley U, hires bumblers Baravelli and Pinky to help his school win the big football game against rival Darwin U. Fast and furious Marxian lunacy with the gags flowing thick and fast. This one of their most sustained funny films. Although the present running time (68m) is very close to that of the original (70m), there are still a few bits and pieces and lines of dialogue missing due to re-editing in 1935 in order to bring the film up to Production Code standards. [U]

518oyd3UP1L._SY300_Fistful of Dollars (1964; Italy/Spain/West Germany; Technicolor; 99m) ∗∗∗½  d. Sergio Leone; w. Víctor Andrés Catena, Jaime Comas Gil, Sergio Leone; ph. Massimo Dallamano, Federico G. Larraya; m. Ennio Morricone; ed. Roberto Cinquini, Alfonso Santacana.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Mario Brega, Gian Maria Volonte, Marianne Koch, Jose Calvo, Wolfgang Lukschy, Joseph Egger, Sieghardt Rupp, Antonio Prieto, Margarita Lozano, Daniel Martin, Benito Stefanelli, Bruno Carotenuto, Aldo Sambrell. A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge. First of Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy is relatively low key compared to its successors, but highly influential on the genre. Eastwood’s presence is immediately apparent and the story is told with economy and style. A remake of YOJIMBO (1961), which itself was based on the as yet unadapted 1929 novel “Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett. Not released in the US until 1967. Original title: PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI. Followed by FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965). [15]

Film Review Round-up – BLACK PATCH (1957); INTERSTELLAR (2014) and GO WEST (1940)

113027-338Black Patch (1957; USA; B&W; 82m) ∗∗∗  d. Allen H. Miner; w. Leo Gordon; ph. Edward Colman; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: George Montgomery, Diane Brewster, Tom Pittman, Leo Gordon, House Peters Jr., Jorge Treviño, Lynn Cartwright, Peter Brocco, Ted Jacques, Strother Martin, Gilman Rankin, Ned Glass, John O’Malley, Stanley Adams, Sebastian Cabot. A one-eyed marshal finds himself accused of a killing due to his past relationship with the dead man’s wife, prompting a young gunslinger to set out to avenge his death.  Unusual western is a heavy-handed and only partially successful attempt to capitalise on psychological elements popular at the time in the genre. The first film scored by Jerry Goldsmith. [PG]

images (1)Interstellar (2014; USA/UK; Colour; 169m) ∗∗∗½  d. Christopher Nolan; w. Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan; ph. Hoyte van Hoytema; m. Hans Zimmer.  Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, David Gyasi, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy, Timothée Chalamet, Topher Grace, David Oyelowo, Ellen Burstyn. A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity. Big concept sci-fi knows how to play a crowd, gets by on strong lead performances and holds attention despite its script failing to fully realise the potential of the ideas explored. Won Oscar for Best Visual Effects (Paul J. Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter, Scott R. Fisher). Based on a story by Kip Thorne. [12]

download (5)Go West (1940; USA; B&W; 80m) ∗∗∗½  d. Edward Buzzell; w. Irving Brecher; ph. Leonard Smith; m. George Bassman, George Stoll; ed. Blanche Sewell.  Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, John Carroll, Diana Lewis, Walter Woolf King, Robert Barrat, Tully Marshall, June MacCloy, George Lessey. The Marx Brothers come to the rescue in the Wild West when a young man, trying to settle an old family feud so he can marry the girl he loves, runs afoul of crooks. One of the later Marx comedies, has a bland story but some splendid gags – notably the train chase climax. [U]

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 Round-up – BRANDED (1950), GONE GIRL (2014) and GILDA (1946)

BrandedBranded (1950; USA; Technicolor; 104m) ∗∗∗  d. Rudolph Maté; w. Sydney Boehm, Cyril Hume; ph. Charles Lang; m. Roy Webb; ed. Alma Macrorie.  Cast: Alan Ladd, Mona Freeman, Charles Bickford, Robert Keith, Joseph Calleia, Peter Hansen, Selena Royle, Tom Tully, John Berkes, Milburn Stone, Martin Garralaga, Edward Clark, John Butler. A gunfighter takes part in a scheme to bilk a wealthy cattle family out of half a million dollars by pretending to be their son, who was kidnapped as child. Ladd’s intense performance and the stunning vistas are the best thing about this tale of redemption. Based on the novel “Montana Rides” by Max Brand (as Evan Evans). European version runs 94m. [PG]

Gone-Girl-2014-BluRay-480p-400mb-ESubGone Girl (2014; USA; Colour; 149m) ∗∗∗½  d. David Fincher; w. Gillian Flynn; ph. Jeff Cronenweth; m. Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross; ed. Kirk Baxter.  Cast: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Patrick Fugit, Carrie Coon, Missi Pyle, Kathleen Rose Perkins, Scoot McNairy, Sela Ward, Emily Ratajkowski, Lee Norris, Casey Wilson, Lyn Quinn, Lola Kirke, David Clennon, Lola Kirke. With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent. Initially inventive and intriguing, but ultimately it descends into increasing implausibility. Affleck and Pike deliver top class performances to maintain interest throughout despite the contrivances and Fincher keeps the pace consistent. Flynn adapted her own novel. [18]

GildaGilda (1946; USA; B&W; 110m) ∗∗∗½  d. Charles Vidor; w. Jo Eisinger, Marion Parsonnet; ph. Rudolph Maté; m. Hugo Friedhofer; ed. Charles Nelson.  Cast: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready, Joseph Calleia, Steven Geray, Joe Sawyer, Gerald Mohr, Mark Roberts, Ludwig Donath, Donald Douglas, Sam Flint, Bess Flowers, Jean Del Val, Eduardo Ciannelli, Argentina Brunetti. The sinister boss of a South American casino finds that his right-hand man and his sensuous new wife already know each other. Hayworth delivers a mesmerising performance in this stylish but often overwrought noir, which is daring for its themes of sexual repression. Based on a story by E.A. Ellington. [PG]

Film Review Round-up – JOHNNY GUITAR (1954); THE MARCUS-NELSON MURDERS (1973) and THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (2011)

51H5XHQ9HGLJohnny Guitar (1954; USA; Trucolor; 110m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Nicholas Ray; w. Philip Yordan; ph. Harry Stradling Sr.; m. Victor Young; ed. Richard L. Van Enger.  Cast: Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Scott Brady, Mercedes McCambridge, Ward Bond, Ernest Borgnine, John Carradine, Royal Dano, Ben Cooper. A strong willed female saloon owner is wrongly suspected of murder and bank robbery by a lynch mob, when she helps a wounded gang member. Stylish and original western is superbly directed by Ray and performed by a strong cast with Crawford and McCambridge standouts as feuding strong-willed women. Hayden is also excellent as the gunfighter who has a thing for Crawford. Filmed on location at Sedona, Arizona and at Red Rock Crossing. Entered 2008 into the National Film Registry. Based on the novel by Roy Chanslor. [PG]

41NVPY92GGL._SY300_Marcus-Nelson Murders, The (TV) (1973; USA; Technicolor; 137m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Joseph Sargent; w. Abby Mann; ph. Mario Tosi; m. Billy Goldenberg; ed. Carl Pingitore, Richard M. Sprague.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Marjoe Gortner, José Ferrer, Ned Beatty, Allen Garfield, Lorraine Gary, Roger Robinson, Harriet Karr, Gene Woodbury, William Watson, Val Bisoglio, Antonia Rey, Chita Rivera, Bruce Kirby, Robert Walden. A homicide detective begins to suspect that the black teenager accused of murdering two white girls is being framed by his fellow detectives. Gritty police and courtroom drama is well acted and directed and makes excellent use of the seedier streets of New York. Savalas is compelling amongst a strong cast. Based on the book by Selwyn Raab and an actual case known as the “Career Girl” murders that happened on 28 August 1963. Served as a pilot film for the TV series Kojak (1973-8) only here Savalas’ character’s name is spelled “Kojack”. [15]

5020111000Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The (2011; UK; Colour; 124m) ∗∗∗½  d. John Madden; w. Ol Parker; ph. Ben Davis; m. Thomas Newman; ed. Chris Gill.  Cast: Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup. British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than its advertisements, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways. Top-notch cast adds great dignity to the story and they are helped by a witty script, which manages to navigate the more predictable and familiar elements.  Based on the novel “These Foolish Things” by Deborah Moggach. [12]

Film Review Round-up – VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (2008); OBLIVION (2013) and THE PLUNDERERS (1960)

51xPGEYMi7L._SY300_Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008; Spain/USA; DeLuxe; 96m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Javier Aguirresarobe; ed. Alisa Lepselter.  Cast: Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson, Christopher Evan Welch, Chris Messina, Kevin Dunn, Julio Perillan, Zak Orth, Pablo Schreiber, Josep Maria Domenech, Abel Folk, Carrie Preston, Manel Barcelo. Two girlfriends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture. Allen explores various themes around infidelity in this well-acted, but somehow unfulfilling story. Cruz is a knockout in an Oscar winning performance as Bardem’s temperamental ex-wife. [12]

mm00205587Oblivion (2013; USA; Colour; 124m) ∗∗∗  d. Joseph Kosinski; w. Karl Gajdusek, Michael DeBruyn; ph. Claudio Miranda; m. Anthony Gonzalez, M.8.3, Joseph Trapanese; ed. Richard Francis-Bruce.  Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Zoe Bell, Melissa Leo, Lindsay Clift, Jaylen Moore, Julie Hardin, Paul Gunawan, Jay Oliver, Jason Stanly. A veteran assigned to extract Earth’s remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself. Engaging sci-fi which is visually impressive. Initially intriguing it settles into more traditional fare, but solid performances help to overcome some of the conventions in the script. Originated as an 8-page treatment written by Kosinski which was pitched as a graphic novel. [12]

the-plunderers-movie-poster-1960-1020254032Plunderers, The (1960; USA; B&W; 94m) ∗∗∗  d. Joseph Pevney; w. Bob Barbash; ph. Gene Polito; m. Leonard Rosenman; ed. Tom McAdoo.  Cast: Jeff Chandler, John Saxon, Dolores Hart, Marsha Hunt, Jay C. Flippen, Ray Stricklyn, James Westerfield, Dee Pollock, Roger Torrey, Vaughn Taylor, Harvey Stephens. When four rowdy cowhands ride into a small town and make trouble, no one seems willing or able to take them on, not even the toughest man in town. But then there is a murder. Interesting psychological Western is well-directed and acted raising it above the routine. Chandler’s final Western. [PG]