The Eagle

Focus Features (2011) 114 min. PG-13

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Screenplay: Jeremy Brock; based on The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle; Editing: Justine Wright

Production Design: Michael Carlin; Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway

Costumes: Michael O’Connor

Score: Atli Örvarsson

Stars: Channing Tatum (Marcus Flavius Aquila), Jamie Bell (Esca), Donald Sutherland (Uncle Aquila), Mark Strong (Guern), Tahar Rahim (Seal Prince), Denis O’Hare (Lutorius), Aladár Laklóth (Flavius Aquila)

The Eagle is well crafted, perfectly respectable popcorn entertainment. The majority of the movie was taken on location in Scotland (Glasgow, Loch Lomond, Summer Isles, Achnahaird Bay, etc.) by cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, the Oscar-winning cameraman who also shot director Kevin Macdonald’s previous The Last King of Scotland. For The Eagle Mantle has photographed a beautiful expanse of the country, offering a wide variety of scenery, from grassy glens to the snowy Highlands. The result is a variety of gloriously breathtaking vistas. Continue reading

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The Hunger Games

Lionsgate (2012) 142 minutes PG-13

Director: Gary Ross

Screenplay: Suzanne Collins, Billy Ray and Gary Ross; based on The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Cinematography: Tom Stern; Editing: Christopher S. Capp, Stephen Mirrione and Juliette Welfling

Production Design: Philip Messina; Set Decoration: Larry Dias; Costumes: Judianna Makovsky; Score: James Newton Howard

Stars: Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen), Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark), Liam Hemsworth (Gale Hawthorne), Alexander Ludwig (Cato), Woody Harrelson (Haymitch Abernathy), Amandla Stenberg (Rue), Wes Bentley (Seneca Crane), Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman), Donald Sutherland (President Snow)

Based as it is on the first novel in a popular trilogy of teen fiction, and given the legion of devoted fans the movie inherited before it was ever released, it’s probably unnecessary to point out at this late stage that The Hunger Games is about a futuristic, state sponsored reality TV show which pits twenty four adolescents against each other in a no-holds barred fight to the finish. Author Suzanne Collins, who also collaborated on the movie’s screenplay with director Gary Ross and Billy Ray, was inspired by the explosion in popularity of elimination round reality programs like Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice, The Amazing Race and even American Idol, where the public at large is invited to vote on their favorites, weighing in on who gets axed each week.

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The Woman in Black

Momentum Pict./CBS Films (2012) 95 min. PG-13

Director: James Watkins

Screenplay: Jane Goldman; based on The Woman in Black by Susan Hill 

Cinematography: Tim Maurice-Jones; Editing: Jon Harris

Production Design: Kave Quinn; Set Decoration: Niamh Coulter

Costumes: Keith Madden

Score: Marco Beltrami

Stars: Daniel Radcliffe (Arthur Kipps), Ciarán Hinds (Sam Daily), Janet McTeer (Mrs. Daily), Liz White (Jennet), Sophie Stuckey (Stella Kipps), Misha Handley (Joseph Kipps), Jessica Raine (Nanny)

Standard-issue spook fare that never amounts to much but is still promisingly atmospheric in spots, distinguished by its unusual, turn of the century setting. Many horror movies are set in old dark houses, few on the other hand are set in the old, dark superstitious past itself which is odd since, for all our Amityville Horrors, I imagine most people still tend to psychologically associate ghosts and haunted houses with the Victorian past. The primary distinction of The Woman in Black lies in its being placed in that transitory time-frame when the horse and buggy era was making way for the mechanized age of the automobile. Continue reading

The Adventures of the Wilderness Family

Pacific International Enterprises (1975) 100 min. G

Director: Stewart Raffill

Screenplay: Stewart Raffill; Story: Arthur R. Dubs

Cinematography: Gerard Alcan; Editing: R. Hansel Brown

Production Design: Ronald Kent Foreman

Costumes: Beau Barthel

Score: Gene Kauer and Douglas Lackey

Stars: Robert Logan (Skip Robinson), Susan Damante Shaw (Pat), Hollye Holmes (Jenny), Ham Larsen (Toby), George ‘Buck’ Flower (Boomer)

When I first caught up with it on pay cable as a kid in the 80’s, I was wild about The Adventures of the Wilderness Family and its sequels. I’d been hunting down a DVD in recent years but hadn’t managed to come across one (a special edition has been released but it’s not offered through Netflix yet). Yesterday, by pure chance, I came across an old discarded VHS copy at a rummage sale and as I quickly snatched up and pocketed my find, mused over the priceless treasures some people choose to toss out. At least until I got it home and popped it in an old VCR I keep oiled just for such an emergency. Continue reading