Film Four & Film Four +1 02-07-08.

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Carmen Jones
(1954) The tale of the cigarette-maker Carmen and the Spanish cavalry soldier Don Jose translated into a modern-day parachute factory worker and a GI.Otto Preminger directs an all African-American cast in a 1950s update of Bizet's opera 'Carmen'. Stars Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte
Carmen Jones The original Broadway musical of Carmen Jones was a hit in the mid 1940s: the novelty of an all African-American cast coupled with lyrics from Oscar Hammerstein (also responsible for Carousel and Oklahoma!) proved a big enough draw to convince Fox to fund this lavish widescreen version directed by Preminger. The title performance by Dorothy Dandridge made her the first black woman to gain an Oscar nomination. Sadly, the rest of the film stinks. The story of 'Carmen' is transplanted to contemporary America. The cigarette maker Carmen becomes a sassy street-wise worker in a parachute factory, while Spanish cavalry soldier Don Jose is here a GI called Joe who is about to go to flying school. Joe has a steady girlfriend Cindy Lou (the simpering James), but he's also being chased by the predatory Carmen. "She's what the folks back home would call a hot bundle," says Cindy in a typically clumsy piece of exposition.
Initially Joe ignores Carmen's lusty advances, but a ride in a Jeep and a few songs later he's all hers. In a supposed fit of anger (though it's hard to tell given Belafonte's monotone acting) he whacks a sergeant and destroys his military career, heading off to live in a slum with Carmen. She, however, soon grows tired of being "cooped up" with Joe and shacks up with wealthy boxer Husky Miller (Adams, who has plenty of swagger, but is utterly one-dimensional). Joe wants her back and the scene is set for tragedy.

The Man in Grey
(1943) Classic Gainsborough costume melodrama set in the 18th century, following the fortunes of two old school friends.Period bodice-ripper starring Margaret Lockwood and Phyllis Calvert, with James Mason in full-on cad mode as a sadistic 18th century nobleman
James Mason had been working hard in various supporting roles throughout the second half of the 1930s, but during World War II (when he was a conscientious object) he began to get lead roles. In 1942, he starred in what is considered to be the first of the Gainsborough melodramas - The Man In Grey. It made a star of Mason, who would reteam with leading lady Margaret Atwood for further Gainsborough melodramas, notably 1945's The Wicked Lady. After only a few more films he would cross the pond and become a major Hollywood star. The Man In Grey wasn't popular among critics on its initial release, but it was a smash hit, becoming one of the year's 10 biggest films at the UK box office. Although the picture has bookends set during the present - at the height of the Blitz - for the most part it is set during the 18th century, and must have provided a welcome dose of escapism for wartime audiences.
The prologue involves the last remaining member of the Rohan family, Lady Clarissa (Calvert), attending an auction of her estate's goods. There, she meets a pilot Rokeby (Granger) whose ancestor supposedly loved her ancestor in the 18th century. This, of course, is the story that forms the main body of the film. In flashback we meet the earlier Clarissa (also Calvert), who befriends impoverished Hester (Lockwood) at finishing school. However, a gypsy fortune teller warns Clarissa that remaining friends with Hester will bring her ill fortune. The young women go there separate ways, but their friendship resumes years later, when Clarissa is trapped in a loveless marriage with the sophisticated but cold-hearted Lord Rohan (Mason) and Hester is treading the boards as an actress.

23 Paces to Baker Street
(1956) Thriller starring Van Johnson as a blind playwright who overhears a kidnapping plot.Van Johnson and Vera Miles star in this London-set mystery thriller about a blind playwright trying to solve a crime after overhearing it discussed. Henry Hathaway directs
Henry Hathaway stared out a child actor, before becoming a director of westerns in the 1930s then graduating to bigger budget films for Paramount and 20th Century-Fox. The mid-1940s were some of his most fertile years, with his output including such as classic noirs The House On 92nd Street, The Dark Corner and Kiss Of Death. He'd keep on turning out movies for three more decades (he directed John Wayne to his only Oscar win in 1969's True Grit). One of his lesser known but arguably best films was 23 Paces To Baker Street, a fairly modest American mystery thriller shot set in London and having nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes despite the title. With 23 Paces To Baker Street, Hathaway turned away from pure noir into more Hitchcockian territory, and indeed the film bears some comparison with Rear Window. In Hitchcock's film, James Stewart plays a photographer, debilitated by a broken leg, who gets embroiled in a mystery after witnessing incidents in the apartments opposite his own. Here, Van Johnson stars as a playwright debilitated by blindness, who gets embroiled in a mystery after overhearing part of a conversation.

The film's opening shots introduce one of its greatest strengths and pleasures - that 1950s London setting. A slow pan takes in the Thames and Waterloo Bridge with traffic pouring over and under it. It's dawn and the river is shrouded in orange-tinged mist, ably captured by the veteran cinematographer Milton R Krasner. The pan ends at the flat of playwright Philip Hannon. He has an amazing view but can't enjoy it. Instead, he describes it bitterly to Jean (Miles), the fiancée he abandoned after "it happened". She gently chides him for sounding bitter, to which he replies "Bitter? Me? I'm a successful playwright who's just had a hit, a big hit. What have I got to be bitter about? I'm alright as long as people leave me alone." He then storms out - as fast as a recently blinded man can - to go to the pub.

The Muse
(1999) Director Albert Brooks also stars as a successful Hollywood scriptwriter who hits writer's block.Hollywood satire in which Sharon Stone provides divine inspiration to struggling screenwriter Albert Brooks. Suitably riddled with high profile cameos
Though never a prolific director, Albert Brooks (Modern Romance, Lost In America) is well deserving of his reputation as one of America's most incisive comic talents. Here he presents a showbiz satire that's somewhat slow, but reliable entertaining. Stephen Philips (Brooks) is a Hollywood screenwriter in desperate need of inspiration. Enter mysterious muse Sarah (Stone) who appears to have been instrumental in box-office hits by Martin Scorsese, Rob Reiner and James Cameron. However Sarah's services come at a price: a suite at the Four Seasons and unquestioning submission to her every whim.
The satire is really restricted to the first half, which sees Stephen arrange a meeting with Spielberg, only to be presented with the director's cousin Stan (Wright). Thereafter things drift in a different direction as Sarah sets herself up in Stephen's home and helps his wife (MacDowell) start a cookie business.
This isn't classic Brooks by a long shot - the premise swiftly loses its novelty. However, even a bad Brooks film has something to recommend it and he exploits his characters' unpleasantness with ruthless efficiency.

Pushing Tin
(1999) Mike Newell's film is set in the intense, brutal world of air traffic control, where John Cusack is the top dog.A top air traffic controller feels threatened when a new recruit with an equally impressive reputation joins his team. Comedy-drama starring John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Angelina Jolie and Cate Blanchett
Pushing Tin Pushing Tin has a lot in common with Tony Scott's Top Gun, being both inspired by magazine articles and centred around two kings of aviation struggling for supremacy. The only difference is that, while Bruckheimer's and Simpson's action movie focuses on the US Navy's best pilots, Mike Newell's comedy-drama is concerned with the men who bring commercial aircraft in to land. This might not sound as exciting, but it's infinitely more amusing and every bit as entertaining. John Cusack is Nick "The Zone" Falzone, New York TRACON's top air traffic controller. It might not sound like much of a title, but it's one that defines Nick's relationship with his co-workers and his wife, Connie (Blanchett). The TRACON crew's tight little community is shaken up by the arrival of Russell Bell (Thornton), a Southern controller whose reputation for recklessness is matched only by his faultless flight record. With a worthy adversary at hand, Nick takes the battle to Bell and even leaps into bed with his rival's wife, Mary (Jolie). But as this epic war of egos slowly escalates, it looks set to claim both Nick's sanity and his marriage.

The Crow: Wicked Prayer
(2005) A hell-bound gang leader murders a young man who returns as the avenging Crow. Horror sequel starring Edward Furlong and David 'Angel' Boreanaz.A hell-bound gang leader murders a young man who returns as the avenging Crow. Horror sequel starring Edward Furlong and David 'Angel' Boreanaz
There've been so many shocking Crow spin-offs, it's easy to forget the comic-book character has its origins in very real tragedy. His girlfriend killed in a drunk-driving accident, James O'Barr poured his rage and sorrow into the story of Eric Draven, a dead rock star returned to life to avenge his death. The graphic novel that emerged from this very public display of grief - which O'Barr dedicated to Joy Division's Ian Curtis - remains a powerful example of the form. Alas, the same cannot be said for the films it inspired. Of course, things mightn't have been so bad had not Brandon Lee also succumbed to tragedy. Breathlessly charismatic, Bruce's son was by the far the best thing about Alex Proyas's original film. The sequels have seen him replaced by increasingly less interesting leads. The Crow: Wicked Prayer has Edward 'Terminator 2' Furlong stepping into Lee's shoes - a feat he'd need a helluva lot of crumpled newspaper to successfully accomplish.
Furlong - who's been struck with the terminally teenaged syndrome that's complicated many a young actor's career - is Jimmy Cuervo, an ex-*** bumped off by David Boreanz's demonic biker as part of a Satanic induction ceremony. Cue Cuervo becoming The Crow - in which capacity he sets out to prevent the 'Angel' star from joining the evil elite. The only vaguely clever thing about all of this is that 'cuervo' is Spanish for 'crow'.

One For The Road
(2002) Dark British tragicomedy about a group of alcoholics on a rehabilitation course. Written and directed by Chris Cooke.Dark British tragicomedy about a group of alcoholics on a rehabilitation course. Written and directed by Chris Cooke
One For The Road Pitched as 'The Office' meets The Full Monty with a double vodka and tonic on the side, this lively British flick proves a vitriolic treat. After being caught drink driving, four Midlands men are dispatched to an alcohol rehabilitation course where they're encouraged to address their boozing problems with a touchy-feely counsellor (Phillips) whose report on them will help the magistrate decide how long they should lose their licenses for. Confronted with role-playing games, visualisation exercises and the prospect of having to draw pictures of the last time they were happy, these four unlikely lads do the only thing possible under the circumstances and head off to the nearest pub to get absolutely trashed.