Film Review – KILLER JOE (2011)

Image result for killer joe 2011Killer Joe (2011; USA; Colour; 102m) ***½  d. William Friedkin; w. Tracy Letts; ph. Caleb Deschanel; m. Tyler Bates.  Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Thomas Haden Church, Gina Gershon, Juno Temple, Charley Vance, Gregory Bachaud, Marc Macaulay. When a debt puts a young man’s life in danger, he turns to putting a hit out on his evil mother in order to collect the insurance. Brilliantly acted and darkly comic crime thriller suffers from the occasional misstep – notably in its overly sensational climax. The plot is simple, but cleverly executed and the dialogue is naturalistic. McConaughey is the standout as the detective/hitman with psychotic tendencies beneath a cool and charming facade. Church is also very good as the dim-witted husband of opportunistic Gershon. A tough watch for some, again notably in the final act, this demonstrates Friedkin hasn’t lost his appetite to challenge his audience. Letts adapted her own play. [18]

Film Review – MILLER’S CROSSING (1990)

Image result for miller's crossing 1990 posterMiller’s Crossing (1990; USA; DuArt; 115m) ***  d. Joel Coen; w. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; ph. Barry Sonnenfeld; m. Carter Burwell.  Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, Albert Finney, Jon Polito, J.E. Freeman, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, Mike Starr, Richard Woods, Al Mancini, Sam Raimi, Frances McDormand. In the 1920s, an Irish gangster and his trusted lieutenant and counsellor find their domination of the town threatened by an ambitious Italian underboss. The Coen Brothers mix traditional gangster movie tropes with very black comedy to produce a lively but ultimately frustrating tale of false loyalties. It starts out well, establishing the key character of Byrne as he plays off Finney against Polito, but the story descends into an increasingly implausible sequence of double-crosses. Good period detail and handsome photography, along with frequently sharp dialogue, are the highlights. Based on the novels “Red Harvest” and “Glass Key” by Dashiell Hammett, which previously were filmed as or inspired ROADHOUSE NIGHTS (1930), YOJIMBO (1961) and FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964). [15]

Film Review – ENEMY OF THE STATE (1998)

Image result for enemy of the state 1998Enemy of the State (1998; USA; Technicolor; 132m) ***½  d. Tony Scott; w. David Marconi; ph. Daniel Mindel; m. Harry Gregson-Williams, Trevor Rabin.  Cast: Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Regina King, Stuart Wilson, Loren Dean, Jake Busey, Barry Pepper, Jason Robards, Laura Cayouette, Ian Hart, Scott Caan, Jason Lee, Jack Black. A lawyer becomes a target by a corrupt politician and his NSA goons when he accidentally receives key evidence to a serious politically motivated crime. Exciting and frenetically edited, if slightly overlong, action thriller plays on public paranoia with privacy and mistrust of government. Smith is good as cynical everyman caught up in a conspiracy. Hackman is reliable as ever as surveillance expert who comes to his rescue. Extended version runs to 140m. [15]

Film Review – INTO THE BLUE (2005)

Into the Blue (2005) v1 by DrDarkDoomInto the Blue (2005; USA; DeLuxe; 110m) **½  d. John Stockwell; w. Matt Johnson; ph. Shane Hurlbut; m. Paul Haslinger.  Cast: Paul Walker, Jessica Alba, Scott Caan, Ashley Scott, Josh Brolin, James Frain, Tyson Beckford, Chris Taloa, Ramon Saunders, Adam Collins, Dwayne Adway, Javon Frazer, Peter R.V. Bowleg Jr., Clifford McIntosh, Gill Montie. A group of divers find themselves in deep trouble with a drug lord after they come upon the illicit cargo of a sunken airplane. Underwater action thriller aimed at the teen-plus market benefits from gorgeous locations and photography. However, it is dampened by a derivative script, familiar suspense and banal two-dimensional characters. Followed by a direct-to-video sequel INTO THE BLUE 2: THE REEF (2009). [15]

Film Review – THE DEEP (1977)

Image result for the deep 1977 movie posterDeep, The (1977; USA; Metrocolor; 123m) ***  d. Peter Yates; w. Peter Benchley, Tracy Keenan Wynn; ph. Christopher Challis; m. John Barry.  Cast: Robert Shaw, Jacqueline Bisset, Nick Nolte, Louis Gossett Jr., Eli Wallach, Dick Anthony Williams, Bob Minor, Robert Tessier, Earl Maynard, Teddy Tucker, Lee McClain, Peter Benchley, Peter Wallach, Colin Shaw. A pair of young vacationers are involved in a dangerous conflict with treasure hunters when they discover a way into a deadly wreck in Bermuda waters. Riding on the coat-tails of JAWS, this underwater adventure lacks the thrills and tight editing of its inspiration. The positives are the sumptuous photography, shot on location in Bermuda, and Barry’s lush score. Shaw is also at his abrasive best, whilst Nolte and Bisset look good for the camera. The version aired in the original ABC network telecast contained 53m of extra footage. Based on the novel by Peter Benchley. [PG]

Film Review – THE BIG STEAL (1949)

The Big Steal 1949 U.S. Half Sheet PosterBig Steal, The (1949; USA; B&W; 71m) ***  d. Don Siegel; w. Daniel Mainwaring (as Geoffrey Homes), Gerald Drayson Adams; ph. Harry J. Wild; m. Leigh Harline.  Cast: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, William Bendix, Patric Knowles, Ramon Novarro, Don Alvarado, John Qualen, Pascual García Peña. An army lieutenant accused of robbery pursues the real thief on a frantic chase through Mexico aided by the thief’s fiancee. Simple plot is essentially an elongated chase punctuated by fight scenes and gun battles. It is tightly directed in his to be trademark efficient manner by Siegel. Mitchum and Greer are the main sell here and they display strong chemistry trading witty dialogue. There is a lightness of touch to proceedings that tells its audience not to take things too seriously. The movie was filmed in Los Angeles and on location in Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico. Based on the story “The Road to Carmichael’s” by Richard Wormser. [PG]

Film Review – CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948)

Image result for call northside 777Call Northside 777 (1948; USA; B&W; 112m) ***½  d. Henry Hathaway; w. Jerome Cady, Jay Dratler, Leonard Hoffman, Quentin Reynolds; ph. Joseph MacDonald; m. Alfred Newman.  Cast: James Stewart, Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb, Helen Walker, E.G. Marshall, Kasia Orzazewski, Betty Garde, Moroni Olsen, John McIntire, Paul Harvey, Joanne De Bergh, Howard Smith, Michael Chapin, Samuel S. Hinds, George Pembroke. Chicago reporter P.J. McNeal re-opens a ten-year-old murder case. Documentary-style telling is a little stiff at times and the story is certainly slow to start but it gains significant momentum in its final act. Stewart is as dependable as ever as the hard-nosed reporter and Garde stands out in an interesting supporting cast. The photography is evocative in the film noir style of the day, with contrasting light and shadow making this a technically effective, if dramatically uneven, piece of film-making. First credited film role of McIntire. Based on articles by James P. McGuire. [U]

Film Review – UNFORGIVEN (1992)

Unforgiven (1992; USA; Technicolor; 131m) ****½  d. Clint Eastwood; w. David Webb Peoples; ph. Jack N. Green; m. Lennie Niehaus.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris, Saul Rubinek, Frances Fisher, Rob Campbell, Anthony James, Shane Meier, Jaimz Woolvett, Anna Levine, David Mucci, Tara Frederick, Liisa Repo-Martell, Beverley Elliott. A retired Old West gunslinger reluctantly takes on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man. Eastwood’s revisionist Western strips away the old mythology surrounding the gunfighters and the lawmen, delivering the vulnerable and violent reality of killing. The film is perfectly paced to capture the nuances in the script and the performances of a wonderful cast, with Hackman, Harris, Freeman and Eastwood all turning in note perfect interpretations. Gentle acoustic score by Niehaus adds melancholy to the mix.  Winner of four Oscars: Best Picture; Actor in a Supporting Role (Hackman); Director and Film Editing. Only the third Western to ever win the Best Picture Oscar. The other two being DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) and CIMARRON (1931). The final screen credit reads, “Dedicated to Sergio and Don”, referring to Eastwood’s mentors, Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. [15]

Book Review – AN OBVIOUS FACT (2016) by Craig Johnson

AN OBVIOUS FACT by CRAIG JOHNSON (2016; Penguin; 318pp) ***
An Obvious Fact by Craig JohnsonBlurbIn the midst of the largest motorcycle rally in the world, a young biker is run off the road and ends up in critical condition. When Sheriff Walt Longmire and his good friend Henry Standing Bear are called to Hulett, Wyoming—the nearest town to America’s first national monument, Devils Tower—to investigate, things start getting complicated. As competing biker gangs; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; a military-grade vehicle donated to the tiny local police force by a wealthy entrepreneur; and Lola, the real-life femme fatale and namesake for Henry’s ’59 Thunderbird (and, by extension, Walt’s granddaughter) come into play, it rapidly becomes clear that there is more to get to the bottom of at this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally than a bike accident. After all, in the words of Arthur Conan Doyle, whose Adventures of Sherlock Holmes the Bear won’t stop quoting, ”There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
The twelfth novel in Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series is an entertaining read, but shows signs of complacency setting in. Johnson writes engaging characters and witty dialogue, but there is something a little blase about the way they go about their business in this story. The humour is turned up and the thrills turned down and everything feels a little comfortable. The mystery itself isn’t as engaging as the plots in earlier books either. and the whole thing is wrapped up rather conveniently in the epilogue. That said I was never bored and this is probably the fastest and easiest read in the series – the novellas and short stories excepted – just not very challenging. Hopefully, this is not the beginning of a downward turn and The thirteenth novel, The Western Star, will be a return to form.

The Walt Longmire Series:

The Cold Dish (2004) ****
Death Without Company (2006) ****
Kindness Goes Unpunished (2007) ****
Another Man’s Moccasins (2009) ****
The Dark Horse (2010) ****
Junkyard Dogs (2010) *****
Hell is Empty (2011) ****
As the Crow Flies (2012) ****
A Serpent’s Tooth (2013) ****
Spirit of Steamboat (2013 – novella) ****
Any Other Name (2014) ****½
Wait for Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories (2014 – short story collection) ****
Dry Bones (2015) ****
The Highwayman (2016 – novella) ***½
An Obvious Fact (2016) ***
The Western Star (2017)

TV Review – COME HOME (2018)

Image result for come home tv series 2018Come Home (2018; UK; Colour; 3 x 60m) ***  pr. Madonna Baptiste; d. Andrea Harkin; w. Danny Brocklehurst; ph. Joel Devlin; m. Murray Gold.  Cast. Christopher Eccleston,  Paula Malcomson, Kerri Quinn, Anthony Boyle, Lola Petticrew, Darcey McNeeley, Brandon Brownlee, Patrick O’Kane, Brid Brennan, Derbhle Crotty, Rory Keenan.  When mother Marie (Malcolmson) mysteriously leaves the family home, the repercussions are enormous, but when secrets are revealed from the past, both Marie and her husband Greg (Eccleston) realise they can’t just walk away from their lives. At times this often intense drama captures the depths of despair from both sides of the story with its structuring geared around a balanced perspective and a final episode designed to weight the arguments equally, leading to an almost inevitable conclusion. The story is therefore both authentic and ultimately disappointing. Authentic in that it does not go for the big dramatic climax and disappointing in that the climax itself is anticlimactic. Technical values are good, if at times the camerawork is overly self-indulgent. The performances from Eccleston and Malcolmson feel real and honest. In the end, though, you are left with more of a feeling of voyeurism than engagement – as if you’ve been watching real-life without the protagonists permission. This may well have been the intention, but the result is a good drama that somehow misses out on being something with more to say.