Sunday, July 20, 2014

Jul 17th 
The Grand Budapest Hotel**  (15)
(Firstsite, Colchester)

(GB/Ger/US 2014)                  

The adventures of a womanising concierge and his bellboy in a 1932 grand hotel in the volatile mid-European nation of Zubrowka.
Quirky American take on the writings of Stefan Zweig, jarring a little in its use of foul language in the Bohemian 1930s, but wittily evokd in familiar semi-fantasy fashion with an all-star Anderson ensemble from his previous films impressed enough by his reputation to play guest spots.

Written by: Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness.
Producers: Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven M. Rales, Scott Rudin.
Director: Wes Anderson.
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Mathieu Amalric, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson.
Photography: Robert Yeoman.
Music: Alexandre Desplat.
Production Design: Adam Stockhausen.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jul 9th    
A River Runs Through It**                 

(US 1992)                  

In the 1920s a Presbyterian minister's son returns home to rekindle his family roots through their love of fly fishing.
Skilfully adapted in quite leisurely but pleasurable fashion by Redford in order to keep the subject of fly fishing interesting in beautiful surroundings, although without too much particular drama per se, but what there is is quite moving. A beautiful wallow in Americana in the manner of The Waltons.

Written by: Richard Friedenberg, from the book by Norman Maclean.
Producers: Robert Redford, Patrick Markey.
Director: Robert Redford.
Starring: Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt, Tom Skerritt, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Lloyd, Edie McClurg, Stephen Shellen, Susan Traylor, William Hootkins, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Photography: Philippe Rousselot.
Music: Mark Isham.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Jul 7th    
The Armstrong Lie**   

(US 2013)                

The self-confessed fall from grace of cyclist Lance Armstrong, who overcame cancer to win the Tour de France 7 times, only to eventually admit to cheating by using banned substances.
Originally starting out as a documentary entitled The Road Back intending to chart Armstrong's comeback, then unexpectedly turning toxic, this revealing although not very subtle account of a hero hiding in plain sight (topical with the current Tour de France as well as the recent case of Rolf Harris), drags on for a while and occasionally only grudgingly admits to its central figure's moments of pure heroism, with a limited range of interview subjects used to emphasise the director's viewpoint, but its story could hardly be more potent, and Armstrong comes across as a supreme but also determined egotist.

Written, Directed and Narrated by: Alex Gibney.
Producers: Frank Marshall, Matt Tolmach, Alex Gibney.
Featuring Lance Armstrong, Frankie Andreu, Betsy Andreu, George Hincapie, Michele Ferrari, and others.
Photography: Maryse Alberti.
Music: David Kahne.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Jul 4th  
Saturday Night Fever***    

(US 1977)                        

In a downtown New York suburb, dancer Tony Manero spends his weekends hanging out with his sordid friends weaving his magic on the disco floor, but meets a dance partner who makes him think about his future.
Highly influential and representative Seventies drama (with one or two nods to other Italian-American icons of the time such as Rocky and Al Pacino), grinding along in its domestic scenes away from the dance floor, but generally more entertaining than Mean Streets in its depiction of Brooklyn working class life, in a manner similar to the British kitchen sink. Very much of its time, but hasn't dated, perhaps because much of its music became fashionable through the succeeding decades.

Written by: Norman Wexler, from a story by Nik Cohn.
Producer: Robert Stigwood.
Director: John Badham.
Starring: John Travolta, Karen Lynn Gorney, Donna Pescow, Barry Miller, Joseph Cali, Paul Pape, Bruce Ornstein, Martin Shakar, Sam J. Coppola.
Photography: Ralf Bode.
Music: Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb, David Shire.

Preceded by:
Tom and Jerry in
The Zoot Cat**
(US 1944. 7m.; Another film very much about the dance craze of the time.; d: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera; p: Fred Quimby.)

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Jul 2nd  
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People*      

(GB/Ire 2008)

A British publicist gets his big break at a New York entertainment magazine, and quickly looks out of place in it.
Sentimentalised adaptation of Toby Young's showbiz memoir turned into a romantic comedy, at its best when putting nerdy Simon Pegg into the self-important world of agents and would-be starlets (reminiscent in some ways of Tony Hancock's The Rebel). Alas, the mushy element takes over long before the end.

Written by: Peter Straughan, based on the book by Toby Young.
Producers: Stephen Woolley, Elizabeth Karlsen.
Director: Robert Weide.
Starring: Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Jeff Bridges, Megan Fox, Danny Huston, Gillian Anderson, Bill Paterson, Miriam Margolyes, James Corden, Thandie Newton.
Photography: Oliver Stapleton.
Music: David Arnold.
Editing: David Freeman.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Jun 30th  
O.K. Connery  
aka: Operation Kid Brother; Operation Double 007; Secret Agent 00

Ita 1967. Produzione D.S. 104m. Techniscope

A plastic surgeon and hypnotist takes on the criminal Thanatos organisation.
Cheeky Italian imitation James Bond utilising his non-acting younger brother, who fits in as well as is necessary for a spy yarn as spoofish as this one, with the impudence to even use some of the actors' names for their characters (for copyright reasons presumably.) Of its time and for its time.

Written by: Paolo Levi, Frank Walker, Stanley Wright.
Producer: Dario Sabatella.
Director: Alberto De Martino.
Starring: Neil Connery, Daniela Bianchi, Adolfo Celi, Anthony Dawson, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell, Agata Flori, Yachuko Yama, Guido Lollobrigida.
Photography: Giovanni Bergamini.
Music: Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai.
Art Direction: Franco Fontana.

This Italian rip-off even mimicked the poster for You Only Live Twice (the "Operation" moniker was considered box officein those days), but at best only an OK Connery.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Jun 26th  
L.A. Confidential**       

(US 1997)                    

In the 1950s detectives uncover corruption in high places after a mass murder in a Los Angeles restaurant.
Complex multi-character police thriller, resolving most of its plot twists through violent action and a disappointing shoot-out climax, but much of what has gone before is stylishly and atmospherically done, with strong elements of homage to Chinatown, with some emerging Australian actors also getting their first major showcase.

Written by: Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson, from the novel by James Ellroy.
Producers: Arnon Milchan, Curtis Hanson, Michael Nathanson.
Director: Curtis Hanson.
Starring: Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Danny De Vito, Ron Rifkin, Graham Beckel.
Photography: Dante Spinotti.
Music: Jerry Goldsmith.