Patriots Day (2016; USA; Colour; 133m) ∗∗∗½ d. Peter Berg; w. Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Joshua Zetumer, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson; ph. Tobias A. Schliessler; m. Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross. Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Wolff, Melissa Benoist, Michael Beach, Khandi Alexander, Erica McDermott, Lana Condor, Dean Neistat, Vincent Curatola, John Enos III. The story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists responsible. Stirring and heartfelt recounting of the events, authentically recreated and only occasionally does the script lapse into genre conventions. Performances are strong and the inclusion of real footage into the mix brings home the horror of the bombings and their aftermath. Touching scenes at the end of the film capture interviews with real victims and police officers. 
Stargate (1994; France/USA; DeLuxe; 121m) ∗∗∗ d. Roland Emmerich; w. Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich; ph. Karl Walter Lindenlaub; m. David Arnold. Cast: James Spader, Kurt Russell, Jaye Davidson, Viveca Lindfors, Alexis Cruz, Mili Aveital, Leon Rippy, John Diehl, Carlos Lauchu, Djimon Hounsou, Erick Avari, French Stewart, Gianin Loffler, Christopher John Fields, Derek Webster. An interstellar teleportation device, found in Egypt, leads to a planet with humans resembling ancient Egyptians who worship the god Ra. It makes up in scope and heart what it lacks in originality. This may not challenge the brain, but is a rousing and action-packed sci-fi/fantasy adventure. Spader scores as a linguist forced into the centre of the action and Russell emits cool as the leader of the military reconnaissance team. Special Edition runs 128m and Director’s Cut 130m. Followed by a TV franchise commencing with Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007). [PG]
THE DRY by JANE HARPER (2016, Abacus, 404pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: Who really killed the Hadler family? In the small town of Kiewarra, it hasn’t rained for two years. Swept up in the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, the town crackles with seething malice and unvoiced grudges. Tensions in the community are at breaking point when three members of the Hadler family are suddenly brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty, but is he just an easy scapegoat? Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.
Jane Harper’s debut novel is a confident mystery thriller with an evocative closed community setting. The book links together two mysteries – one in the present, the other from twenty years earlier. Harper’s detective hero, Aaron Falk, is linked to the mystery from the past via his friend, Luke Hadler, who along with his family are the victims of the mystery of the present. Both are seeming suicides and may be linked. The book unravels these mysteries through clever use of flashback passages, frequently interspersed with the present day case. Chapters and scenes are edited so as to keep the reader turning the pages. The characters are vividly drawn and the reader is left guessing right up until the reveal. A strong debut for a proposed series.
Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light (TV) (2017: UK: Colour: 42m) ∗∗∗½ pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Charles Palmer; w. Rona Munro; ph. Mark Waters; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Pearl Mackie , Michelle Gomez, Rebecca Benson, Daniel Kerr, Brian Vernel, Rohan Nedd, Ben Hunter, Sam Adewunmi, Billy Matthews, Aaron Phagura, Jocelyn Brassington, Lewis McGowan. A long time ago, the ninth legion of the Roman army vanished into the mists of Scotland. Bill has a theory about what happened, and the Doctor has a time machine. But when they arrive in ancient Aberdeenshire, what they find is a far greater threat than any army. In a cairn, on a hillside, is a doorway leading to the end of the world. Another variant on the ‘monster of the week’ theme, working slightly better than EMPRESS OF MARS thanks to a more polished script from Munro (the only writer from the original series to pen a story since the 2005 relaunch – 1989’s SURVIVAL, the last broadcast story of the original run. What lets the episode down is the variable performances given by the young guest cast, contrasting with the confident ones from the regulars, some dodgy CGI and an overly neat ending. Its familiarity actually makes a welcome break from Moffat’s high concept episodes and is a diverting enough tale. 
Ipcress File, The (1965; UK; Technicolor; 109m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Sidney J. Furie; w. W.H. Canaway, James Doran; ph. Otto Heller; m. John Barry. Cast: Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Guy Doleman, Sue Lloyd, Gordon Jackson, Aubrey Richards, Frank Gatliff, Thomas Baptiste, Oliver MacGreevy, Freda Bamford, Pauline Winter, Anthony Blackshaw, Barry Raymond, David Glover, Stanley Meadows. In London, a counter espionage agent deals with his own bureaucracy while investigating the kidnapping and brainwashing of British scientists. First-rate and gritty spy thriller with a typically complex plot. Caine’s hero is the antithesis of James Bond, with his ordinary lifestyle and lack of glamour. Brainwashing sequence in the final act is effectively shot and acted. John Barry’s moody score adds significantly to the cold atmosphere of espionage and deceit. Based on the book by Len Deighton. Followed by two sequels – FUNERAL IN BERLIN (1966) and BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN (1967) – and later two direct to video releases – BULLET TO BEIJING (1995) and MIDNIGHT IN SAINT PETERSBURG (1996). [PG]
Death Wish (1974; USA; Technicolor; 93m) ∗∗½ d. Michael Winner; w. Wendell Mayes; ph. Arthur J. Ornitz; m. Herbert Hancock. Cast: Charles Bronson, Vincent Gardenia, William Redfield, Hope Lange, Stuart Margolin, Stephen Keats, William Redfield, Jack Wallace, Jeff Goldblum. A New York City architect becomes a one-man vigilante squad after his wife is murdered by street punks in which he randomly goes out and kills would-be muggers on the mean streets after dark. Sensationalist crime thriller became influential because of its subject matter and its connection with the public due to the time at which it was filmed, rather than for the quality of the product. Gardenia’s performance adds a level of class to this crowd-pleaser, but Winner’s direction is inconsistent and lacks subtlety. Film debut of Goldblum. Based on the novel by Brian Garfield. Four sequels followed. Remade in 2017. 
Doctor Who: Empres of Mars (TV) (2017: UK: Colour: 44m) ∗∗∗ pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Wayne Che Yip; w. Mark Gatiss; ph. Stuart Biddlecombe; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Pearl Mackie , Michelle Gomez, Anthony Calf, Ferdinand Kingsley, Richard Ashton, Adele Lynch, Glenn Speers, Ian Beattie, Bayo Gbadamosi, Ian Hughes, Lesley Ewen. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole arrive on Mars, and find themselves in an impossible conflict between Ice Warriors… and Victorian soldiers. As the Martian hive awakens around them, the Doctor faces a unique dilemma – this time the humans, not the Ice Warriors are the invaders. When Earth is invading Mars, whose side is he on? A return to the “monster of the week” format and a hark back to the stories of the 1960s with a post-modern twist. It’s all entertaining enough without really generating any suspense. The underground setting proves restrictive and the Ice Warriors lack the menace of old, being portrayed as hulking monsters with thudding footsteps. 
THE REDEEMERS by ACE ATKINS (2015, Corsair, 370pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: He is only in his early thirties, but now Quinn Colson is jobless – voted out of office as sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi, thanks to the machinations of county kingpin Johnny Stagg. He has offers, in bigger and better places, but before he goes, he’s got one more job to do – bring down Stagg’s criminal operations for good. At least that’s the plan. But in the middle of the long, hot summer, a trio of criminals stage a bold, wall-smashing break-in at the home of a local lumber mill owner, making off with a million dollars in cash from his safe, which is curious, because the mill owner is wealthy – but not that wealthy. None of this has anything to do with Colson, but during the investigation, two men are killed, one of them the new sheriff. His friend, acting sheriff Lillie Virgil, and a dangerous former flame, Anna Lee Stevens, both ask him to step in, and reluctantly he does, only to discover that that safe contained more than just money – it held secrets. Secrets that could either save Colson – or destroy him once and for all.
The fifth novel in Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson series is the closest the author has come to emulating one of his writing heroes – Elmore Leonard. The story is populated with the type of characters Leonard employed in many of his crime novels set in the modern west. The plot itself is slight, being centred around a robbery, but the character interaction, double-crossing and the bigger picture of Colson’s mission to put Johnny Stagg behind bars keep the pages turning. Atkins has a great handle on his characters and embellishes them through their salty dialogue. Whilst the plot itself reaches a conclusion, some of the domestic threads that have ran through the series are left loose. there is also a signal in the series taking a change of direction in its final pages. Another strong addition to an excellent series.
Seven Men from Now (1956; USA; Colour; 78m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Budd Boetticher; w. Burt Kennedy; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Henry Vars. Cast: Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, Lee Marvin, Walter Reed, John Larch, Don ‘Red’ Barry, Fred Graham, John Beradino, John Phillips, Chuck Roberson, Stuart Whitman, Pamela Duncan. Ex-sheriff Ben Stride tracks the seven men who held up a Wells Fargo office and killed his wife. Tightly directed Western with Scott in fine form as the brooding ex-sheriff and Marvin also excellent as a chancer looking to profit. Scenic photography and the smitten Russell add to the ingredients, making this one of the finest of the star and directors’ collaborations. [PG]
Hollow Point, The (2016; USA; Colour; 97m) ∗∗ d. Gonzalo López-Gallego; w. Nils Lyew; ph. José David Montero; m. Juan Navazo. Cast: Patrick Wilson, Ian McShane, James Belushi, Lynn Collins, John Leguizamo, Nathan Stevens, Michael Flynn, Karli Hall, Heather Beers. A new sheriff of a small town along the U.S. & Mexico border investigates a drug cartel deal that went horribly wrong. Dark, violent modern Western. Efficiently made but the sensationalist script leaves us with no-one to root for and there is little in terms of scope outside of its formulaic chase thriller premise. McShane fails to convince as a Texas sheriff and Wilson struggles to hit the right note as his deputy.