Shaft #4 – first review

tumblr_ni946mTKiM1rfyagfo1_500BlackNerdProblems have published an advance review of the latest issue of David Walker’s Shaft comic book series, due to be released on 4 March. The review is another positive recommendation awarding an 8 out of 10 rating and stating in its summary:

“Between the mid-life crisis, revenge, and survival, Shaft is one of the best reads on shelves, and as a resident of Harlem I can’t help but enjoy the history and landscape. Looking forward to the story coming to a head and seeing what happens when Shaft comes face to face with Arletha’s killer. However he handles it is bound to change him, for better or worse.”

The art work for the main cover (above) is again by Denys Cowan & Bill Sienkiewicz.

Film Review Round-up – JOHNNY GUITAR (1954); THE MARCUS-NELSON MURDERS (1973) and THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (2011)

51H5XHQ9HGLJohnny Guitar (1954; USA; Trucolor; 110m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Nicholas Ray; w. Philip Yordan; ph. Harry Stradling Sr.; m. Victor Young; ed. Richard L. Van Enger.  Cast: Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Scott Brady, Mercedes McCambridge, Ward Bond, Ernest Borgnine, John Carradine, Royal Dano, Ben Cooper. A strong willed female saloon owner is wrongly suspected of murder and bank robbery by a lynch mob, when she helps a wounded gang member. Stylish and original western is superbly directed by Ray and performed by a strong cast with Crawford and McCambridge standouts as feuding strong-willed women. Hayden is also excellent as the gunfighter who has a thing for Crawford. Filmed on location at Sedona, Arizona and at Red Rock Crossing. Entered 2008 into the National Film Registry. Based on the novel by Roy Chanslor. [PG]

41NVPY92GGL._SY300_Marcus-Nelson Murders, The (TV) (1973; USA; Technicolor; 137m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Joseph Sargent; w. Abby Mann; ph. Mario Tosi; m. Billy Goldenberg; ed. Carl Pingitore, Richard M. Sprague.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Marjoe Gortner, José Ferrer, Ned Beatty, Allen Garfield, Lorraine Gary, Roger Robinson, Harriet Karr, Gene Woodbury, William Watson, Val Bisoglio, Antonia Rey, Chita Rivera, Bruce Kirby, Robert Walden. A homicide detective begins to suspect that the black teenager accused of murdering two white girls is being framed by his fellow detectives. Gritty police and courtroom drama is well acted and directed and makes excellent use of the seedier streets of New York. Savalas is compelling amongst a strong cast. Based on the book by Selwyn Raab and an actual case known as the “Career Girl” murders that happened on 28 August 1963. Served as a pilot film for the TV series Kojak (1973-8) only here Savalas’ character’s name is spelled “Kojack”. [15]

5020111000Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The (2011; UK; Colour; 124m) ∗∗∗½  d. John Madden; w. Ol Parker; ph. Ben Davis; m. Thomas Newman; ed. Chris Gill.  Cast: Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup. British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than its advertisements, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways. Top-notch cast adds great dignity to the story and they are helped by a witty script, which manages to navigate the more predictable and familiar elements.  Based on the novel “These Foolish Things” by Deborah Moggach. [12]

Book Review – HOPE TO DIE (2001) by Lawrence Block

HOPE TO DIE by LAWRENCE BLOCK (2001, Orion, Paperback, 340pp) ∗∗∗½
      Blurb: Byrne and Susan Hollander stroll home from a concert on a fine summer?s evening in New York. Some hours later, their daughter Kristin arrives home to discover her parents brutally killed and the house ransacked. She also finds she is now a very young millionaire. A few days later the police trace the two killers to an apartment in Coney Island, and both are dead. One killed the other before turning the gun on himself ? at least that?s the way it looks. So that?s another case solved. But for Matt Scudder it’s only the beginning. The more he looks into it, the more things look wrong to him. There’s a murderer out there, and he’s just getting started. Pitted in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Scudder is up against the most resourceful and diabolical killer of his career.

isbn9781409130109-detailHaving recently watched and enjoyed the old-school thriller A Walk Among the Tombstones starring Liam Neeson as Lawrence Block’s ex-alcoholic and part-time detective Matt Scudder, I remembered I had bought a copy of another of Block’s Scudder tales from the bargain bin at Asda some months ago and never got round to reading it. So I decided to catch up on what I had missed.

I found the first half of the book a little too ponderous after the initial set-up of the case. There’s a lot of pages devoted to exposition and a sub-plot featuring the death of Scudder’s ex-wife and his re-uniting with his two sons. We are also reminded that Scudder is a reformed alcoholic who still regularly attends AA meetings. Now older and wiser he finds solace in helping others. Whilst this adds depth to the character it tends to slow the pace of the story. But Block is an experienced and canny writer and he gradually homes in on the case in hand, which twists and turns in unexpected directions. The pace picks up in the last hundred pages and the conclusion is both shocking and surprising.

When I was reading Scudder’s dialogue I had a clear vision of Liam Neeson in mind, showing what a good piece of casting it was and a significant improvement over the previous film adaptation of Scudder – Eight Million Ways to Die (1986) – in which he was played by Jeff Bridges. I look forward to reading more Matt Scudder and also hope he returns to the screen soon.

New Line announce they have purchased movie rights to SHAFT

johnshaft001In a report in The Wrap it was announced that New Line have bought the movie rights to Shaft, initially brought to the screen by Gordon Parks on behalf of MGM in 1971. What this means in terms of approach is as yet unclear, but John Davis of Davis Entertainment has been named as the producer. Davis has become a reboot specialist recently with the soon to be released The Man from UNCLE and Victor Frankenstein.

David Walker has posted his wish list for the new film here and I agree 100% with his thoughts. The character has to be set in period and remain true to Ernest Tidyman’s original novels – otherwise they may as well give him a new name. The Shaft of the novels is a man of depth with a history that has never been explored on screen. My hope too is that Davis is sympathetic to Tidyman’s hero.

The last attempt to relaunch the franchise was John Singleton’s Shaft in 2000, which suffered from having to conform to studio demands and updating the story to be based around Shaft’s nephew. The film became a compromise and failed to satisfy fans of the original or ignite enough new interest for a continuation with a new John Shaft.

We wait for further announcements – most importantly who will be the new John Shaft.

Shaft #6 Preview Cover

Francesco Francavilla’s cover for Shaft #6 was recently posted on the artist’s Twitter site. It’s a moody piece with Shaft seated on the rear of a Cadillac Fleetwood. The sixth and final issue of the series is due out in May 2015.

Shaft #6 Francovilla

Film Review Round-up – VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (2008); OBLIVION (2013) and THE PLUNDERERS (1960)

51xPGEYMi7L._SY300_Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008; Spain/USA; DeLuxe; 96m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Javier Aguirresarobe; ed. Alisa Lepselter.  Cast: Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson, Christopher Evan Welch, Chris Messina, Kevin Dunn, Julio Perillan, Zak Orth, Pablo Schreiber, Josep Maria Domenech, Abel Folk, Carrie Preston, Manel Barcelo. Two girlfriends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture. Allen explores various themes around infidelity in this well-acted, but somehow unfulfilling story. Cruz is a knockout in an Oscar winning performance as Bardem’s temperamental ex-wife. [12]

mm00205587Oblivion (2013; USA; Colour; 124m) ∗∗∗  d. Joseph Kosinski; w. Karl Gajdusek, Michael DeBruyn; ph. Claudio Miranda; m. Anthony Gonzalez, M.8.3, Joseph Trapanese; ed. Richard Francis-Bruce.  Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Zoe Bell, Melissa Leo, Lindsay Clift, Jaylen Moore, Julie Hardin, Paul Gunawan, Jay Oliver, Jason Stanly. A veteran assigned to extract Earth’s remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself. Engaging sci-fi which is visually impressive. Initially intriguing it settles into more traditional fare, but solid performances help to overcome some of the conventions in the script. Originated as an 8-page treatment written by Kosinski which was pitched as a graphic novel. [12]

the-plunderers-movie-poster-1960-1020254032Plunderers, The (1960; USA; B&W; 94m) ∗∗∗  d. Joseph Pevney; w. Bob Barbash; ph. Gene Polito; m. Leonard Rosenman; ed. Tom McAdoo.  Cast: Jeff Chandler, John Saxon, Dolores Hart, Marsha Hunt, Jay C. Flippen, Ray Stricklyn, James Westerfield, Dee Pollock, Roger Torrey, Vaughn Taylor, Harvey Stephens. When four rowdy cowhands ride into a small town and make trouble, no one seems willing or able to take them on, not even the toughest man in town. But then there is a murder. Interesting psychological Western is well-directed and acted raising it above the routine. Chandler’s final Western. [PG]

Comic Book Review – SHAFT #3 (2015)

IMG_0492SHAFT #3 (4 February 2015, Dynamite Entertainment) ∗∗∗∗∗
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Bilquis Evely
Coloured by Daniela Miwa
Cover A by Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz and Ivan Nunes

Shaft has been arrested under suspicion of the murder of his girlfriend, Arletha Havens and one of Sal Venneri’s men. Shaft’s boss, Butch Buchinsky, persuades Lt Vic Anderozzi to let Shaft back on the streets to track down the real killers and Arletha’s former flatmate, Marisol Dupree, is the key.

This issue sees the series continue to meet the excellent standard set by the first two. There is some intriguing use of the construction of the World Trade Center as a setting and the plot thickens as Shaft goes head to head with the syndicate looking to track down Marisol. We’re at the half-way point in the series and it will be interesting to see where Walker leads us having set up the characters and Shaft’s motives for getting involved.

Part 3 of Walker’s novel Shaft’s Revenge is available as a QR download and Walker also supplies another eclectic playlist including Telly Savalas’ “Who Loves Ya Baby.”

Film Review Round-up – THE EQUALIZER (2014); CALVARY (2014) and MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (2014)

51oyKeg-TOL._SY300_Equalizer, The (2014; USA; DeLuxe; 131m) ∗∗∗  d. Antoine Fuqua; w. Richard Wenk; ph. Mauro Fiore; m. Harry Gregson-Williams; ed. John Refoua.  Cast: Denzel Washington, Chloë Grace Moretz, Melissa Leo, Haley Bennett, Marton Csokas, Dan Bilzerian, Bill Pullman, Vladimir Kulich, Johnny Messner, Robert Wahlberg, David Harbour, Meredith Prunty, Chanty Sok, David Meunier. In this big-screen adaptation of the cult ‘80s TV show, McCall believes he has put his past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by –— he has to help her. Washington adds class to this exceedingly violent crowd-pleaser. Much of the plot stretches credulity, but there are passages that allow characters to breathe too. Fuqua’s intrusively flashy approach to the subject matter occasionally strangles the action set-pieces. Original TV series devised by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim. [15]

51IK9Y74doL._SY300_Calvary (2014; Ireland/UK; Colour; 100m) ∗∗∗  d. John Michael McDonagh; w. John Michael McDonagh; ph. Larry Smith; m. Patrick Cassidy; ed. Chris Gill.  Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, David Wilmot, Dylan Moran, Marie-Josée Croze, Killian Scott, Isaach De Bankolé. After he is threatened during a confession, a good-natured priest must battle the dark forces closing in around him. This parable has a sharply observed script and a powerful performance from Gleason with a subject matter that is both thought-provoking and shocking. [15]

51Yj1OhZlLL._SY300_Magic in the Moonlight (2014; USA; DeLuxe; 97m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Darius Khondji; ed. Alisa Lepselter.  Cast: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Eileen Atkins, Simon McBurney, Hamish Linklater, Erica Leerhsen, Jeremy Shamos, Antonia Clarke, Natasha Andrews, Valérie Beaulieu, Peter Wollasch, Jürgen Zwingel, Wolfgang Pissors, Sébastien Siroux, Catherine McCormack. Set in the south of France in the 1920s during the glamorous Jazz Age, it’s a romantic comedy about a master magician (Firth) trying to expose a psychic medium (Stone) as a fake. Firth is engaging and Stone charming, but the romantic elements fail to gell in this otherwise light confection that occasionally amuses. [12]

Shaft #3 Review Round-up

Shaft03-Cov-B-FrancavillaSome positive early reviews are in for the third issue of David Walker and Bilquis Evely’s Shaft comic book:

blacknerdproblems.com: “Shaft continues to be a great read, one that should have a steadily growing fan base, because if you’re not reading this you’re crazier than he is. It’s going to hit the fan really soon when Shaft confronts Arletha’s killers, and I can’t wait to see the blast radius.” (8/10)

iblogalot.com: “So this is another solid issue, which reads like an illustrated crime novel. There’s also a sequence where we read Shaft’s inner-thoughts about Arletha, who he cared for more than he wanted to admit. Since this series is basically “Shaft Begins,” I think we’re seeing the reason behind Shaft’s legendary Ladies Man attitude, what happened to Arletha and how it effects him must be what made him wary of emotional attachments going forward. It’s very insightful. And, as always, I continue to enjoy Bilquis Evely’s artwork on this title.” (A)

comicbastards.com: “It’s a solid book but it’s hard to retain.  It’s kind of like vanilla pudding, which is ironic given that the character is anything but vanilla pudding.  I read this and it just kind of passed through me, not in a bad way, just kind of like a ghost.  It was there and then it was gone and I had to keep referring back to it as I wrote this because there just wasn’t a lot of meat on these bones.  I’m curious to see how it plays out though, I’m not dying to see what happens next but if it’s available next month I might pick it up.” (3/5)

Shaft #3 out today

IMG_0492The third issue of David Walker and Bilquis Evely’s Shaft comic book series is out today from Dynamite Entertainment.

Blurb: John Shaft didn’t go looking for trouble; it came looking for him, and in the process, a lot of people died. Devastated by the murder of a friend, Shaft wants answers and revenge-though not necessarily in that order. With vengeance on his mind and cold steel in his hand, Shaft finds himself caught up in a brewing gang war that threatens to consume the city. Everyone from the Mafia to the police wants Shaft to do their dirty work, but no one realizes that’s all part of his plan.

As usual my copy will arrive in a week or so and I will post a review then.