Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Harper (1966) - An enjoyable homage to Marlowe

William Goldman's first screenplay is an adaptation of Ross McDonald's novel 'The Moving Target' called Harper. Released in 1966 and stars Paul Newman as private investigator Lew Harper (Lew Archer in the novel) who has problems with his marriage to Susan (Janet Leigh) but one of his few friends is attorney Albert Graves (Arthur Hill) who brings him a case. The wealthy husband of Elaine Sampson (Lauren Bacall) is missing and she thinks that he is with another woman. She just wants to know where he is. It is Harper's job to investigate and report back but the case is on as straight forward as it seems.

Harper is an enjoyable homage to Marlowe (Lauren Bacall starred with Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe in the 1946 film The Big Sleep) with great performances all around especially from Newman. The dialogue is great as you would expect from Goldman, the direction (Jack Smight) and photography (Conrad L. Hall) are top notch too. Recommended. 
RATING ****

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Leslie Halliwell - an inspirational film critic and historian


Leslie Halliwell
Leslie Halliwell (1929 – 1989) was a British film critic and historian. In 1965 Halliwell’s The Filmgoer's Companion was published which proved to be the first one-volume encyclopaedia devoted to all aspects of the cinema. Then he spent years creating the Halliwell's Film Guide, an impressive source for all movie fans. Although a very conservative film critic (Halliwell did not award full marks to any film after 1967) and an apologist for classic Hollywood, Leslie Halliwell created reference books which were so important to many of us during those pre-internet days. I used to enjoy reading the reviews of Leslie Halliwell and I think I read every one of his books when I was young. I am still a fan of classic Hollywood but I now dislike Halliwell’s resentment of more modern and independent films. By the time Halliwell sadly passed away in 1989, I had long thought that his reviews were somewhat one-dimensional, unsupported and extremely conservative. Nevertheless, Leslie Halliwell's love for vintage cinema, his knowledge and his film guides contributed significantly to my own passion for (and education of) the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Friday, 26 April 2013

A memorable trip to India

Just came back from a memorable trip to India. I am not a fan of Indian mainstream cinema (Bollywood) so I was able to enjoy the sunshine instead!
A photo of me relaxing by the Indian Ocean

Monday, 25 February 2013

Some thoughts on the 85th Academy Awards

I do not think I have much to say except that it is great that Argo won the Best Picture Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards. Argo is an entertaining film based on a true story of a CIA operative who is sent to Tehran to rescue six U.S. diplomats during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Argo is definitely worth watching.

I am also pleased that Quentin Tarantino (original screenplay) and Christophe Waltz (supporting actor) received deserving nods from the Academy for the enjoyable western Django Unchained which I think is the best film of the year.


Ang Lee won the Best Director Oscar for the impressive Life of Pi, one of the very few films that brilliantly utilises 3-D technology. A terrific adaptation of Yann Martel's novel of the same name but so enjoyable.

The emotional drama Amour won Best Foreign Film and the award was collected by the acclaimed Austrian director Michael Heneke. I wonder why the legendary French actress Emmanuel Riva's portrayal of a dying elderly woman was overlooked for Jennifer Lawrence's Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Playbook?

Finally, I didn't care much for Spielberg's Lincoln but Daniel Day Lewis does produce the goods in every picture. He was expected to lift the Oscar for his portrayal of Abe and lift it he did. There you have it! I did not have much to say after all!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Lincoln - An over-rated bore of a movie!

The critics seem to be falling over each other to call this movie a modern day classic but I think 'Lincoln' is genuinely boring, over-long and very over-rated. Daniel Day-Lewis' performance is okay but full marks has to go to the make-up department for making him look as grotesque as Honest Abe. No doubt that this over-blown bore-fest will probably be the big winner at the Oscars.
RATING **

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

'Django Unchained' is a wonderful western

Django Unchained is the new Quentin Tarantino film released by Columbia Pictures and The Weinstein Company. Released in the US on December 25th, 2012, it has just been released in the UK on January 18th.

Set in 1858, the film tells the story of a slave Django (Jamie Foxx) who has been freed from a chain gang by a bounty hunter Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to help him locate the Brittle brothers. Django agrees to help him but he also wants to find his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) who is also a slave but was sold off separately.

As you would expect from any Tarantino film, Django Unchained is very violent. The timing of the film's release was extremely unfortunate (the "Sandy Hook massacre" had taken just taken place on December 14th), therefore Django Unchained attracted even more negative publicity. However, the film has been well received by most critics

Django Unchained is the best Tarantino film since Pulp Fiction. It is trashy at times but very entertaining. Using the original spaghetti western Django, Mandingo and The Great Silence as inspiration, Tarantino has produced yet another unique "genre" film.

The casting is notable. Leonardo DeCaprio plays the evil Calvin J Candle with relish and Samuel L Jackson is terrific as the loyal house slave Stephen. There are many notable cameos from very famous faces of yesteryear, such as Don Johnson (of Miami Vice), Tom Wopat (from The Dukes of Hazard), Russ Tamblyn (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, West Side Story), Bruce Dern (The John Wayne film The Cowboys, Silent Running), Don Stroud (Coogan's Bluff), Ted Neeley (Jesus Christ Superstar), Amber Tamblyn (The Ring), Robert Carradine (The Cowboys, Mean Streets), Lee Horsley (Matt Houston), Jonah Hill (Knocked Up) and most notably Franco Nero from the original Django film from 1966.

I still think that Jamie Foxx is an under-rated leading man who has been under-utilised since his Oscar winning performance in "Ray". However, the acting honours must go to Christoph Waltz who steals every scene in the movie.


It was a pleasure for me to watch such an enjoyable film. Tarantino's use of dialogue, stylish direction and love for trashy cinematic genres has clearly not deserted him but it was also important to experience such a film that has an angry statement on the disgusting slave trade that blights American history. A terrific western and one which I look forward to see again.
RATING ****

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