THE FLYING CLIPPER (aka MEDITERRANEAN HOLIDAY) (CINERAMA, CINEMASCOPE, 70mm, WONDERAMA!… YOU NAME IT!)

September 30, 2016

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Today marks the 64th Anniversary of the premier of This Is Cinerama in New York City on September 30th, 1952.

vwmd6vg4So, today we are taking a look a something a little different. The Flying Clipper (1963) is a 70mm travelogue, described by some as “budget version” of the 1958 Norwegian Cinemircle production, Windjammer: The Voyage Of the Christian Raddich.

Clocking in at 158 minutes, this is not short. Most Cinerama travelogues had been around the two hour mark, but following Cinerama Inc.’s change of heart when it came to producing its pioneering and revolutionary three-panel system, there was great demand for films to fill the many converted curved screens.

Cinerama would continue on for another decade with single strip 70mm prints taking the place of the cumbersome three projector format but as theatres demanded more Cinerama films, this is what they got.

The Flying Clipper would be re-named Mediterranean Holiday and be presented as a Cinerama Travelogue in the same vain as those which had come before. But whatever you think of the Cinerama Travelogues, this was not one of them. As with Holiday In Spain the previous year, this was converted to the fit the curved screen. In the case of Holiday In Spain, this was originally shot and released in 1960 as a Smell-o-vision movie, though it was shot on 70mm in the Todd-AO system.

This would be re-released in 1962 minus the odours as a straight up Cinerama film, one which failed to strike a cord with the audience.

But it needs to be said that this is NOT a review of Mediterranean Holiday as I have not seen it yet. This is merely an introduction to an all but lost movie, one whcih is due to be released in FLAT widescreen on 4k/UHD in Germany at some point but there is a version available on YouTube (Below) which you can take a look at. Personally, I am not going to judge this film on a small low quality YouTube video, I want to see this either on a Curved Screen or in my Home Cinema, fully restored, but at least we have a reference as to what this film is.


CLIMAX! “CASINO ROYALE”

September 26, 2016

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DIRECTOR: William H. Brown

No, it was not Dr. No, starring Sean Connery as James Bond, 007 in 1962 where it all began. Ian Fleming’s James Bond began his screen career eight years prior, in an early episode of an anthology drama TV series called Climax! In this U.S. series, the American “Jimmy Bond” was sent to clean out Le Chiffe at the infamous Casino Royale.

This 50 minute TV episode is only available on the Special Edition of the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale DVD as a special feature or as I found it, quite readily on You Tube. Heavy re-written and truncated, you would expect very little from this all but forgotten footnote in the James Bond saga.

barry-nelsonBut this is without a doubt leagues above the 1967 spoof of the same name and in many ways, bears more in common with the tone of the 2006 Danial Craig movie as well as the source book. This is short, sweet and to the point. We get a run down of the card game Baccarat, the game itself in whcih Bond (Barry Nelson) cleans Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre) and the drama after the fact, including a version of the torture scene which makes its point without showing too much.

In fact, it is not clear as to how badly Bond was injured during this scene. But the tone of the episode is that of a Noir spy thriller, with cold villains and calculating spies working to bring down the embezzling soviet agent with guile rather that bullets.

Obviously, there is no flamboyant Bond action as this was a LIVE show, shot on a couple sound stages but like any good play, it only adds to the drama. The performances are indicative of the time in whcih it was made and for those fans of Noir cinema, this should not disappoint. To be honest, this would rate highly as Bond adventure even though in this, “Jimmy” is a U.S. agent and Felix Leiter, normally his C.I.A. counterpart is in fact Clarence Leiter of MI6.

A simple role reversal which in no way harms the script. Bond is also portrayed here as a much more straight forward character, closer to the books I think, in which he is no superhero, just a spy in the espionage game, just as vulnerable as anyone else.

A must see for Bond fans.


CASINO ROYALE (1967)

September 22, 2016

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DIRECTORS: Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, Val Guest & Richard Talmadge

This is the second “filmed” of the three versions of Ian Fleming’s inaugural 007 novel. The first was a 1954 episode of the U.S. TV series Climax!, in whcih James Bond was rewritten as an American, rather than British spy. The latest is the better known 2006 Daniel Craig soft-reboot and this, well this was something else altogether.

With the rights not being included in EON’s deal for the Ian Fleming books in the 1960’s, Casino Royale was re-worked as a comedy spoof of the highly popular spy genre and James Bond franchise which were rife in the 1960’s. EON’s “official” productions of Bond began in 1962 with Dr. No (1962) and this film was to come out just months before Sean Connery’s fifth outing as the suave British agent.

But this was not the Bond which we knew. A chaotic production, which was supposedly envisioned to be a collaborative effort with several directors filming different episodes, was origianlly supposed to star Peter Sellers as Bond, but after he fell out with co-star Orson Welles, he left the production rather abruptly, prompting a bridging device be developed by co-director Val Guest.

This took the form of David Niven’s Sir. James Bond, the original incarnation of the legendary agent who is prised out of retirement. The plot is thin, the comedy is bawdy and whether or not this all star collaboration fell apart because of Seller’s exit is unclear.

What is clear however, is what ends up on the screen in a mess. Supposed to be a psychedelic romp becomes a mishmash of visual concepts, compromises and a muddled narrative structure which leaves us questioning exactly what is going on on-screen. This is not 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)  or some complex work of art, this a film which has been compiled from the remnants of a reasonably ambitious concept which has collapsed under its own weight and possibly the egos of those entrusted to bring this to the screen.

Niven is great, so in fact was Debra Kerr who plays her ridiculous role with commitment, as was Orson Welles, but Peter Sellers is pretty bland, being out-shined by a young Woody Allen who excels in his role as Jimmy Bond, the leader of S.M.I.R.S.H. as well as James Bond’s disgruntled nephew.

At times the comedy is fun, but most of the time the pacing so far off that it is laboured, with the odd gag surprising us with it comedic value whilst the rest of time, the disjointed film is leaving us bemused. Characters are killed off without us being clear as to why, when or how.

This version of Casino Royale is a curio to a modern audience, as much a window in to what passed for cynical entertainment in the 1960’s as Bond was for the spy genre itself.


SKYFALL

September 12, 2016

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DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes

Opening, yet again with in the Danial Craig Bond era, without the ubiquitous ‘gun barrel’ sequence at the beginning, Oscar winning Director, Sam Mendes, the first of such calibre in the 23 films and 50 years of bond to this date, set out his stall from frame one with an artistic interpretation of the that very sequence using a hallway instead of the optical effect, establishing that cinematography was about to be raised up a notch from what we had seen before.

But that was not all. This is very much Bond post Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight (2008) and Inception (2010) specifically, though Inception was unashamedly Nolan’s so… but i digress. This is such as Casino Royale (2006) was Bond post Bourne (2001 – Present) and Moonraker (1979) was Bond post Star Wars (1977) etc… you get the drift. Bond has always reacted to the trends but with both Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale (2006) and Mendes’ Skyfall, it works perfectly.

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But this is masterwork of adaption. With beautiful photography, a gripping and deep screenplay as well as the perfect balance of subtly and outlandish action, this is what Bond should be in the 21st century. Gripping and thrilling in equal measure, with significant character development across the board, as they pay homage to the long history of Bond during it’s 50th anniversary year.

So, after a thrilling and diverse opening chance scene almost playing out as a show reel fro every bond chase imaginable, this was followed up by one of the best Bond songs to date, Adele’s “Skyfall”,  which takes us into the film in earnest.

What we have here is the perfect love letter to Bond, something was attempted back in 2002’s franchise killing Die Another Day, Pierce Brosnon’s final Bond film and released in the franchise’s 40th year, but whilst I still like that one a lot more than most fans, it was great fun, it pales in comparison to this, the culmination of Bond’s 21st century makeover, and in may respects, a soft reboot again, finally introducing Moneypenny, “Q” and bidding a moving farewell to Judi Dench’s “M”, after 17 years in the role, introducing her replacement, Ralph Feines.

Class, wit and grit, with a depth never before seen in a Bond movie, this film could stand alone, a perfect spy movie, with a visual flair leaning more towards that of a art house film rather than a blockbuster, yet fulfilling everything required to make this a great Bond flick.

This might not be the best Bond film in the traditions of the well worn franchise but hell, this is what Bond needs to be in this era and Craig, Mendes and the all involved here have set the bar high for this genre for a long time to come.


STAR TREK @50: LOOKING BEYOND THE FINAL FRONTIER

September 8, 2016

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THE HUMAN ADVENTURE IS JUST BEGINNING…

thecage014It all began not in 1966, but 1964 with Gene Rodenberry’s first pilot, “The Cage”. No Kirk, but instead the Enterprise’s maiden voyage was helmed by Jeffrey Hunter, when he was not play Jesus Christ (King Of Kings (1964) of course.

Even though, this is possibly one of Classic Star Trek’s best and smartest episodes, after being branded “To cerebral” for first time in U.S. TV history, Star Trek was given another shot and second pilot, this time starring William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk…

THE CLASSICS

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So, on the evening of September 8th 1966, 50 years ago today, Star Trek began its three year run in the U.S., but not with the second pilot, this would air two weeks later, but with a monster of the week romp, “The Man Trap”.

After two years of success, though flagging ratings, Star Trek’s third season would be moved to a Friday night slot, which at the the time in the U.S. signalled the end of the show as everybody was out enjoying themselves and lets not forget, 1968/69 was a decade before video recorders, so  you missed it, you missed it!

there-will-be-no-william-shatner-cameo-in-star-trek-beyond-1060-1The stories became sillier and Shatner’s acting, way over the top and by the end of the 24 episode season, it was all over.

But fans began to fight back and the infamous letter writing campaign was conceived, conventions began and there was a short lived and underrated Saturday morning cartoon series, Star Trek: The Animated Adventures, all leading to the planned Star Trek: Phase II. The series was set to return with an updated ship and crew but all that ending in May 1977, when a little Sci-Fi adventure turned up called Star Wars.

THE MOVIES

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As almost every major studio began to cash in the revolution begun by George Lucas’ Star Wars, Phase II morphed into Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), with The Sound Of Music’s director Robert Wise on board, though that is a bit unfair as he had also directed the classic Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) and The Andromada Strain (1974).

Considered boring but beautiful, this is underrated but more Science Fiction that Star Trek, something remedied by the 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, considered to be the best Star Trek movie of all time by many fans.

Leonard Nimoy would sit in to direct the next two, with Shatner almost derailing the franchise with his poor Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in 1989, but it was back to Nicholas Meyer, director of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982) for the final Classic movie, The Undiscovered Country (1991), in which we bid farewell to most of the classic cast, along with the creator, Gene Rodenberry who also passed away earlier that year.

PASSING TO THE NEXT GENERATION

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Just after Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’s release in 1986, The Next Generation (1987 – 1994) ushered in Star Trek’s return to the small screen in 1987 and after a successful seven year run on TV, The Next Generation would cancel itself in 1994, as its replacement, Deep Space Nine, which was now entering its third season, was established.

INTO DEEP SPACE

STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE

1992, in the midst of the sixth season of TNG, Deep Space Nine (1993 – 1999) premièred and though it would take a few seasons to find its feet, it would divide fans even to this day, with many like myself believing that this was possibly the best Star Trek series to date, to those comparing it to a Soap opera, rather than a Space opera.

The jury’s out…

BEYOND THE FINAL FRONTIER

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After a year on its own, Deep Space Nine was about to share the screen with Star Trek again, welcome Star Trek: Voyager (1994 – 2001), the tent-pole for Paramount’s new station UPN. The show would fail to live up to its predecessors though it would certainly improve in leaps and bounds as the seven season run continued. This would be the last Star Trek series to date to run for seven years.

THE NEXT GENERATION OF MOVIES

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Continuing the trend of graduating Star Trek to the big screen, The Next Generation crew enjoyed four features on the cinema screen, with Generations in 1994, passing the torch from Kirk to Picard.

But it was not until 1996’s First Contact that this crew feel comfortable on the silver screen, with what is considered to be the best of their run. The final two, Insurrection (1999) and Nemesis (2002) are considered to be poor by fans, though personally I think that Nemesis is much better that fans and critics have judged it.

BACK TO THE BEGINNING

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So as Voyager ended in 2001, Enterprise (2002 – 2005) was ready to replace to it, but the franchise knew that it was in trouble, opting to drop the name Star Trek from the title for the first two seasons, hoping that it would attract more casual viewers. By the fact that “Star Trek” was back on the title card by season three, I can only assume that it did not work.

Enterprise was good, inventive and different but it was still mired in 35 years of Trek lore and it would eventually drown in it, ending the franchise once and for all.

THE KELVIN-VERSE

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So, with the final movie being released in 2002 and Enterprise concluding in 2005, it was not until Alias creator, J.J. Abrams revived the franchise with Star Trek in 2009, though it was due for a Christmas 2008 release originally, that Star Trek gained a new following.

Cleverly setting the new films, prequels in effect, in an alternate universe connected to the Star Trek universe which we all know, Abrams has turned Star Trek in to summer blockbuster, but at a cost.

Losing a lot of what makes Star Trek, Star Trek, he lacks respect for the franchise, feeling that it needed a face lift for its embarrassing self. He was wrong. It needed modernising but paying lip service to a series which had revolutionised TV and had managed to maintain an international following for decades, seems to be a little patronising.

But after his second movie, Into Darkness (2013) failed to live to to the first in 2013, he jumped ship and went on to do a much better job reviving Star Wars with The Force Awakens in 2015.

Star Trek Beyond made its way on to our cinema screen this summer and it was great, a real taste of Star Trek from days gone by.

NEW DISCOVERY

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But as of next January, Star Trek is back on the small screen again, with Star Trek: Discovery (2017 – ). Apparently set in the “Prime Universe” and not J.J. Abrams “Kelvin-verse”, as it has been dubbed, this will also be set ten years before classic Star Trek and feature a female lead who will NOT be the Captain. They are clearly taking a new approach and only time will tell how that will work out…

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So, without further ado, join us in wishing Star Trek a happy 50th Birthday and let’s hope that it will not be forgotten by the next big anniversary…


AVATAR 2, 3, 4 & 5 -WHY THE DELAY?

September 1, 2016

Avatar2logoAfter watching Avatar in 3-D for the first time since theatres in 2009, I began to think about the long delay in the production of the sequels.

I remembered how long it took to bring the original to the screen, a decade to be precise, with talk of “developing something new and innovative”. It was both the reinvention of 3-D and the development of the revolutionary motion-capture and photo realistic animation which still holds up today.

But with the 3-D bubble bursting, is James Cameron prepared to settle for bog standard 3-D again, or has he got something else up his sleeve? I wonder is he is preparing his next opus as a launch pad for the must converted 3-D WITHOUT the glasses.

This is just a personal analysis and may be nothing more than just a half cocked theory but with the delays, the silence and the history of Cameron’s love of ground-breaking innovation, Terminator 2 (1991) for example, there must be something around the corner and 3-D is not half bad if it was not such a complex system to use, both in front of and behind the camera.

Well, only time will tell and whether his plans to begins shooting Avatar 2 next year will pan out or not is anybody’s guess.

MTU2MDA5MwBut having said all this about new 3-D technologies, the potential for a breakthrough in motion-capture etc… it could just be the scale of the project in hand, with no less that FOUR sequels planned, all need to be written to a reasonable standard, developed, produced and released, all along side the other Goliath’s out there, such as Marvel, Star Wars and possibly DC’s cinematic universes, all of which have earned their own following.

Is Avatar in any position to compete  with any of these? I think that the next decade will be a interesting, that’s for sure.


BOBBY

August 31, 2016

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DIRECTOR: Emilio Estevez

Emilio Estevez’s star studded film following the day in which Bobby Kennedy will ultimately be assassinated, through the eyes of other guests at the Ambassador Hotel in California, sounds like a gem on paper, but in reality, it misses the mark completely.

Its first error is to sell a film on an all start cast playing guests and workers at the hotel who are about witness one of American’s most fateful moments, but neglects to mention that most of them are completely fictitious. The idea was to use this factional story to set the tone and aesthetic of the period, giving us some insight in to the time and issues surrounding Bobby and maybe why he was killed.

Only he was murdered by a disgruntled Palestinian who took issue with his stand of Palestine, an issue not referred to in the film at all. Instead, it will delve into the era of LSD, racism, sexism, adultery and maybe a look at class, though it is not obvious.

Estevez took inspiration from two main sources, the first being an image of a young black man throwing a chair at the wall after Bobby’s shooting. But nobody knows who this man was so Estevez invented a character for Bobby’s campaign, one which was interesting but hollow as he never existed.

The second was that of a woman who married young men to help them dodge the draft to Vietnam. In the film, she was portrayed, fictitiously, by Lindsey Lohan, with her husband being played by Elijah Wood, but both were miscast in my opinion, coming across as vacuous and sloppy caricatures.

But like so many characters in this, most are simply cyphers to serve a plot of headlines, few managing to convey the era better than so many have done before.

The only character of real note was that Jose (Freddy Rodriguez), the Latino kitchen hand who in reality, held Kennedy’s head as he lay dying from his fatal gunshot wound. The character has had his name changed but his actions in that final moment are correct, but in the final moments of the film, the last five minutes to be precise, the film comes together and finally becomes interesting because, let’s face it, up until the last five minutes or so, this is a monotonous soap opera of boring characters who happen to be played by great actors.

Estevez has allowed his passion for the subject to romanticise his view of the film to the point in which we are supposed to be moved by the significance of the events and get behind these characters but in reality, he has failed in both his writing and his direction to express this, leaving us with a docu-drama styled story of something which really happened through the eyes of cyphers who where never there.

Confused? Not as much as the this script and it is such a shame because with a better screenwriter to temper this script, tone down the preaching and breath life into the characters, this could have been so much more than a film summed up by the final five minutes of tension.