Film Review – CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989)

Image result for crimes and misdemeanors blu-rayCrimes and Misdemeanors (1989; USA; DuArt; 104m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Sven Nykvist; m. Joe Malin (co-ordinator).  Cast: Alan Alda, Woody Allen, Martin Landau, Claire Bloom, Jerry Orbach, Mia Farrow, Anjelica Huston, Dolores Sutton, Sam Waterston, Joanna Gleason, Stephanie Roth Haberle, Gregg Edelman, Daryl Hannah, Kenny Vance, Joel Fogel. An opthamologist’s mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife, while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated by another woman. Allen’s examination of the moral dilemma is played out over two intertwining stories – one deadly and darkly serious, the other satirically comic with Allen delivering incisive one-liners. That the cocktail works beautifully is a credit to Allen’s skills as writer and director. Landau and Hustom deliver scintillatingly real performances. Alda is also superb as a pompous TV producer. [15]

Book Review – SHALL WE TELL THE PRESIDENT (1986) by Jeffrey Archer

SHALL WE TELL THE PRESIDENT by JEFFREY ARCHER (1986, Pan, 331pp) ∗∗∗

Blurb: At the end of The Prodigal Daughter, Florentyna Kane is elected President – the first woman President of the United States. At 7.30 one evening the FBI learn of a plot to kill her – the 1572nd such threat of the year. At 8.30 five people know all the details. By 9.30 four of them are dead. FBI agent Mark Andrews alone knows when. He also knows that a senator is involved. He has six days to learn where – and how. Six days to prevent certain death of the President.

This is the revised version of Archer’s original novel, which was published in 1977, with characters altered to form part of his Kane and Abel trilogy. The story is a traditional race against the clock thriller with it’s hero, FBI Mark Andrews, making a poor detective who walks past vital clues whilst attempting to foil a plot to kill America’s first female President. Archer’s writing style is a little too British for the subject matter and inconsistent – sometimes tight and at other times meandering – but he somehow manages to maintain the reader’s interest throughout. Throw in a romance with a female doctor, who happens to be the daughter of one of the mains suspects, and you also have a level of plot contrivance too. The pace quickens as the clock ticks down to an exciting , if brief, finale.

Shaft: Imitation of Life nominated for Diversity Award

It was announced today that Shaft: Imitation of Life has been nominated for the 2017 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity.  Written by David F. Walker with art work by Dietrich Smith and featuring the eponymous black hero, the comic also tackled issues of the exploitation of homosexual males in early 1970s New York. The comic followed Walker’s Shaft: A Complicated Man, which was nominated for the same award in 2015.

Film Review – ICE STATION ZEBRA (1968)

Image result for ice station zebra dvdIce Station Zebra (1968; USA; Metrocolor; 148m) ∗∗∗½  d. John Sturges; w. Douglas Heyes, Harry Julian Fink; ph. Daniel L. Fapp; m. Michel Legrand.  Cast: Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, Patrick McGoohan, Jim Brown, Tony Bill, Lloyd Nolan, Alf Kjellin, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Ted Hartley, Murray Rose, Ron Masak, Sherwood Price, Lee Stanley, Joseph Bernard. A nuclear submarine commander is dispatched to the polar ice region on a rescue mission when an emergency signal is received from a research station. It soon becomes apparent that the mission is more than just a simple rescue operation. Well cast spy drama may be overlong, but retains its interest throughout thanks to a solid script and strong performances from Hudson and McGoohan. Excellent production values and imaginative use of studio sets. Originally shown in theatres with an opening overture, which was restored for the 2005 DVD release. Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. [U]

Film Review – FRIDAY FOSTER (1975)

Image result for friday foster blu-rayFriday Foster (1975; USA; Colour; 90m) ∗∗½  d. Arthur Marks; w. Orville H. Hampton, Arthur Marks; ph. Harry J. May; m. Luchi De Jesus.  Cast: Pam Grier, Yaphet Kotto, Godfrey Cambridge, Thalmus Rasulala, Eartha Kitt, Ted Lange, Tierre Turner, Jim Backus, Scatman Crothers, Paul Benjamin, Jason Bernard, Ed Cambridge, Julius Harris, Rosalind Miles, Carl Weathers. Friday Foster (Grier), an ex-model magazine photographer, goes to Los Angeles International airport to photograph the arrival of Blake Tarr (Rasulala), the richest black man in America. Three men attempt to assassinate Tarr. Foster photographs the melee and is plunged into a web of conspiracy involving the murder of her childhood friend, a US senator, and a shadowy plan called “Black Widow”. Tonally inconsistent and lightweight late entry into the Blaxploitation genre benefits from a strong cast including Grier and Kotto, but suffers from weak script and lacklustre direction. Based on the comic strip by Jim Lawrence. [18]

Film Review – DEEPWATER HORIZON (2016)

Image result for deepwater horizon blu-rayDeepwater Horizon (2016; USA; Colour; 108m) ∗∗∗½  d. Peter Berg; w. Matthew Sand, Matthew Carnahan; ph. Enrique Chediak; m. Steve Jablonsky.  Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Kate Hudson, John Malkovich, Dylan O’Brien, Gina Rodriguez, Ethan Suplee, Brad Leland, J.D. Evermore, Joe Chrest, Chris Ashworth, Jeremy Sande, Stella Allen, Michael D. Anglin, Ilan Srulovicz, Graham McGinnis, James DuMont, Douglas M. Griffin, David Maldonado. A dramatization of the April 2010 disaster when the offshore drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Efficiently made disaster thriller. Despite occasional Hollywood-isation of events, it produces a thrilling second half. Wahlberg and Russell are excellent as are the effects and authentic production design. [12]

Book Review – SIRENS (2017) by Joseph Knox

SIRENS by JOSEPH KNOX (2017, Doubleday, 374pp) ∗∗∗∗∗

Blurb: Isabelle Rossiter has run away again. When Aidan Waits, a troubled junior detective, is summoned to her father’s penthouse home – he finds a manipulative man, with powerful friends. But retracing Isabelle’s steps through a dark, nocturnal world, Waits finds something else. An intelligent seventeen-year-old girl who’s scared to death of something. As he investigates her story, and the unsolved disappearance of a young woman just like her, he realizes Isabelle was right to run away. Soon Waits is cut loose by his superiors, stalked by an unseen killer and dangerously attracted to the wrong woman. He’s out of his depth and out of time. How can he save the girl, when he can’t even save himself?

This is a remarkably assured debut from Joseph Knox that explores the seedy criminal underworld of Manchester.  The book is a dark, modern take, on the noir-mystery genre. There are echoes of Chandler, MacDonald, et al, in Knox’s first-person narration, but more so this has an instinctive feel for time and place. It is also a depressing tale populated by characters with few, if any, redeeming qualities. Even Knox’s hero, Aidan Waits, has more than his fair share of troubles, including his own drug dependency. Despite this, Knox’s writing style keeps the reader gripped from start to finish as the mystery unravels. His use of short, one-scene chapters, and his sectioning of the book into effectively six acts, all carrying a single word title, gives the novel the structure of a TV mini-series, which this could well become. The book took Knox eight years to complete and his sense of perfection has resulted in one of the best debut crime novels in recent years. Where he will take his lead character in the promised series will be interesting, as there is a sense that Knox has put everything into this. Like his hero, I am hooked.

Film Review – ZELIG (1983)

Image result for zelig blu-rayZelig (1983; USA; B&W/DuArt; 79m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Dick Hyman.  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Mary Louise Wilson, Sal Lomita, Michael Jeter, John Rothman, Marvin Chatinover, Patrick Horgan, John Buckwalter, Stanley Swerdlow, Paul Nevens, Howard Erskine, George Hamlin, Ralph Bell, Richard Whiting. “Documentary” about a man who can look and act like whoever he’s around, and meets various famous people. Technically brilliant and cleverly scripted this is one of Allen’s most original films. The actors are seamlessly blended into the archive footage through Willis’ superb cinematography. Allen’s absurdist wit shines through in this minor gem. [PG]

Film Review – LOGAN’S RUN (1976)

Image result for logan's run blu-rayLogan’s Run (1976; USA; Metrocolor; 120m) ∗∗∗  d. Michael Anderson; w. David Zelag Goodman; ph. Ernest Laszlo; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: Michael York, Richard Jordan, Peter Ustinov, Jenny Agutter, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Anderson Jr. An idyllic sci-fi future has one major drawback: life must end at 30. Its basic anti-establishment premise is typical of the decade of it source and promises more than it eventually delivers. Its simplistic message and lack of depth are its key weaknesses. There are moments of merit, however, and technical aspects including production design (by Dale Hennessy) are sound. Won Oscar for Visual Effects (L.B. Abbott, Glen Robinson, Matthew Yuricich). Based on the novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Followed by a TV series a year later, which ran for one season. [12]

Film Review – EYE IN THE SKY (2015)

Eye in the Sky (2015; UK; Colour; 102m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Gavin Hood; w. Guy Hibbert; ph. Haris Zambarloukos; m. Paul Hepker, Mark Kilian.  Cast: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam, Iain Glen, Phoebe Fox, Kim Engelbrecht, Meganne Young. A proposed UK drone strike against Al Shabaab militants is complicated when a young girl enters the kill zone. Efficiently made morality tale about the choices made in the war on terrorism considering the risk of collateral damage and the lives that may be saved through nullifying the threat. Tension is kept high throughout the race against the clock deferment and decision making between the various political and military leaders. [15]