Doctor Who: Kerblam! (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 50m) ***½ pr. Alex Mercer; d. Jennifer Perrott; w. Pete McTighe; ph. Simon Chapman; m.Segun Akinola. Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Lee Mack, Callum Dixon, Claudia Jessie, Leo Flanagan. A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor, leading her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer: Kerblam! Obvious links to the massive growth of companies like Amazon, this does not play to the expected corporate greed sub-plot in the traditional way – instead linking the threat to anti-corporate terrorism. As such this is a refreshingly straight-forward tale, which adds to the mix elements of robo-phobia (mirroring stories such as THE ROBOTS OF DEATH). The result is one of the better entries in this otherwise disappointing series to date and there is genuine tension generated by McTighe’s script and Perrott’s direction. The performances, however, remain variable – Cole seems to be becoming more wooden by the week – but at least the companions get to be split up and given equal roles to play. [PG]
Fistful of Dollars (1964; Italy/Spain/West Germany; Technicolor; 99m) **** d. Sergio Leone; w. Víctor Andrés Catena, Jaime Comas Gil, Sergio Leone; ph. Massimo Dallamano, Federico G. Larraya; m. Ennio Morricone. Cast: Clint Eastwood, Mario Brega, Gian Maria Volonte, Marianne Koch, Jose Calvo, Wolfgang Lukschy, Joseph Egger, Sieghardt Rupp, Antonio Prieto, Margarita Lozano, Daniel Martin, Benito Stefanelli, Bruno Carotenuto, Aldo Sambrell. A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge. First of Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy is relatively low-key compared to its successors, but highly influential on the genre and demonstrates his trademark style. Eastwood’s presence is immediately apparent and the story is told with economy and style. Created inertia in the production of European Westerns – branded “Spaghetti Westerns” – with their anti-heroes and stylised violence. A remake of YOJIMBO (1961), which itself was based on the as yet unadapted 1929 novel “Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett. Not released in the US until 1967. Original title: PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI. Followed by FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965) and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). 
Doctor Who: Demons of the Punjab (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 51m) ***½ pr. Alex Mercer; d. Jamie Childs; w. Vinay Patel; ph. Denis Crossan; m.Segun Akinola. Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Shane Zaza, Amita Suman, Hamza Jeetooa, Leena Dhingra, Shaheen Khan, Shobna Gulati. India, 1947. The Doctor and her friends arrive in the Punjab, as the country is being torn apart. While Yaz attempts to discover her grandmother’s hidden history, the Doctor discovers demons haunting the land. Who are they and what do they want? Bold attempt to add emotional depth and historical significance to the series partly pays off – notably in its heart-wrenching finale. The plot is reminiscent of the Christopher Eccleston story FATHER’S DAY, in its theme of returning to a companion’s past and a tragic outcome that cannot be avoided. However, the narrative still feels cluttered due to too many companions and a need to cover broad topics in a short running time. Some of the dialogue feels anachronistic too, belying the 1947 setting. Still, an improvement on recent episodes and Whittaker continues to grow into the title role. [PG]
Shootist, The (1976; USA; Technicolor; 100m) ****½ d. Don Siegel; w. Miles Hood Swarthout, Scott Hale; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, James Stewart, Ron Howard, Richard Boone, Hugh O’Brian, Harry Morgan, John Carradine, Scatman Crothers, Bill McKinney, Rick Lenz, Sheree North, Gregg Palmer, Alfred Dennis, Dick Winslow. A dying gunfighter spends his last days looking for a way to die with a minimum of pain and a maximum of dignity. Wayne’s last film is a poignant and fitting tribute to his screen persona and one of his very best. Siegel directs with sensitivity and draws an astonishing final performance from his star. Wayne is supported by a superbly talented cast of veterans including Bacall and Stewart. Echoes of SHANE can be seen in Howard’s hero-worshipping youth. The 1901 setting, with its early automobiles, telephones and electricity, acts as a metaphor for the passing of an era where the west was ruled by the gun and Wayne’s gunfighter character is now an anachronism. Based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout. [PG]
Rooster Cogburn (1975; USA; Technicolor; 108m) ***½ d. Stuart Millar; w. Martha Hyer (as Martin Julien); ph. Harry Stradling Jr.; m. Laurence Rosenthal. Cast: John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Richard Jordan, Anthony Zerbe, Strother Martin, John McIntire, Paul Koslo, Jack Colvin, Warren Vanders, Lane Smith. Marshal Rooster Cogburn unwillingly teams up with Eula Goodnight to track down the killers of her father. Sequel to 1969’s TRUE GRIT coasts on the wonderful chemistry and performances of Wayne and Hepburn. The story itself is slim and formulaic, but the banter between the stars is more than enough to make this a rousing entertainment. Followed in 1978 by a TV adaptation of the character, with Warren Oates in the lead under the title of the original. [PG]
Halloween (2018; USA; Colour; 106m) *** d. David Gordon Green; w. David Gordon Green, Danny McBride; ph. Michael Simmonds; m. John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel A. Davies. Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle, Will Patton, Toby Huss, Miles Robbins, Haluk Bilginer, Jefferson Hall, Andi Matichak, Christopher Allen Nelson. Laurie Strode comes to her final confrontation with Michael Myers, the masked figure who has haunted her since she narrowly escaped his killing spree on Halloween night four decades ago. Whilst this ignores much of the HALLOWEEN legacy, including H2O, it recalls some of the themes of that twentieth-anniversary sequel by concentrating on the impact of the events of the 1978 original on Curtis’ character. Green lacks Carpenter’s artistic vision and use of camera and lighting, but still conjures up a solid chiller with some nice nods to the original. 
Brannigan (1975; UK; Colour; 111m) *** d. Douglas Hickox; w. Christopher Trumbo, Michael Butler, William P. McGivern, William W. Norton; ph. Gerry Fisher; m. Dominic Frontiere. Cast: John Wayne, Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson, Mel Ferrer, Ralph Meeker, John Vernon, Lesley-Anne Down, Barry Dennen, Brian Glover, James Booth, Daniel Pilon, John Stride, Arthur Batanides, Pauline Delaney, Del Henney. An American detective is sent to London to bring back an American mobster who is being held for extradition. Nice twist on the fish-out-of-water formula with Wayne coasting on his charisma. Attenborough also adds a sprightly performance to this otherwise routine crime action thriller. Hickox directs with some flair although his shooting in London often resembles a tourist film capturing as many iconic shots as possible. 
McQ (1974; USA; Technicolor; 111m) *** d. John Sturges; w. Lawrence Roman; ph. Harry Stradling Jr.; m. Elmer Bernstein. Cast: John Wayne, Eddie Albert, Diana Muldaur, Colleen Dewhurst, Julie Adams, Clu Gulager, David Huddleston, Al Lettieri, Jim Watkins, Roger E. Mosley. A Police Lieutenant investigates the killing of his best friend and uncovers corrupt elements. Wayne tries his hand at the urban crime thriller genre in this DIRTY HARRY surrogate. Sturges’ direction is lacking in flair and a feel for the genre whilst the script is a little flabby. The result is a routine plot enlivened by a neat finale and Wayne’s presence. Jazzy Bernstein score is also a plus. Good use of Seattle locations. 
MY BOOK OF GENESIS (2017) ****
by Richard Macphail (with Chris Charlesworth; Foreword by Peter Gabriel)
Published by Argyll & Bute, 2017, 234pp
Blurb: School friend, aide-de-camp and tour manager, Richard Macphail was for almost five years the glue that held Genesis together, and in his affectionate memoir My Book of Genesis he tells his own unique story of the group’s early years. Richard was the singer in Anon, the Charterhouse school group that included Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips, which would later merge with Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks’ group The Garden Wall to become Genesis. Richard then became their one-man road crew, shepherding them from gig to gig, providing a cottage where they could live and rehearse and offering support when it was most needed. Richard was there when Phil Collins was auditioned, when Steve Hackett was recruited to replace Anthony Phillips and when Peter Gabriel left for a solo career. He was in the thick of it as they fulfilled their ambitions, signing to Charisma, touring Europe and America and recording a series of albums that fans fondly remember as the bedrock of Genesis’ extraordinary career. In his book’s final chapters he describes his ongoing relationship with Peter, Mike, Tony, Phil and Steve, a friendship that has endured for over 50 years. Featuring contributions from all the members of Genesis and co-written with former Melody Maker journalist Chris Charlesworth, My Book Of Genesis is both revealing and forthright, an insider’s account that fans will treasure.
An interesting account of the rise of a rock group in the days when bands had to work for their success. Some lovely stories and anecdotes of the author’s time with Genesis, from their beginnings at Charterhouse through to them cementing their prog-rock status in 1973 with “Selling England by the Pound”. Macphail was the unsung hero and his enthusiasm and encouragement helped to see the band through some early setbacks. He was the band’s champion, driver, technician, sound engineer, road manager and cook through their formative years and all the band contribute to his story, confirming their gratitude toward a free spirit who they saw as a sixth member.
Doctor Who: The Tsuranga Conundrum (TV) (2018; UK; Colour; 51m) ** pr. Alex Mercer; d. Jennifer Perrott; w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Simon Chapman; m.Segun Akinola. Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Brett Goldstein, Lois Chimimba, Suzanne Packer, Ben Bailey Smith. Injured and stranded in the wilds of a far-flung galaxy, The Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan must band together with a group of strangers to survive against one of the universe’s most deadly — and unusual — creatures. After a strong start to this beautifully designed episode things spiral downwards very quickly with a monster fresh out of a Warner Brothers cartoon (was the Pting based on Looney Toons’ Tasmanian Devil?) and some unnecessary emphasis on political correctness by having a pregnant man give birth to a baby boy in a world where seemingly gender parentage is the norm. If Chibnall and the production team could just have concentrated on what could have been an effective sci-fi chiller, without the need for constantly having to tick-box the PC list and with a better-designed monster, then this could have been a winner. As it stands the only real positive, outside of the production design, is Whittaker’s most assured performance to date as the Doctor. [PG]