Film Four & Film Four +1 30-05-08.

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FILM4 30 May 2008

Sailor of the King
(1953) Action drama starring Jeffrey Hunter as a Canadian serving in the WW2 Royal Navy who is taken prisoner by the German raider that sinks his ship.Second World War drama directed by Roy Boulting. Jeffrey Hunter stars as a Royal Navy crewman waging a one-man campaign against a damaged German warship
With his twin brother John, Roy Boulting began making feature films just prior to the Second World War. During the war, they worked on impressive feature length documentaries that chronicled major aspects of the Allied campaign - Desert Victory (1943), Tunisian Victory (1944, with Frank Capra) and Burma Victory (1945). They returned to fiction after the war, notably with 1947's Brighton Rock (in which John and Roy swapped producer and director roles), but 1953's Sailor Of The King was a return to the conflict, even though it was not based on reality. It instead drew on the novel 'Brown On Resolution' by Englishman CS Forester, writer of 'The African Queen' and creator of Horatio Hornblower. Forester's novel was a 1929 adventure yarn set during the First World War and had already been adapted once before, for the 1935 film Brown On Resolution (aka Forever England) starring John Mills. Here the action is updated but the plot remains essentially the same.
Jeffrey Hunter - the dashingly handsome American actor familiar to 'Star Trek' fans as Pike, the Enterprise's captain prior to Kirk - stars as seaman Brown, the Canadian illegitimate son of Richard Saville (Rennie), a high ranking officer in the British navy. Brown serves in the Royal Navy aboard a cruiser that's sunk by the German pocket battleship Essen. Only Brown and the injured Petty Officer 'Stokes' Wheatley (Lee) survive the attack and they're picked up by the Essen and taken prisoner. Although the Essen prevailed, it was heavily damaged so it has to put in for repairs at the deserted Resolution Island. This gives Brown an opportunity to steal a rifle and some ammunition and escape, swimming ashore to the dry - if barren and decidedly inhospitable - land.

(1963) Still the most expensive film ever made, Joseph L Mankiewicz's film almost defines the word 'epic'.Cleopatra gets the typically over-the-top Cecil B DeMille treatment, which, as history lessons go, could hardly be more inaccurate, but it is the business as far as grand spectacle is concerned. Colbert is fun to watch as the Egyptian queen who has to cope with unrest among her closest allies. After her boyfriend Julius Caesar has been killed, she decides it's best to get it on with Marc Anthony in order to keep her options open. Despite the grand settings, this is a surprisingly intimate portrayal of the Queen of the Nile.

The Man Who Knew Too Little
(1997) Jon Amiel's film, which openly acknowledges its debt to the Hitchcock's classic.Bill Murray makes an entertaining bumbling stooge in this affectionately put together but sharply observed espionage spoof
The Man Who Knew Too Little Shortly after arriving in London a slow-witted US tourist (Murray) signs up for what he believes is an Interactive Theatre experience with a thriller theme. Then, by virtue of a credibility-stretching coincidence, he innocently intercepts a message meant for a hit-man and becomes embroiled in a real plot to wreck an Anglo-Russian peace conference.Memories of Bob Hope and Benny Hill are awoken as Murray gets himself caught in compromising situations with a call girl (Whalley) and tries frantically to evade the unwelcome attentions of the assassin (Molina).

Alien vs Predator
(2004) When Charles Bishop Weyland's satellites detect a pyramid buried under the Antarctic ice, he assembles a team of scientists to investigate.An archaeological expedition to the Antarctic is reduced to chaos when the scientists become embroiled in a conflict between two savage extraterrestrial species. Science-fiction franchise clash directed by Paul WS Anderson
Alien Vs. Predator When an Alien skull cropped up in the Predator's trophy cabinet in Predator 2, it was a welcome moment of light relief. Aside from this fleeting gag, the two science fiction franchises have also clashed in numerous computer games, a comic-books and all manner of toys. With 2004's Alien Vs. Predator, the two behemoths go head-to-head on the big screen in a controversial saga-uniting exercise. While it is simple-minded, predictable and fiddles with both the physiognomy of the star beasts and the saga's storylines, Paul Anderson's film isn't the atrocity it could have been. It's just a very average action movie and as such can't help but be disappointing.
With a story that owes as much to John Carpenter's The Thing as to the Alien and Predator series, the picture kicks off with industrialist Charles Weyland Bishop (Henriksen) leading an expedition to Antarctica. Bishop is convinced that he's found the remains of an ancient pyramid on the ice-bound continent. Unfortunately, the temple is now home to a ravenous Alien queen who has busied herself laying eggs. And, if matters weren't already bad enough, a group of Predators is in town to perform a sacred ritual that involves them fighting the Aliens - and the humans who have unsuspectingly gatecrashed their party.

The Man Who Wasn't There
(2001) Billy Bob Thornton is a barber from northern California who undergoes an existential crisis when he discovers his wife having an affair.Vintage hard-boiled noir from the Coen brothers. Billy Bob Thornton is a barber from northern California who undergoes an existential crisis when he discovers his wife having an affair
The Man Who Wasn't There Returning to the tough-talking pulp-inspired turf they patrolled for their debut feature Blood Simple, the Coen brothers' latest film is a devious slice of film noir spring-loaded with a surprise sucker-punch. Inspired by the likes of Detour and The Postman Always Rings Twice, this is undoubtedly the sibling filmmakers' best effort since Fargo. Set in the northern Californian town of Santa Rosa in the late 1940s, The Man Who Wasn't There sees Billy Bob Thornton play passive barber Ed Crane, a man of few words, who discovers his book-keeper wife Doris (McDormand) is having an affair with Big Dave (Gandolfini), her boss at a department store. When Ed decides to extort money from Dave, in order to fund a dry-cleaning scheme he's been offered by wig-wearing salesman Creighton Tolliver (Polito) you just know things will go awry.
What makes it all so pleasurable, though, is the unexpected way in which Ed's existential crisis comes to a close, the Coens beckoning us down a path scattered with red herrings. Really the story of a man on the fringes of society - witness the symbolic placing of aliens and their flying saucers throughout the film - it benefits greatly from a thoughtful, internalised performance from Thornton.

Miller's Crossing
(1990) The Coen brothers present a complex gangster drama set during the Prohibition era in an unnamed American city.The Coen brothers present a complex gangster drama set during the Prohibition era in an unnamed American city. Albert Finney, Gabriel Byrne and Marcia Gay Harden star
Miller's Crossing "A handsome film about men in hats" was how Joel and Ethan Coen described their third film, this beautifully-crafted 1929-set gangster film that takes great pains to resurrect the genre. Full of double-crosses, dense plotting and razor-sharp dialogue ("Nobody knows anybody. Not that well," we're told), you'll need to have your wits about you for this one, as gang bosses Leo (Finney) and Casper (Polito) go to war. Pulling the strings behind Leo is his right-hand man Tom (Byrne); intervening between both is Verna (Harden), who packs a mean right hook. Loosely inspired by Dashiell Hammett's classic novel 'The Glass Key', Miller's Crossing contains some fabulous set-pieces, notably a surprisingly athletic Leo defending himself against two assailants to the strains of 'Danny Boy'. There is also some terrific acting, namely John Turturro as the whiney Bernie Bernbaum, the bookie who acts as the catalyst for the gang war. His 'Look Into Your Heart' speech, as he begs for his worthless life at the feet of Tom in the eponymous patch of woodlands, still ranks as one of the finest moments in any film by the Coen brothers.
As ever, the minor support roles are just as detailed. Check out Steve Buscemi as the fast-talking rat-fink Mink, for a delivery that would make Quentin Tarantino look like a man with a stutter. With regular Coen composer Carter Burwell offering his best score to date, and the design and photography all unified towards a luscious green/brown colour scheme, this is indeed a handsome movie.