Film Review – ABSOLUTE POWER (1997)

Absolute Power (1997; USA; Technicolor; 122m) ∗∗½  d. Clint Eastwood; w. William Goldman; ph. Jack N. Green; m. Lennie Niehaus.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Scott Glenn, Dennis Haysbert, Judy Davis, E. G. Marshall, Melora Hardin, Ken Welsh, Penny Johnson, Richard Jenkins, Alison Eastwood, Kimber Eastwood. A career thief witnesses a horrific crime involving the U.S. President. Highly implausible and lacking in pace, this is made watchable by the quality of the performers – although Davis chews the scenery somewhat in an eccentric portrayal as private secretary to Hackman’s president. Based on the novel by David Baldacci. Marshall’s final appearance in a theatrical film. [15]

Book Review – HUNTED by Paul Finch (2015)

HUNTED by PAUL FINCH (2007, Avon, 426pp) ∗∗∗

Blurb: Across the south of England, a series of bizarre but fatal accidents are taking place. So when a local businessman survives a near-drowning but is found burnt alive in his car just weeks later, DS Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is brought in to investigate. Soon it appears that other recent deaths might be linked: two thieves that were bitten to death by poisonous spiders, and a driver impaled through the chest with scaffolding. Accidents do happen but as the body count rises it’s clear that something far more sinister is at play, and it’s coming for Heck too…

Paul Finch’s Hunted is seemingly influenced by recent trends in TV detective shows, such as Luther and Whitechapel, to push into areas of the macabre. The reader’s enjoyment of this book will therefore depend on how much they can buy into Finch’s far-fetched plot. If so, they will be rewarded by a mystery of who is committing a series of sadistic stage-managed accidents. The plot is interesting but you can’t get over the impression that it is highly contrived and the perpetrators, when finally unmasked. are not wholly convincing.

This is the fifth book in Finch’s DS Mark “Heck” Heckenberg series and I have not read any of the previous entries. But this is a standalone story that requires no previous investment in the character. Heck is an intelligent action man, but feels a little bit bland – lacking the cynicism and hard-edge of hundreds of similar characters. It is the nature of his work with the Serial Crimes Unit that makes him different. The introduction of a female partner, DC Gail Honeyford results in familiar initial antagonism leading to a bonding both physically and emotionally. A sub-plot involving a stalking ex-partner/colleague of Honeyford feels heavy-handed and its resolution is disappointing.

Despite some misgivings, this is still a readable mystery thriller that is enjoyable on its own terms.

Reviews of Shaft: Imitation of Life #3

Shaft: Imitation of Life #3 was released today and the reviews are coming in.

“Walker’s ability to bounce between humour and tension keeps the story engaging and ensures that readers will want to come back for the finale.” – Robert Reed, AdventuresInPoorTaste.com

“David Walker has nailed the character in Shaft Imitation of life #3 and the feel to perfection and Dietrich Smith’s artwork is subtle yet raunchy. We could be back in 1975 but this is even better!” – Gary Orchard, MultiVerse

“Highly entertaining, intensely re-readable and — even looking at its unfortunate cultural trappings, given the mores of the era — super entertaining.” – ComicBookResource

Shaft: Imitation of Life #3 and cover for reprint of Tidyman’s original novel previewed

The third issue of Shaft: Imitation of Life the second series of Dynamite’s take on Ernest Tidyman’s John Shaft is published on Wednesday 20 April. Previews have been made available and the first review (from Multiverse-Magazine.com) is in and reviewer Gary Orchard says: “David Walker has nailed the character in Shaft Imitation of life #3 and the feel to perfection and Dietrich Smith’s artwork is subtle yet raunchy. We could be back in 1975 but this is even better!

Also a preview of the cover for the re-print of Ernest Tidyman’s original novel Shaft was made available via ComicVine. The art work is by Robert Hack and the publication date is set for 27 July 2016.

Film Review – ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939; USA; B&W; 121m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Howard Hawks; w. Jules Furthman; ph. Joseph Walker; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess, Rita Hayworth, Thomas Mitchell, Allyn Joslyn, Sig Ruman, Victor Kilian, John Carroll, Donald Barry, Noah Beery Jr., Maciste, Milisa Sierra, Lucio Villegas, Pat Flaherty, Pedro Regas, Pat West. At a remote South American trading port, the manager of an air freight company is forced to risk his pilots’ lives in order to win an important contract. Classic Hawks film uses themes of comradeship and bravery spiced with a love interest. A character piece with an episodic plot, it coasts on the strong performances of its impressive cast. Grant plays the boss, who won’t let his feelings get in the way of seeing the job through and Arthur is the show girl who turns the heads of his pilot crew. Hayworth is also memorable as Grant’s former girl who has taken up with Barthelmess – a pilot with a dark secret. Hawks would later finesse the formula in RIO BRAVO. [U]

Film Review – IN THE LINE OF FIRE (1993)

In the Line of Fire (1993; USA; Technicolor; 128m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Wolfgang Petersen; w. Jeff Maguire; ph. John Bailey; m. Ennio Morricone.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich, Rene Russo, Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, Fred Dalton Thompson, John Mahoney, John Heard, Clyde Kusatsu, Jim Curley, Gregory Alan Williams, Sally Hughes, Tobin Bell, Steve Hytner, Steve Railsback. Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan (Eastwood) couldn’t save Kennedy, but he’s determined not to let a clever assassin (Malkovich) take out this president. Crackerjack thriller expertly and efficiently directed by Petersen. Malkovich makes for a creepy villain whose verbal sparring with Eastwood adds depth to his psychotic assassin. Russo sparks charmingly with Eastwood, who delivers one of his strongest and deepest performances. Text book film-making marries script, direction and editing to perfection. [15]

Phil Collins April re-issues reviewed

NO JACKET REQUIRED (1985) ∗∗∗∗½
TESTIFY (2002) ∗∗∗½

NO JACKET REQUIRED, released in 1985, was the album that launched Collins into the stratosphere. A monster hit and Grammy winner, Collins says it is the least representative of him personally. You can see what he means as he veers away from personal issues and produces a more crafted and upbeat album. From the punchy dance inspired “Sussudio” and pounding “Only You Know and I Know” to the political comment on the then situation in Northern Ireland with the evocative “Long Long Way to Go”, Collins is distancing himself from the introspection of his first two albums There is also the story of a patient escaping a mental asylum on the wonderfully anthemic “Take Me Home” – possibly Collins’ best song. It adds up to one of his strongest collections. “Inside Out” powers along to a contagious rhythm and other upbeat songs such as “Don’t Lose My Number” and “Who Said I Would” are obviously inspired by the dance/soul numbers of the day. Even a couple of his songs dwelling on personal relationships (“I Don’t Wanna Know” and “Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore”) are played at a fast tempo – the latter propelled by Collins’ heavy drums. But he still finds a place for the slow late night plea of “One More Night” and the gorgeous Beatles-like “We Said Hello Goodbye” making this album his most balanced to date. From here on Collins would dominate the airwaves both as a solo artist and with Genesis for a further seven years.

2002’s TESTIFY is (to date) Collins’ last album containing original material. It’s a much more mellow affair reflecting on an artist about to enter a state of retirement from writing to spend more time with his family. There is a warmth to a number of the songs including the reassuring “Come with Me”, the romantic lament of “This Love This Heart”, the undulating rhythms of “Swing Low” and the lullaby closer “You Touch My Heart”. There is also a cynicism apparent on the otherwise bouncy “Don’t Get Me Started”, which seems at odds with the general feel of the album. His cover of Leo Sayer’s “Can’t Stop Loving You” was the single release and maybe hinted that whilst he could still write nice songs, like the upbeat opener “Wake Up Call”, the angst-ridden title track and the throwback “The Least You Can Do”, this batch were less hook-laden than those produced in his heyday.

Both albums have again been released with recreations of the original covers and extra CDs featuring live material, B-sides and demos.

Film Review – THE DEAD POOL (1988)

Dead Pool, The (1988; USA; Technicolor; 91m) ∗∗∗  d. Buddy Van Horn; w. Steve Sharon; ph. Jack N. Green; m. Lalo Schifrin.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan C. Kim, David Hunt, Michael Currie, Michael Goodwin, Jim Carrey, Louis Giambalvo, Darwin Gillett, Anthony Charnota, Christopher P. Beale, John Allen Vick, Jeff Richmond, Sigrid Wurschmidt. Dirty Harry Callahan must stop a sick secret contest to murder local celebrities, which includes himself as a target. Fifth and final DIRTY HARRY movie is a watchable thriller coasting on Eastwood’s star presence. Plot is far-fetched, but there is a great set-piece with a toy car carrying a bomb. Carrey as a junkie rock star grabs attention, whilst Neeson is seen in an early role. Based on a story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, Sandy Shaw and characters created by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink. [18]

Film Review – THE BIG SLEEP (1946)

Big Sleep, The (1946; USA; B&W; 114m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Howard Hawks; w. William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman; ph. Sidney Hickox; m. Max Steiner.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely, Martha Vickers, Dorothy Malone, Peggy Knudsen, Regis Toomey, Charles Waldron, Charles D. Brown, Bob Steele, Elisha Cook Jr., Louis Jean Heydt. Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he’s seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love. Classic film noir is a convoluted mystery given a huge cinematic presence through Hawks’ masterful direction and the sizzling chemistry between Bogart and Bacall. Brilliantly written pacey and combative dialogue is peppered with wisecracks delivered by a strong cast. Based on the novel by Raymond Chandler. Originally filmed in 1944, wasn’t released until two years later. Some prints derive from a slightly different early preview version (116m) with alternate footage. Remade in 1978. [PG]

Film Review – SUDDEN IMPACT (1983)

Sudden Impact (1983; USA; Technicolor; 117m) ∗∗∗  d. Clint Eastwood; w. Joseph Stinson; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Lalo Schifrin. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, Bradford Dillman, Audrie J. Neenan, Jack Thibeau, Nancy Parsons, Mara Corday, Michael Currie, Mark Keyloun, Albert Popwell, Bette Ford, Joe Bellan, Paul Drake, Kevyn Major Howard. A rape victim is exacting revenge on her aggressors in a small town outside San Francisco. Inspector Harry Callahan (Eastwood), on suspension for angering his superiors (again), is assigned to the case. Fourth DIRTY HARRY film is heavy handed, but entertaining nonetheless. The action has become more violent and cartoonish with the set pieces formulaic, but Eastwood’s screen presence is more than enough to carry the movie. Based on a story by Earl E. Smith & Charles B. Pierce. Followed by THE DEAD POOL (1989). [18]