Monday, September 15, 2014

Sep 13th   
The Shawshank Redemption** (15)  
(Plaza Stockport)

(US 1994)

In 1946 an innocent man is sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, but 20 years later uses his resourcefulness to find a way out.
Much admired by Internet followers, this absorbing if clich├ęd prison drama - like most of its kind - feels like rather a long time inside the cinema as well as in prison (although in the case of this particular cinema rather a lovely one), but compels for the first hour before some of the mechanics of the plot set in, although the manner of the resolution is ingenuous.

Written and Directed by: Frank Darabont, from the story "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King.
Producer: Niki Marvin.
Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, Clancy Brown, William Sadler, James Whitmore, Gil Bellows.
Photography: Roger Deakins.
Music: Thomas Newman.
Editing: Richard Francis-Bruce.

Preceded by:
The Pink Panther in
Prefabricated Pink*
(US 1967. 6m.; w: Jim Ryan; p: David H. DePatie, Friz Freleng; d: Hawley Pratt.)

Tom and Jerry in
The Milky Waif**
(US 1946. 7m.; d: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera; p: Fred Quimby.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sep 12th  
The Wizard of Oz***
(Odeon Printworks Manchester)              

US 1939. MGM. 101m. Technicolor/sepia. IMAX 3-D

Farm girl Dorothy runs away from home but gets caught up in a storm which transports her to the magical land of Oz where she overcomes a wicked witch with the help of her four friends.
The quintessential cinema pantomime, competently transferred into Imax 3D, but still just as good and just as memorable in whatever format. The Munchkins are a bit of a bore, but are quickly over with after the first few reels, the villainous witch is truly terrifying, and the general performances (especially the 17-year old Garland enchantingly convincing as a little girl) and the sporadically charming songs makes this a classic of everlasting endurance which overcomes the sluggishness. Due credit must also be given to the charmingly underplayed sepia bookends as well.

Written by: Noel Langlety, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allen Woolf, from the story by L. Frank Baum.
Producer: Mervyn Le Roy.
Director: Victor Fleming (and Richard Thorpe, King Vidor, George Cukor).
Starring: Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan, Bille Burke, Clara Blandick, Charley Grapewin.
Music: Harold Arlen.
Lyrics: E.Y. Harburg.
Photography: Harold Rosson.
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons.

+ previously made as a 1921 silent featuring Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man. See also Oz: Great and Powerful

Monday, September 08, 2014

Sep 8th  
The Crucible*       

(US 1996)                      

In the 17th century village of Salem, Massachusetts, one local girl's vengeful fantasies lead to mass hysteria and several accusations of witchcraft.
Miller's notable play with its allusions to the McCarthy era rather belatedly comes to the screen, an overwrought historical melodrama which cannot help being so, the opening out of the play somehow emphasising this even more with some similarly overcooked performances, but still with elements of quality about it and a powerful finale.

Written by: Arthur Miller, from his play.
Producers: Robert A. Miller, David V.Picker.
Director: Nicholas Hytner.
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, Paul Scofield, Joan Allen, Bruce Davison, Jeffrey Jones, Rob Campbell, Peter Vaughan, Karran Graves, Charlayne Woodard.
Photography: Andrew Dunn.
Music: George Fenton.
Production Design: Lilly Kilvert.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Sep 2nd  
Autumn Sonata**     

(Swe/Fra/WG 1978)                      

After a recent bereavement, an illustrious concert pianist visits her eldest daughter, but uncovers some home truths in the process.
Quintessential Bergman angst, featuring his glamorous namesake Ingrid (in what proved to be her last cinema film) in an uncomfortably familiar role to herself (neglectful mother who pursues her star career.) Absorbing and introspective as ever, but mesmeric in its performances.

Written and Directed: Ingmar Bergman.
Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Liv Ullman, Halvar Bjork, Lena Nyman, Gunnar Bjornstrand.
Photography: Sven Nykvist.
Music: Chopin, and others.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Aug 20th   
The Spirit*                                                           

(US 2008)              

Adventures in Central City of a phantom-like ex-cop against his nemesis, a mad surgeon named The Octopus.
Stylized live action comic book from one noted graphic novelist adapting the work of another, in an identical style to Sin City, but slightly more digestible as entertainment - although fans of the genre were generally disappointed.

Written and Directed by: Frank Miller, based on the comic book by Will Eisner.
Producers: Deborah Del Prete, Gigi Pritzer, Michael E. Uslan.
Starring: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson (over the top as the villain), Eva Mendes, Scarlette Johansson, Sarah Paulson, Dan Lauria, Paz Vega.
Photography: Bill Pope.
Music: David Newman.
Visual Effects Supervisor: Stu Maschwitz.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Aug 19th   
The Blue Max***         

(US 1966)                    

A German infantryman transfers to the aristocratic air corps where he becomes a national hero in his obsessive quest to earn The Blue Max medal, with tragic consequences.
Continuing the WWI commemoration with this full blown airborne melodrama, uneven in plot and characterisation, trying to pack everything in including battlefield scenes reminiscent of Paths of Glory and Lawrence of Arabia (with very much a German hero equivalent), but also points up the drama with some good performances.

Written by: David Pursall, Jack Seddon, Gerald Hanley, from the novel by Jack Hunter.
Producer: Christian Ferry.
Director: John Guillermin.
Starring: George Peppard, Jeremy Kemp, Karl Michael Vogler, James Mason, Ursula Andress, Derren Nesbitt, Anton Diffring, Harry Towb, Carl Schiller (as The Red Baron).
Photography: Douglas Slocombe.
Music: Jerry Goldsmith.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Aug 5th     
Guardians of the Galaxy* (12A)            
(Odeon Colchester)                

Peter Quill, aka. "Starlord" leads a band of intergalactic heroes against the mighty Ronan in the quest for a powerful orb.
Junky but jocular comic strip science fantasy modelled somewhat on The (Marvel) Avengers, and all too much to take in, but with an occasional nice line in deprecating 80s humour.

Written by: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman, based on the Marvel comic books.
Producer: Kevin Feige.
Director: James Gunn.
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, Bradley Cooper (voice only), Vin Diesel (voice only), Dave Bautista, Karen Gilan, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Benicio del Toro, Glenn Close.
Photography: Ben Davis.
Music: Tyler Bates.
Production Design: Charles Wood.

Aug 4th
Pick a Star   

(US 1937)

A local girl gets the chance of a lifetime to screen test in Hollywood.
Slack studio vehicle for pretty Rosina Lawrence (the heroine of Way Out West), who deserved better than this, but redeemed briefly by the interjections of Laurel & Hardy (uncredited) in a couple of odd but amusing "on-set" sketches.

Written by: Richard Flournoy, Arthur Vernon Jones, Thomes J. Dugan.
Producer/Director: Edward Sedgwick.
Starring: Rosina Lawrence, Patsy Kelly, Jack Haley, Mischa Auer, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson, Walter Long, Lyda Roberti.
Photography: Norbert Brodine.

Preceded by:
Shoulder Arms*
(US 1918. First National. 44m. bw. silent; A commemoration of sorts of Britain's entry into WWI - an original comedy of the time about a lowly private who dreams of fighting the enemy and capturing the Kaiser. Fairly routine and self-indulgent, with Chaplin still experimenting with innovations and longer length. Of historical interest at the very least.; w, d: Charles Chaplin; s: Charlie Chaplin, Enna Purviance, Sydney Chaplin, Henry Bergman.)