Film Review – HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER (1998)

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998; USA; Colour; 86m) ***  d. Steve Miner; w. Robert Zappia, Matt Greenberg; ph. Daryn Okada; m. John Ottman, Jeremy Sweet.  Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Michelle Williams, Josh Hartnett, Adam Arkin, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, LL Cool J, Adam Hann-Byrd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Janet Leigh, Chris Durand. Laurie Strode, now the dean of a Northern California private school with an assumed name, must battle the Shape one last time and now the life of her own son hangs in the balance. Horror sequel is a largely effective thriller with its fair share of tension and shocks. Curtis returns to the franchise and delivers a performance of depth, which stands out against more familiar genre material. Let down by its insistence on going for one climax too many. Early role for Hartnett as Curtis’ faithful son. Followed by HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002). [18]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: ARACHNIDS IN THE UK (2018)

Image result for doctor who arachnids in the ukDoctor Who: Arachnids in the UK (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 50m) ***  pr. Alex Mercer; d. Sallie Aprahamian; w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Tico Poulakakis; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Chris Noth, Shobna Gulati, Tanya Fear, Ravin J Ganatra, Bhavnisha Parmar, Jaleh Alp, William Meredith, Sharon D Clarke. The Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan find their way back to Yorkshire – and Yaz’s family – only to find something is stirring amidst the eight-legged arachnid population of Sheffield. This episode is an ecological sci-fi/horror tale, which plays to the fears of arachnophobes by introducing us to toxically mutated spiders running amok. Some effective scares and jump moments are offset by a script with some unfilled holes and a performance from Noth as a Trump-like political figure that is over-the-top in the extreme. The TARDIS crew are developing nicely, however, and Walsh continues to bring warmth to his bereaved character. Whittaker is finding her feet well and overcomes some of the script’s weak dialogue with the force of her personality. The spiders are brilliantly realised by the effects team. An abrupt conclusion, which fails to explain satisfactorily how the spider threat to the city is overcome on a broader scale means this episode can at best be seen as entertaining but is undeniably dramatically flawed by overplaying its comedic elements. [PG]

Film Review – BIG JAKE (1971)

Image result for big jake 1971Big Jake (1971; USA; Technicolor; 110m) ***  d. George Sherman; w. Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: John Wayne, Richard Boone, Patrick Wayne, Christopher Mitchum, Bruce Cabot, Bobby Vinton, Glenn Corbett, John Doucette, Maureen O’Hara, Jim Davis, John Agar, Harry Carey Jr. In 1909, when John Fain’s gang kidnaps Jacob McCandles’ grandson and holds him for ransom, Big Jake sets out to rescue the boy. Latter-day Western has heightened violence, being based on a script by DIRTY HARRY screenplay writers the Finks, that sometimes jars with often lighter tone. Interesting twist in setting this tale in the early 1900s creates neat counter-balance of the old West and the new West. Wayne representing the old west is in good form with a support cast of familiar faces including Boone as chief villain. O’Hara is under-utilised however. Director Sherman’s final film. [15]

Film Review – RIO LOBO (1970)

Image result for rio lobo 1970Rio Lobo (1970; USA; Technicolor; 114m) ***  d. Howard Hawks; w. Burton Wohl, Leigh Brackett; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: John Wayne, Jack Elam, Jennifer O’Neill, Jorge Rivero, Christopher Mitchum, Victor French, Sherry Lansing, Susana Dosamantes, Mike Henry, David Huddleston, Bill Williams, Edward Faulkner. After the Civil War, Wayne searches for the traitor whose perfidy caused the defeat of his unit and the loss of a close friend. Hawks and Wayne team up for a final time in this entertaining, if derivative and slightly tired Western. Wayne and Elam, as a trigger-happy old rancher, stand out against a young and inexperienced cast delivering inconsistent performances. The finale replays that of RIO BRAVO (1959), which the team had previously riffed in EL DORADO (1966). Partly shot in Old Tuscon. Hawks’ final film. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: ROSA (2018)

Doctor Who: Rosa (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 50m) **½  pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Mark Tonderai; w. Malorie Blackman, Chris Chibnall; ph. Tico Poulakakis; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Vinette Robinson, Joshua Bowman, Trevor White, Richard Lothian, Jessica Claire Preddy, Gareth Marks, David Rubin, Ray Sesay, Aki Omoshaybi, David Dukas, Morgan Deare.  Montgomery, Alabama. 1955. The Doctor and her friends find themselves in the Deep South of America. As they encounter a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks, they begin to wonder whether someone is attempting to change history. A well-meaning episode that boldly tackles racism in 1950s Southern USA and the moral stand that leads to the raised focus on the Civil Rights Movement is hampered by a heavy-handed script and inconsistent performances. Whittaker is still finding her feet as the Doctor whilst Robinson is excellent as the dignified Rosa, but her performance is undermined by clumsy scripting and Cole’s increasingly annoying naivety as Ryan. Bowman’s time-travelling escaped convict, Krasko, has got to be one of the series’ least convincing villains. Composer Akinola tries to add menace to the character through his foreboding score, but only succeeds in making it seem like a parody. The South African locations double well for Alabama and again the technical credits are top-notch.  The overwrought song delivered over the end titles lashes on the emotion with a trowel. With a more considered script and a stronger cast, this could have been a dramatically powerful tale, as all the elements are there, but we’re left with what feels like a missed opportunity. [12]

Book Review – IN THE LINE OF FIRE (1993) by Max Allan Collins

IN THE LINE OF FIRE (1993) ****
by Max Allan Collins (based on the screenplay written by Jeff Maguire)
Published by HarperCollins, 1993, 262pp
ISBN: 0-00-647856-5

Image result for in the line of fire max allan collinsBlurb: It was his job to safeguard the destiny of the nation. But at the crucial moment, Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan was a split second too late. Now, after a lifetime of second thoughts and second guesses, Frank Horrigan is about to get a second chance. And this time, he’ll be ready.

Movie novelisations were a common site on paperback shelves back in the days before home video. At the time they were the only way to relive a movie in the comfort of your own home as films would, as a rule, not be screened on TV for at least 5 years after the release date. This particular book was published in 1993 to coincide with the release of the Clint Eastwood vehicle directed by Wolfgang Petersen. The film is one of Eastwood’s very best. A taut, suspenseful and efficiently made thriller. Eastwood’s significant screen presence and charisma gave depth and likeability to a character carrying years of guilt about not having been able to prevent the assassination of President John F Kennedy in 1963.

Here, Jeff Maguire’s lean screenplay has been worked into a novel by popular pulp writer Max Allan Collins. The result is a book that is as slick as the movie. Collins’ prose style effectively captures the narrative drive of Petersen’s movie. It is told mainly from the perspective of the two protagonists – Frank Horrigan and wacko Mitch Leary, who is out to extract revenge on the US Government by killing the President. It is difficult to convey John Malkovich’s creepy performance as Leary on the printed page, but for anyone who has seen the movie the imprint of Eastwood and Malkovich will loom large over the crackling dialogue between the two characters as Leary leads Horrigan on a cat-and-mouse chase. There are one or two elements that vary from the final film presented on screen, presumably changes that had been made to Maguire’s screenplay on set, but overall this is a thoroughly entertaining and quick read that accurately captures the excitement of the movie.

Film Review – CHISUM (1970)

Image result for chisum 1970Chisum (1970; USA; Technicolor; 111m) ***½  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Andrew J. Fenady; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dominic Frontiere.  Cast: John Wayne, Forrest Tucker, Christopher George, Ben Johnson, Glenn Corbett, Bruce Cabot, Andrew Prine, Patric Knowles, Richard Jaeckel, John Agar, Lynda Day George, Pamela McMyler, Lloyd Battista, Robert Donner, Geoffrey Deuel. Cattle baron John Chisum joins forces with Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett to fight the Lincoln County land war. One of the best of Wayne’s latter-day Westerns. It may not be historically accurate, but it makes for a rousing entertainment with a sharp script. McLaglen directs with style and a great sense of landscape. Johnson scores as Wayne’s mumbling sidekick. Wonderful score by Frontiere. Durango, Mexico. Fenady adapted his short story “Chisum and the Lincoln County Cattle War”. [PG]

Film Review – THE UNDEFEATED (1969)

Image result for the undefeated 1969Undefeated, The (1969; USA; DeLuxe; 119m) ***  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. James Lee Barrett, Stanley Hough; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Hugo Montenegro.  Cast: John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Bruce Cabot, Ben Johnson, John Agar, Antonio Aguilar, Lee Meriwether, Roman Gabriel, Merlin Olsen, Harry Carey Jr., Royal Dano, Marian McCargo, Melissa Newman, Jan-Michael Vincent, Edward Faulkner, Paul Fix. After the Civil War, ex-Union and ex-Confederate Colonels are leading two disparate groups of people through strife-torn Mexico.  Boisterous Western, typical of its director and the late career of Wayne. Hudson is the surprise package, turning in a dignified performance as the proud defeated Confederate Colonel. Some memorable set-pieces atone for the routine nature of the story and a disappointing finale. Nice use of locations in Sierra de Órganos National Park in Mexico. Based on the novel by Lewis B. Patten. [PG]

Film Review – TRUE GRIT (1969)

Image result for true grit 1969True Grit (1969; USA; Technicolor; 128m) ****  d. Henry Hathaway; w. Marguerite Roberts; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: John Wayne, Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Glen Campbell, Strother Martin, Jeremy Slate, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey, Donald Woods, Alfred Ryder, Ron Soble, John Fiedler, James Westerfield, John Doucette, Edith Atwater. A drunken, hard-nosed U.S. Marshal and a Texas Ranger help a stubborn young woman track down her father’s murderer in Indian territory. Scenic western with Wayne enjoying himself immensely in one of his best-remembered performances as Rooster Cogburn and Darby also excellent as young Mattie Ross. Hathaway paces the story just right and Duvall impresses as Wayne’s outlaw nemesis. Superbly photographed utilising stunning Colorado locations aided by a rousing Bernstein score. The only film for which Wayne ever won an Oscar. Based on the novel by Charles Portis. Followed by ROOSTER COGBURN (1975) and a TV pilot in 1978. Remade in 2010. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE GHOST MONUMENT (2018)

Doctor Who: The Ghost Monument (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 48m) ***½  pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Mark Tonderai; w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Tico Poulakakis; m.Segun Akinola.  Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Susan Lynch, Shaun Dooley, Art Malik.  Still reeling from their first encounter, can the Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough in a hostile alien environment to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom and Epzo? A perfunctory story is enhanced by excellent production values, visual effects and effective use of South African locations to create an alien environment. Whittaker continues to grow into the role of the Doctor, but her excessive crew of three companions leaves little room for individual character development and a vying for screen time. Malik is wasted in a mysterious role, whilst Lynch and Dooley do their best to bring life and motivation to their competitive characters. Whilst the storyline is refreshingly simple, it is also lacking in any real sense of peril – as the night threat is all too easily dispatched. There is promise here that the series can develop, but it will need to find space to allow its ensemble cast to breathe and develop in a format seemingly restricted to standalone episodes and a lack of two-parters, which would allow the stories and characters the requisite room. [PG]