Film Review – DIRTY HARRY (1971)

Dirty Harry (1971; USA; Technicolor; 102m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Don Siegel; w. Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink, Dean Riesner; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Lalo Schifrin.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Harry Guardino, John Mitchum, Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson, John Larch, John Vernon, Josef Sommer, Woodrow Parfrey, Mae Mercer, Lyn Edgington, Woodrow Parfrey, William Paterson, Maurice Argent. When a mad man calling himself ‘the Scorpio Killer’ menaces the city, tough as nails San Francisco Police Inspector Harry Callahan is assigned to track down and ferret out the crazed psychopath. Influential, efficient and effective crime thriller with Eastwood establishing the blueprint for all maverick cop characters that followed. Siegel handles it all with style. Dynamite jazz rock music score from Schifrin. Sommer’s first film. The first of five movies starring Eastwood as Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan. Followed by MAGNUM FORCE (1973). [18]

Film Review – NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983)

Never Say Never Again (1983; UK/USA/West Germany; Technicolor; 134m) ∗∗∗  d. Irvin Kershner; w. Lorenzo Semple Jr.; ph. Douglas Slocombe; m. Michel Legrand.  Cast: Sean Connery, Barbara Carrera, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max von Sydow, Kim Basinger, Edward Fox, Bernie Casey, Alec McCowen, Michael Medwin, Ronald Pickup, Pamela Salem, Rowan Atkinson, Valerie Leon, Milos Kirek, Anthony Sharp. A SPECTRE agent has stolen two American nuclear warheads, and James Bond must find their targets before they are detonated. Whilst it is good to see Connery return as 007, this production lacks the style and production values of the official series. There are moments of effective humour, but the action sequences are only adequately handled. Carrera and Brandauer are excellent as the SPECTRE agents, but forget Fox as M and Atkinson in an unfunny cameo. Remake of THUNDERBALL (1965). [PG]

Film Review – SHAFT (1971)

Shaft (1971; USA; Metrocolor; 100m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Gordon Parks; w. Ernest Tidyman, John D.F. Black; ph. Urs Furrer; m. Isaac Hayes.  Cast: Richard Roundtree, Moses Gunn, Charles Cioffi, Christopher St. John, Gwenn Mitchell, Lawrence Pressman, Antonio Fargas, Arnold Johnson, Shimen Ruskin, Joseph Leon, Victor Arnold, Sherri Brewer, Rex Robbins, Camille Yarbrough, Margaret Warncke. Black private eye John Shaft is hired by a crime lord to find and retrieve his kidnapped daughter. From the opening shots of Roundtree’s Shaft strutting his way through Midtown Manhattan to the closing sequence of the daring rescue the film oozes style. Although relatively slow paced by today’s frenetic standards, but is punctuated by occasional bursts of violent action. With Isaac Hayes’ funky theme playing over the credits a movie icon was born. Based on the novel by Ernest Tidyman. Oscar Winner for Best Song. Followed by SHAFT’S BIG SCORE! (1972), SHAFT IN AFRICA (1973) and a series of seven TV Movies (1973-4). An updated sequel followed in 2000. [15]

Film Review – SKYFALL (2012)

Skyfall (2012; UK/USA; Colour; 143m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Sam Mendes; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan; ph. Roger Deakins; m. Thomas Newman.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Ola Rapace, Helen McCrory, Nicholas Woodeson, Bill Buckhurst, Elize du Toit.  James Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost. Engrossing and emotive, this is one of the best of the series with Craig delivering his strongest performance to date as Bond and Dench having a much greater involvement as M. Whishaw debuts as a geeky young Q. Bardem stays the right side of caricature in a delicious turn as the villain of the piece. Thrilling, explosive finale at Bond’s ancestral home in the Scottish Highlands. Production credits are all top notch and Deakins’ cinematography is sumptuous. Oscar winner for Best Song (“Skyfall” by Adele and Paul Epworth) and Sound Editing (Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers). Based on characters created by Ian Fleming. [12]

Film Review – QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008)

Quantum of Solace (2008; UK/USA; Colour; 106m) ∗∗∗  d. Marc Forster; w. Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade; ph. Roberto Schaefer; m. David Arnold.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, David Harbour, Jesper Christensen, Anatole Taubman, Rory Kinnear, Tim Pigott-Smith, Joaquín Cosio, Fernando Guillén Cuervo, Jesús Ochoa. Seeking revenge for the death of his love, secret agent James Bond sets out to stop an environmentalist from taking control of a country’s valuable resource. Disappointing follow-up to CASINO ROYALE suffers more from comparison to the film it follows than to the rest of the franchise. The exceptionally tough action sequences are too frenetically shot and edited thus rendering them breathless as well as incomprehensible, save for one excellent sequence shot at the opera during a performance of “Tosca.” The characters and the plot are given little room to breathe as a result of Forster’s seeming insistence in prioritising style over substance, but Craig does continue to impress as 007. [12]

Film Review – CASINO ROYALE (2006)

Casino Royale (2006; USA/UK/Germany/ Czech Republic; Colour; 144m) ∗∗∗∗∗ d. Martin Campbell; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis; ph. Phil Meheux; m. David Arnold.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankolé, Jesper Christensen, Ivana Milicevic, Tobias Menzies, Claudio Santamaria, Sebastien Foucan, Malcolm Sinclair. In his first mission, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world’s terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Craig makes an excellent debut as 007 in arguably the best Bond movie. The action is fast and furious in the opening and closing sequences whilst the engrossing plot carries us through the centre of the film. All the elements are there but this is a tough, rugged entry in a series that has rebooted itself in some considerable style. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [12]

Film Review – DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)

Die Another Day (2002; UK/USA; Colour; 133m) ∗∗  d. Lee Tamahori; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade; ph. David Tattersall; m. David Arnold.  Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Kenneth Tsang, Emilio Echevarría, Mikhail Gorevoy, Lawrence Makoare, Colin Salmon, Samantha Bond, Madonna. James Bond is sent to investigate the connection between a North Korean terrorist and a diamond mogul who is funding the development of an international space weapon. After a strong first half this overblown adventure descends into some of the worst excesses seen in a Bond film since MOONRAKER – not least the invisible car. Berry is the film’s main asset in a lively turn, but a weak and increasingly unbelievable premise along with some appalling CGI ultimately sink the film. [12]

Film Review – THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999)

World Is Not Enough, The (1999; UK/USA; Colour; 128m) ∗∗∗½  d. Michael Apted; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Bruce Feirstein; ph. Adrian Biddle; m. David Arnold.  Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Marceau, Robert Carlyle, Denise Richards, Robbie Coltrane, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn, John Cleese, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, Samantha Bond, Michael Kitchen, Colin Salmon, Goldie, David Calder, Serena Scott Thomas. James Bond uncovers a nuclear plot when he protects an oil heiress from her former kidnapper, an international terrorist who can’t feel pain. A return to form with this outing having more depth than most recent Bonds. There is a better balance between plot development and action sequences. Brosnan gives his best performance as 007 and Marceau is excellent as the vulnerable heiress, whilst Carlyle makes an edgy villain. Richards, however, may be the least believable nuclear scientist in screen history. [12]

Book Review – THE FORSAKEN by Ace Atkins (2014)

THE FORSAKEN by ACE ATKINS (Corsair, 2014, 370pp) ∗∗∗½
     Blurb: Thirty-six years ago, a nameless black man wandered into Jericho, Mississippi, with nothing but the clothes on his back and a pair of paratrooper boots. Less than two days later, he was accused of rape and murder, hunted down by a self-appointed posse, and lynched. Now evidence has surfaced of his innocence, and county sheriff Quinn Colson sets out not only to identify the stranger’s remains, but to charge those responsible for the lynching. As he starts to uncover old lies and dirty secrets, though, he runs up against fierce opposition from those with the most to lose – and they can play dirty themselves. Soon Colson will find himself accused of terrible crimes, and the worst part is, the accusations just might stick. As the two investigations come to a head, it is anybody’s guess who will prevail – or even come out of it alive.
     The Forsaken is Atkins’ fourth Quinn Colson book and is possibly the strongest in a series that just keeps getting better. The “old case” plot enables the author to examine Quinn Colson’s relationship with his father, who is involved in the case. In this book Atkins has gotten under the skin of his lead character more than any in the series since the debut The Ranger. The subject matter concerning the rape of a young teenager and the racist attitudes that prevailed in the 1970s is scrutinised through a 21st century lens, but Colson finds that old prejudices die hard. The emphasis on modern-day themes of corruption, greed and power provide an interesting contrast showing the human condition dictates there will always be moral battles to fight.
The book is well paced and the dialogue is witty and tough. There is less action  here than in the earlier books, but this gives the characters room to breathe with Atkins allowing time for each major protagonist. The finale is a slight disappointment in that it does not fully resolve all the issues presented, but with more books to follow Atkins is asking readers to invest in his world and it is certainly one worth revisiting.

Comic Book Review – SHAFT: IMITATION OF LIFE – PART TWO: EASY MONEY (2016)

SHAFT: IMITATION OF LIFE – PART TWO: EASY MONEY (9 March 2016, Dynamite Entertainment, 32 pp)
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Dietrich Smith
Coloured by Alex Guimares
Cover by Matthew Clark
Cover Colours by Vinicius Andrade

Blurb: Having grown tired of dangerous cases that lead to violence, private detective John Shaft decides it’s time to earn some easy money. His first job? Working as a consultant on a film about a black private dick. Award-winning author David F. Walker (Cyborg, Power Man & Iron Fist) proudly delivers the second chapter, entitled “Easy Money”, of the hard-hittin’, tough-talkin’ John Shaft’s latest case!

David Walker interlinks the continuing story of the missing Mike Prosser with Shaft’s being hired as a consultant to work on a movie based on himself. The latter case is deemed to be “Easy Money” for Shaft as opposed to the Prosser case on which he is now solely helping Tito Salazar out as a favour. When Shaft and Tito come across Mafia gangsters running a porn business, Shaft bows out and opts for the easy cash instead. But the opening pages, set three weeks ahead show that Shaft will once again have to tough it out protecting the movie’s star.

This issue shows Walker having fun with Shaft and the new characters he has introduced. Where this will all lead is intriguing. Dietrich Smith’s artwork nicely captures both the colour and grime of Times Square in the early 1970s with its array of porn movie theatres and low-life population. Walker is skating a fine line between parody and drama, but manages to stay just the right side and keep the plot interesting as the story reaches the half-way mark.