Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Thirteen Lives

Director – Ron Howard – 2022 – US – Cert. 12a – 147m

****

A dramatisation of the 2018 Thailand boys’ football team cave rescue, with the rescuers played by name actors– out in cinemas on Friday, July 29th and globally on Amazon on Friday, August 5th

In 2018, the world held its breath when the 12 boys of a football team and their 24-year-old coach became trapped in a cave when rain fell unexpectedly and water levels within the cave system started to rise. Incredibly, the ensuing rescue attempt involving divers from the US, UK, Ireland and Canada got all 13 out alive. According to the informational titles at the end of this film, sadly, there was one fatality among the Thai Navy SEAL divers involved in the rescue (shown in the film) and another death in that group later as the result of a contracted infection.

The story captivated the world, which held its breath as the days went by after the boys first became trapped by the water flooding the cave. For over a week, it wasn’t even known whether they were still alive. When they were located, alive and well, the question loomed large as to whether they would be able to get out alive.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Wings Of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin)

Director – Wim Wenders – 1987 – Germany – Cert. PG – 128m

*****

Angels move around Berlin, watching over Berliners, until one of them sees a beautiful girl and decides he wants to become human and experience emotion for himself – out in cinemas on Friday, June 24th and playing on Film 4 from Wednesday, June 29th to Thursday, July 28th

This film is many things. It is, first and foremost, about angels, here captured in stunning black and white cinematography and represented as men moving invisibly among the population of Berlin, observing them, listening to their thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams, perhaps imparting some sort of spiritual comfort by a touch of the hand. And just as Henri Alekan’s camera photographs the actors playing angels, so too it photographs those Berliners they observe and comfort.

The iconic Hollywood actor Peter Falk – known to millions of TV viewers as the detective Columbo – plays himself playing a character on the set of a war film and hanging out between takes. The camera takes great pleasure in simply observing him doing what he does, for instance talking to an angel he can’t see (“I can’t see you, but I know you’re here”) which might be an attempt to communicate with invisible beings or might equally well be no more than an acting routine.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies Uncategorized

Swimming With Sharks

Director – George Huang – 1994 – US – Cert. 15 – 93m

*****

A film school graduate’s job with a Hollywood producer turns out to be a nightmare

To the blissfully ignorant outsider, the Hollywood movie business is a glamorous place where dreams come true. In reality, it’s often closer to a personal hell where the aspirant’s dreams are trampled underfoot by passing megalomaniacs. At least, that’s what the nightmarish Swimming With Sharks would have us believe as it cheerfully plunges green film school graduate Guy (Frank Whaley) into an assistant’s job with major Hollywood producer Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey).

Buddy is the sort of boss who tells underlings, “your brain counts as nothing”, then insults them viciously in front of visiting clients. Reasons for insults heaped on Guy include bringing the coffee with the wrong kind of sweetener and leaving at the office the phone number of the starlet wannabe his boss is currently bedding. Further employer vitriol erupts when Buddy’s superior (a welcome if all too brief appearance from veteran Brit Roy Dotrice) notices spelling errors Buddy had earlier refused to allow Guy to correct – in script notes supplied Buddy by Guy but palmed off by Buddy as his own.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Ennio: The Maestro (Ennio)

Director – Giuseppe Tornatore – 2021 – Italy – Cert. 15 – 156m

****

Documentary Ennio: The Maestro looks at the career of Italian film composer Ennio Morricone – out in cinemas on Friday, April 22nd

It’s difficult to know where to start with Ennio Morricone, whose career in film music covers some 70 years. Tornatore adopts the chronological approach, starting with his early life. The composer’s father was a trumpeter who pushed young Ennio to learn that same instrument, leading to entry into Rome’s Santa Cecilia Conservatory where he studied both trumpet and composition. His father had raised him with a strong work ethic – using the trumpet to feed your family – and much of his early work was as a trumpeter on movie soundtrack sessions, including Othello (Orson Welles, 1951).

His wife secured him a brief stint at TV channel RAI where she was working, but on being told that he wouldn’t be able to perform anything recorded there anywhere else, Morricone quit almost immediately. Inspired by seeing experimental composer John Cage perform live, he formed the Nuovo Consonanza Improvisation Group to experiment with what he called “traumatic sounds”. This approach would inform a number of his later soundtracks.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Shop Around The Corner

Director – Ernst Lubitsch – 1940 – US – Cert. PG – 99m

*****

Two store employees argue constantly, unaware they are perfect for one another – out in cinemas on Friday, December 3rd

It’s quite a shock to see an old Hollywood classic for the first time and realise that you’re seeing one of the greats of which you’ve somehow never heard, but that’s exactly what happened to me watching this extraordinarily charming film which is likely to appeal to anyone who loves the much more familiar It’s A Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946). Both have stories that culminate at Christmas, both star American everyman James Stewart, and both give off what you might call a generosity of spirit. But in other ways, they’re two very different films.

For a start, this is not set anywhere in the US but rather in Europe, specifically the Hungarian capital Budapest. And then, its subject is not so much a town and the people who live there as a department store and the people who work there. There are no rich people dubiously making money by exploiting the poor: certainly there are bosses and workers, but the former treats the latter well and might reasonably be described as benevolent.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Now, Voyager

Director – Irving Rapper – 1942 – US – Cert. PG – 117m

*****

A woman must overcome mental illness caused by her overbearing mother – out in cinemas on Friday, August 6th

The wealthy Vale family from Boston invites Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains) to meet their youngest daughter Charlotte (Bette Davis) to see if he can do anything with her. Failing to get matriarch Mrs. Henry Vale (Gladys Cooper) to introduce him without his title, he presses Charlotte to show him round the house, including her room. There, she keeps a library in which are hidden forbidden books, smokes illicitly and makes ornate boxes with ivory decoration. Years of living with her domineering mother have given Charlotte a problem with her own self-image.

Jaquith has Charlotte stay at his rest home, then instead of returning to Boston has her take the place of her sister Lisa (Ilka Chase) on a cruise to Rio de Janeiro on which she meets and falls for married man Jeremiah ‘Jerry’ Durrance known to his friends as JD (Paul Heinreid), whose absent wife dominates one of his daughters Tina back home much as Charlotte’s mother dominated her. The pair spend time together in Brazil during which they are involved in a car accident in which no-one is injured. … Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Wizard of Oz 3D

Director – Victor Fleming – 2014 (1939) – US – Cert. U (A) – 102m

****

UK release April 8th, 2014.

A Hollywood classic gets the restoration / 3D treatment. On the big screen, the effect is something like seeing a stage production in places populated with hordes of extras as the spectacular studio sets are revealed in all their glory as never before. After three quarters of a century, the pre-computer twister effects stand up well too.

Alongside Judy Garland’s girl next door Dorothy, other equally memorable archetypes include three Kansas workmen who become her travelling companions (lion, tin man, scarecrow) on the Yellow Brick Road and Dorothy’s protector and adversary in the form of Glinda the Good Witch and the terrifying Wicked Witch Of The West.

This 3D restoration is as good as you’ll ever see the film, which still packs a punch today.

Reviewed for Film Review Annual 2014-15.

Categories
Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Lost World (1925)

Director – Harry O. Hoyt – 1925 – US – Cert. U – 110m

*****

Review of PAL VHS release originally published in Starlog UK, mid-1990s.

£12.99, Original Aspect Ratio (Academy), Mono (Golden Age Films)

Before Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg purloined the name for their Jurassic Park sequel, The Lost World was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Professor Challenger novel. In the book, the bombastic scientist leads an expedition to a plateau deep in the Amazon cut off from the rest of the world which he claims to be populated by dinosaurs.

This 1925 silent Hollywood adaptation (here released in 1993’s restored, untinted, black and white print with piano accompaniment) features prominently in any serious shortlist of live action movies featuring dinosaurs along with King Kong, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Gojira (Godzilla), One Million Years BC and Jurassic Park. Indeed, leaving aside 1955’s Japanese, man‑in-a-rubber-suit entry Gojira, the remaining titles are The Lost World’s descendants via their use of optical trickery and stop‑motion animation.

The Lost World’s miniature model dinosaurs and their incorporation as fully articulated giant beasts into live action cinematography was primarily the work of stop-frame animator cum special effects genius Willis O’Brien, later to put the dinosaurs into 1933’s King Kong and win a belated special effects Oscar on the back of 1949’s Mighty Joe Young.… Read the rest

Categories
Books

Sam Peckinpah: If They Move…Kill ’em

David Weddle, Faber & Faber £11.99 Pbk.

*****

Published for the first time ever in Britain, Weddle’s tome is a compelling read whether one’s familiar with the movies of Sam Peckinpah (among them The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, The Getaway) or not. Like the man’s uncompromisingly violent movies, this lovingly penned sketch never soft soaps its subject. It’s as strong on roots and early upbringing as on final career years. The latter saw first booze and then (as the drug became increasingly available in Hollywood circles) cocaine addle Peckinpah’s ability to make coherent movies; ironically, the atrocious Convoy turned out his biggest box office hit.

Peckinpah’s numerous battles with the major Studios are documented in detail. Early efforts like Major Dundee is shown as a half-scripted mess that the director liked to cite untruthfully as ruined by the studio, but others like Noon Wine (a now destroyed ABC TV drama), his arguable masterpiece The Wild Bunch and late contender Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid are pulled from the wreckage and intelligently defended as great art. At the same time, Peckinpah’s often unfairly vicious treatment of technicians on the set and friends and family (including three wives) in life leave a nasty taste in the mouth.… Read the rest