Film Review – FLIGHT (2012)

Flight (2012; USA; DeLuxe; 138m) ∗∗∗½  d. Robert Zemeckis; w. John Gatins; ph. Don Burgess; m. Alan Silvestri.  Cast: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Nadine Velazquez, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo, James Badge Dale, Tamara Tunie, Brian Geraghty, Garcelle Beauvais, Michael Beasley, Rhoda Griffis, E. Roger Mitchell, Dylan Kussman. An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling. Intense study of a man’s denial of his alcohol and substance abuse and self-destructive tendencies. The film often glosses over the more extreme struggles of the addicted, but Washington is superb as the hero pilot with a secret to hide. [15]

Film Review – JURASSIC WORLD (2015)

Jurassic World (2015; USA/China; FotoKem; 124m) ∗∗∗½  d. Colin Trevorrow; w. Colin Trevorrow, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly; ph. John Schwartzman; m. Michael Giacchino.  Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus, Brian Tee, Katie McGrath, Andy Buckley, Jimmy Fallon, James DuMont, Colin Trevorrow. Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World. But things go awry when the research team accidentally unleashes a genetically-modified hybrid dinosaur into the park. Crowd-pleasing popcorn movie brings nothing new to the franchise, instead choosing to re-visit themes from the original such as the theme-park gone wrong, corporate greed and familial bonding. Once the mayhem starts the dinosaur action is impressive and suspenseful. Pratt and Howard make for likeable leads and the CGI work is impressive. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Book Review – SET IN DARKNESS (2000) by Ian Rankin

SET IN DARKNESS by IAN RANKIN (2000, Orion, Paperback, 466pp) ∗∗∗∗
      Blurb: Edinburgh is about to become the home of the first Scottish parliament in 300 years. As political passions run high, DI John Rebus is charged with liaison, thanks to the new parliament being resident in Queensbury House, bang in the middle of his patch. But Queensbury House has its own, dark past. Legend has it that a young man was roasted there on a spit by a madman. When the fireplace where the youth died is uncovered another more recent murder victim is found. Days later, in the gardens outside, there is another body and Rebus is under pressure to find instant answers. As the case proceeds, the Inspector finds himself face to face with one of Edinburgh’s most notorious criminals...

The eleventh book in Ian Rankin‘s Inspector Rebus series is an engrossing mystery, which weaves its various plot threads with masterly precision. Whilst the book starts slowly it allows time for Rankin to introduce his characters. The mysteries surrounding a politician’s murder, a 20-year old corpse and a serial rapist who targets singles clubs dovetail into a satisfying thriller in which Rebus’ unconventional methods continue to annoy his superiors. Then, we discover Rebus’ nemesis and Edinburgh’s Mr Big – Big Ger Cafferty – has been released from prison having been diagnosed with cancer. This sets up a tense head to head between Rebus and Cafferty which adds additional edge to the second half of the book. Rankin brings all these elements to the boil brilliantly and the finale is ironic, brutal and shocking and leaves the reader wanting more.

The Rebus series runs to 20 novels. I’ve read 13 of them and these are marked in bold in the list below. The early books lack the depth that Rankin would add to the series later by linking his plots to topical issues, but all are very readable:

  1. Knots and Crosses (1987) ∗∗∗
  2. Hide and Seek (1991) ∗∗∗
  3. Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992) ∗∗∗
  4. Strip Jack (1992)
  5. The Black Book (1993) ∗∗∗
  6. Mortal Causes (1994) ∗∗∗
  7. Let it Bleed (1996)
  8. Black and Blue (1997)
  9. The Hanging Garden (1998) ∗∗∗∗
  10. Dead Souls (1999)
  11. Set in Darkness (2000) ∗∗∗∗
  12. The Falls (2001)
  13. Resurrection Men (2002) ∗∗∗∗
  14. A Question of Blood (2003)
  15. Fleshmarket Close (published in the USA as Fleshmarket Alley) (2004) ∗∗∗∗
  16. The Naming of the Dead (2006)  ∗∗∗∗½
  17. Exit Music (2007) ∗∗∗∗
  18. Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012) ∗∗∗½
  19. Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013) ∗∗∗
  20. Even Dogs in the Wild (2015)

Film Review Round-up – CARRY ON COWBOY (1966); PATRIOT GAMES (1992) and THE MAGDALENE SISTERS (2002)

Carry on Cowboy (1966; UK; Eastmancolor; 93m) ∗∗∗  d. Gerald Thomas; w. Talbot Rothwell; ph. Alan Hume; m. Eric Rogers.  Cast: Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Jim Dale, Charles Hawtrey, Joan Sims, Angela Douglas, Bernard Bresslaw, Peter Butterworth, Percy Herbert, Jon Pertwee, Sydney Bromley, Edina Ronay. Stodge City is in the grip of the Rumpo Kid and his gang. Mistaken identity again takes a hand as a “sanitary engineer” (plumber) by the name of Marshal P. Knutt is mistaken for a law marshal. Pretty good spoof from the team with most of the team thriving on change. Slapstick and wordplay are to the fore with Pertwee and Hawtrey particularly funny. [PG]

Patriot Games (1992; USA; Technicolor; 117m) ∗∗∗½  d. Phillip Noyce; w. W. Peter Iliff, Donald Stewart; ph. Donald McAlpine; m. James Horner.  Cast: Harrison Ford, Anne Archer, Patrick Bergin, Sean Bean, Thora Birch, James Fox, Samuel L. Jackson, Polly Walker, James Earl Jones, Richard Harris, J.E. Freeman, Alex Norton, David Threlfall, Alun Armstrong, Hugh Fraser. When CIA Analyst Jack Ryan interferes with an IRA assassination, a renegade faction targets him and his family for revenge. Slick and efficient action thriller with Ford in excellent form. Lacks the sophistication of the first Jack Ryan adventure, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, but is undeniably entertaining. Followed by CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER (1994). [15]

Magdalene Sisters, The (2002; Ireland/UK; Colour; 119m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Peter Mullan; w. Peter Mullan; ph. Nigel Willoughby; m. Craig Armstrong.  Cast: Geraldine McEwan, Anne-Marie Duff, Nora-Jane Noone, Dorothy Duffy, Eileen Walsh, Mary Murray, Britta Smith, Frances Healey, Eithne McGuinness, Phyllis McMahon, Rebecca Walsh, Eamonn Owens, Chris Simpson, Sean Colgan, Alison Goldie. Three young Irish women struggle to maintain their spirits while they endure dehumanizing abuse as inmates of a Magdalene Sisters Asylum. This is a powerful and harrowing drama, brilliantly directed and acted. Its downbeat tone is often lifted by moments of humour making this both a touching and disturbing film. [18]

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.9/1.10 – THE EMPTY CHILD / THE DOCTOR DANCES (2005)

THE EMPTY CHILD / THE DOCTOR DANCES
2 episodes / 85m / 21 & 28 May 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗∗∗
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: James Hawes
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Kate Harvey (Nightclub Singer), Albert Valentine (The Child) Florence Hoath (Nancy), Cheryl Fergison (Mrs Lloyd) Damian Samuels (Mr Lloyd), John Barrowman (Jack Harkness), Robert Hands (Algy), Joseph Tremain (Jim), Jordan Murphy (Ernie), Brandon Miller (Alf), Richard Wilson (Dr Constantine) Noah Johnson (Voice of the Empty Child), Dian Perry (Computer Voice).
Plot: London, 1941, at the height of the Blitz. A mysterious cylinder is being guarded by the army, while homeless children, living on the bomb sites, are being terrorised by an unearthly child.
Comment: Atmospheric, funny, frightening and terrifically entertaining this remains one of the series’ all-time classics. The haunting “Are you my mummy?” plea of the gas-mask faced child is unforgettable. The story was shot entirely at night and set during the London Blitz. The visual effects work is impressive, notably during the scenes where Rose is hanging from a barrage balloon rope. Barrowman makes his debut as Captain Jack Harkness and immediately strikes up an excellent chemistry with the two leads. Eccleston was right when in the finale he claimed he was “on fire”. His performance here hits just the right mix of gravity and humour and his “Everybody lives” speech is the most uplifting moment in the series’ history. Full of witty one-liners, scary moments and one of the best cliffhanger resolutions, this is a story that lives long in the memory.

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.8 – FATHER’S DAY (2005)

FATHER’S DAY
1 episode / 43m / 14 May 2005
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Paul Cornell
Director: Joe Ahearne
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Robert Barton (Registrar), Julia Joyce (Young Rose), Christopher Llewellyn (Stuart), Frank Rozelaar-Green (Sonny), Natalie Jones (Sarah), Eirlys Bellin (Bev), Rhian James (Suzie), Casey Dyer (Young Mickey).
Plot: Rose travels back to 1987, to witness the day her father died. But when she interferes in the course of events, the monstrous Reapers are unleashed upon the world, and a wedding day turns into a massacre. Even the Doctor is powerless, as the human race is devoured.
Comment: Powerful and emotive episode that tugs at the heartstrings like no other story in the series to date. Cornell’s script may feel manipulative, but it plays nicely against the paradox of time travel. Ahearne also directs with energy and encourages exceptional performances from the main cast. By now Eccleston and Piper have established a strong enough rapport for the audience to believe Rose when she says the Doctor can never leave her. Dingwall is also excellent as Rose’s father, who’s bickering relationship with her mother bursts Rose’s idealistic fantasy of an idyllic marriage. The denouement is sympathetically played and is guaranteed not to leave a dry eye in the house.

Film Review Round-up – THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS (1941); MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (2011) and SHANE (1953)

Shepherd of the Hills, The (1941; USA; Technicolor; 98m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Henry Hathaway; w. Stuart Anthony, Grover Jones; ph. W. Howard Greene, Charles Lang; m. Gerard Carbonara.  Cast: John Wayne, Betty Field, Harry Carey, Beulah Bondi, James Barton, Samuel S. Hinds, Marjorie Main, Ward Bond, Marc Lawrence, John Qualen, Fuzzy Knight, Tom Fadden. A mysterious stranger arrives in the Missouri hills and befriends a young backwoods girl. Much to the dislike of her moonshiner fiancé who has vowed to find and kill his own father. Excellent adaptation with superb production values and strong performances from the cast and superb direction from Hathaway. Gorgeous cinematography beautifully captures the San Bernardino National Forest in California. Based on the novel by Harold Bell Wright. Previously filmed in 1919 and 1928 and remade again in 1964. [PG]

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011; USA/United Arab Emirates/Czech Republic; DeLuxe; 133m) ∗∗½  d. Brad Bird; w. Christopher McQuarrie, Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec; ph. Robert Elswit; m. Michael Giacchino.  Cast: Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Michael Nyqvist, Anil Kapoor, Léa Seydoux, Josh Holloway, Vladimir Mashkov, Tom Wilkinson, Samuli Edelmann, Ivan Shvedoff, Miraj Grbic, Ving Rhames. Fourth instalment in the action-adventure franchise follows Ethan Hunt as he works to defuse a potentially-cataclysmic conflict between the United States and Russia. Implausible action thriller propelled by admittedly impressive action sequences, but lacking intelligent plotting and any respect for its audience. Followed by MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION (2015) [12]

Shane (1953; USA; Technicolor; 118m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. George Stevens; w. A.B. Guthrie Jr., Jack Sher; ph. Loyal Griggs; m. Victor Young.  Cast: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Jack Palance, Van Heflin, Brandon DeWilde, Ben Johnson, Edgar Buchanan, Elisha Cook Jr., Ellen Corby, Emile Meyer, Douglas Spencer, John Dierkes, Paul McVey, Edith Evanson. A weary gunfighter attempts to settle down with a homestead family, but a smouldering settler/rancher conflict forces him to act. Classic Western memorable for many aspects, not least the beautiful scenery, photography and authentic production design. Ladd, Heflin and Palance all deliver career best performances and De Wilde is superb as the hero-worshipping young boy. Won an Oscar for Best Cinematography. Final film of Jean Arthur. Based on the novel by Jack Schaefer. Followed by a TV series (1966) with David Carradine in the title role. [PG]

Steve Hackett 14-disc Charisma Collection set for October release

Universal Music Group is releasing a 14-Disc-Box set covering Steve Hackett’s time with Charisma Records between 1975-83 in October 2015. The set is titled Premonitions: The Charisma Years. The set will include bonus tracks, remixes and 5.1 Surround DVDs. It is the third major retrospective release from the Genesis stable following recent announcements from Tony Banks and Phil Collins.

The discs and track list are:

Disc 1 [CD] – Voyage Of The Acolyte / Please Don’t Touch (I):
01. Ace Of Wands
02. Hands Of The Priestess – Part One
03. Tower Struck Down
04. Hands Of The Priestess – Part Two
05. The Hermit
06. Star Of Sirius
07. Lovers
08. Shadow Of The Heirophant (Extended Version)
09. Narnia
10. Carry On Up The Vicarage
11. Racing In A
12. Kim
13. How Can I?
14. Seven Of Cups* (Bonus Track)

Disc 2 [CD] – Please Don’t Touch (II) / Spectral Mornings / Defector (I):
01. Hoping Love Will Last
02. Land Of A Thousand Autumns
03. Please Don’t Touch
04. Voice Of Necam
05. Icarus Ascending
06. Every Day
07. Virgin And The Gypsy
08. Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
09. Clocks – Angel Of Mons
10. Ballad Of The Decomposing Man
11. Lost Time In Cordoba
12. Tigermoth
13. Spectral Mornings
14. Steppes
15. Time To Get Out
16. Slogans
17. Leaving
18. Two Vamps As Guests

Disc 3 [CD] – Defector (II) / Cured:
01. Jacuzzi
02. Hammer In The Sand
03. Toast
04. Show
05. Sentimental Institution
06. Hercules Unchained (Bonus Track)
07. Hope I Don’t Wake
08. Picture Postcard
09. Can’t Let Go
10. Air Conditioned Nightmare
11. Funny Feeling
12. Cradle Of Swans
13. Overnight Sleeper
14. Turn Back Time
15. Tales Of The Riverbank (Bonus Track)
16. Second Chance (Bonus Track)

Disc 4 [CD] – Highly Strung:
01. Camino Royale
02. Cell 151
03. Always Somewhere Else
04. Walk Through Walls
05. Give It Away
06. Weightless
07. Group Therapy
08. India Rubber Man
09. Hackett To Pieces
10. Guitar Boogie (Bonus Track)
11. Time Lapse At Milton Keynes (Bonus Track)
12. Walking Through Walls (12″ Single Version) (Bonus Track)
13. Cell 151 (BBC Session 04/1983)* (Bonus Track)
14. Walking Through Walls (BBC Session 04/1983)* (Bonus Track)
15. Hackett To Pieces (BBC Session 04/1983)* (Bonus Track)
16. Please Don’t Touch (BBC Session 04/1983)* (Bonus Track)

Disc 5 [CD] – Live In Oxford (New Theatre, 01/07/1979) (I):
01. Please Don’t Touch
02. Tigermoth
03. Every Day
04. Narnia
05. Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
06. Ace Of Wands
07. Carry On Up The Vicarage
08. Acoustic Medley: Etude In A Minor / Blood On The Rooftops / Horizons / Kim

Disc 6 [CD] – Live In Oxford (New Theatre, 01/07/1979) (II):
01. Optigan / Tower Struck Down
02. Spectral Mornings
03. Star Of Sirius
04. Shadow Of The Heirophant
05. Clocks
06. I Know What I Like
07. Racing In A

Disc 7 [CD] – Live In London (Theatre Royal Dury Lane, 11/11/1979):
01. Land Of Thousand Autumns/Please Don’t Touch
02. Tigermoth*
03. Every Day*
04. Ace Of Wands
05. Sentimental Institution
06. Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere*
07. Spectral Mornings*
08. Clocks*
09. Acoustic Medley*: Etude In A Minor / Blood On The Rooftops / Horizons / Kim

Disc 8 [CD] – Live At The Reading Festival (28/08/1981):
01. Air Conditioned Nightmare
02. Every Day*
03. Ace Of Wands*
04. Funny Feeling*
05. Steppes
06. Over Night Sleeper*
07. Slogans
08. Tower Struck Down*
09. Spectral Mornings*
10. Show*
11. Clocks

Disc 9 [CD] – Please Don’t Touch (New Stereo Mix by Steven Wilson)*
01. Narnia
02. Carry On Up The Vicarage
03. Racing In A
04. Kim
05. How Can I?
06. Hoping Love Will Last
07. Land Of A Thousand Autumns
08. Please Don’t Touch
09. Voice Of Necam
10. Icarus Ascending

Disc 10 [CD] – Spectral Mornings (New Stereo Mix by Steven Wilson)*
01. Every Day
02. The Virgin And The Gypsy
03. Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
04. Clocks – Angel Of Mons
05. Ballad Of The Decomposing Man
06. Lost Time In Cordoba
07. Tigermoth
08. Spectral Mornings

Disc 11 [DVD] – Please Don’t Touch (New 5.1 Surround Sound Mix by Steven Wilson)*
01. Narnia
02. Carry On Up The Vicarage
03. Racing In A
04. Kim
05. How Can I?
06. Hoping Love Will Last
07. Land Of A Thousand Autumns
08. Please Don’t Touch
09. Voice Of Necam
10. Icarus Ascending
11. How Can I? [1977 Charisma Promotional Film] (Bonus Video Track)

Disc 12 [DVD] – Spectral Mornings (New 5.1 Surround Sound Mix by Steven Wilson)*
01. Every Day
02. Virgin And The Gypsy
03. Red Flower Of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
04. Clocks – Angel Of Mons
05. Ballad Of The Decomposing Man
06. Lost Time In Cordoba
07. Tigermoth
08. Spectral Mornings
09. Clocks [1979 Charisma Promotional Film] (Bonus Video Track)

Disc 13 [DVD] – Voyage Of The Acolyte (New 5.1 Mix by Steven Wilson)*
01. Ace Of Wands
02. Hands Of The Priestess – Part One
03. Tower Struck Down
04. Hands Of The Priestess – Part Two
05. Hermit
06. Star Of Sirius
07. Lovers
08. Shadow Of The Hierophant (Extended Version)

Disc 14 [DVD] – Defector (New 5.1 Mix by Steven Wilson)*
01. Steppes
02. Time To Get Out
03. Slogans
04. Leaving
05. Two Vamps As Guests
06. Jacuzzi
07. Hammer In The Sand
08. Toast
09. Show
10. Sentimental Institution

Doctor Who Retrospective 1.7 – THE LONG GAME (2005)

THE LONG GAME
1 episode / 45m / 7 May 2005
Rating: ∗∗½
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Brian Grant
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Bruno Langley (Adam), Colin Prockter (Head Chef), Christine Adams (Cathica), Anna Maxwell-Martin (Suki), Simon Pegg (The Editor), Tamsin Greig (Nurse), Judy Holt (Adam’s Mum).
Plot: Adam discovers the wonders of travelling in the Tardis. In the far future, Satellite 5 broadcasts to the entire Earth Empire. But anyone promoted to Floor 500 is never seen again, and the Doctor suspects mankind is being manipulated. Does Adam have what it takes to become the Time Lord’s companion?
Comment: This episode is largely unremarkable and is the second in this series (after THE END OF THE WORLD) to use a space station setting. The premise doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny and the CGI monster of the week does little but show its fangs. Simon Pegg adds some wit to the proceedings as The Editor, but outside of the regulars the cast is largely unremarkable – save for Tamsin Greig’s poker-faced nurse. The direction by Grant is quite flat but there are a couple of memorable sequences – notably as Maxwell-Martin’s Suki explores Floor 500. A trend has been setting in through the series in that lead writer, Davies, has been responsible for the weaker scripts to date. Grand ideas lacking in logic and often held back by juvenile humour. Thankfully here that is kept in check and whilst the story fails to excite, it is not a disaster – merely bland. Also, thankfully, Langley was not kept on as a companion.