Shaft Comic Book released today

Shaft #1 written by David Walker with art by Bilquis Evely is published today. The 32-page comic is available in a  variety of covers:-

STK658012Cover A Main: Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz (right)
Cover B Variant: Francesco Francavilla
Cover C Variant: Michael Avon Oeming
Cover D Variant: Ulises Farinas
Cover E Variant: Matt Haley

Dynamite’s publicity reads: Who’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine with all the chicks? Shaft! Created by author Ernest Tidyman, and made famous in a series of novels and films, iconic hero Shaft makes his comic book debut in an all-new adventure. He’s gone toe-to-toe with organized crime bosses, stood up to the cops, squared off against kidnappers, and foiled assassination attempts. But who was John Shaft before he became the hardboiled investigator with a reputation as big as New York City itself?

Shaft's RevengeCoverThe comic also includes a free download of part one (of six) on Walker’s novella Shaft’s Revenge. A link to a download can be obtained at the Bleeding Cool website.

The first reviews are in and ComicBookRoundUp collects these in the same way Metacritic does for films. As of today the comic has an average rating of 8.9/10 from 7 reviews being amongst the highest rated of the week’s releases so far.

Comicosity says: “I did not consider myself the target demographic for this story, but I found myself in love by the ending credits. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves characters with depth and a taste for realistic plots.” awarding a rating of 8/10.

RhymesWithGeek says: “First issues are often either heavy on action or build up a foundation of characters and situations on which to tell future chapters. Shaft #1 does both so well and with such assured art, that it should be used as a reference for creators planning out their debut comics.”

My copy will be winging its way across the Atlantic with the Christmas post, but as soon as I receive and read it I will post my review.

 

Film Review – THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT (1955)

THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT (1955, Exclusive/Hammer Film Productions, UK, 82 mins, B&W, 1.66:1, Mono, Cert: PG, Sci-Fi Horror Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Brian Donlevy (Prof. Bernard Quatermass), Jack Warner (Insp. Lomax), Margia Dean (Mrs. Judith Carroon), Thora Hird (Rosemary ‘Rosie’ Elizabeth Wrigley), Gordon Jackson (BBC TV producer), David King-Wood (Dr. Gordon Briscoe), Harold Lang (Christie), Lionel Jeffries (Blake), Sam Kydd (Police Sergeant), Richard Wordsworth (Victor Carroon).
      Producer: Anthony Hinds; Director: Val Guest; Writer: Richard H. Landau, Val Guest (Based on the television play by Nigel Kneale); Director of Photography: Walter J. Harvey; Music: James Bernard; Film Editor: James Needs; Art Director: J. Elder Wills; Special Effects: Les Bowie.

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)_0The film that launched Hammer Films’ foray into the horror genre. At the dawn of the space age the British Rocket Group launches three astronauts on an experimental mission. Their ship loses contact with Earth and subsequently crash-lands in the English countryside. Professor Bernard Quatermass (Donlevy) is intrigued to discover that two of the crew are no longer aboard. It soon becomes clear that the mission’s sole survivor, Victor Carroon (Wordsworth), is desperately ill and is rapidly being consumed by the alien organism that killed his fellow astronauts.

The body horror theme of a parasite infecting humans was to become a staple device in much of the later sci-fi genre surfacing with films such as ALIEN, THE THING and numerous stories from TV’s Doctor Who utilising the theme very effectively. Here it is realised through a brilliant portrayal of a man possessed by Richard Wordsworth. His internal turmoil is effectively conveyed by the actor in a manner that recalls Karloff’s monster in FRANKENSTEIN. Val Guest keeps the tension high and the story lean, whilst James Bernard delivers a haunting score.

There has been much written about Brian Donlevy’s suitability for the role of Quatermass and there are times when his histrionics are a little over-bearing as he attempts to capture the professor’s driven personality. Margia Dean is equally unconvincing as Wordsworth’s wife. But Warner adds some fun to his portrayal of the everyman detective inspector, which brings a welcome lighter element to the story. There are also small roles for such favourites as Thora Hird, in a memorable cameo as a homeless lady who encounters the creature, and Gordon Jackson as a BBC producer keen to ensure the show goes on in the Westminster Abbey conclusion.

Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass stories would prove very popular on both small and big screen and a sequel, QUATERMASS 2 (again with Donlevy), followed in 1957. However, it was 1967’s QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (this time with Andrew Keir as Quatermass) that would become the most successful adaptation and impressive production.

Book Review – THE BROKEN PLACES (2013) by Ace Atkins

THE BROKEN PLACES by ACE ATKINS (2013, Corsair, Paperback, 432pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
Blurb: A year after becoming sheriff, Quinn Colson is faced with the release of an infamous murderer from prison. Jamey Dixon comes back to Jericho preaching redemption, and some believe him; but for the victim’s family, the only thought is revenge. Another group who doesn’t believe him – the men in prison from Dixon’s last job, an armoured car robbery. They’re sure he’s gone back to grab the hidden money, so they do the only thing they can: break out and head straight to Jericho themselves. Colson and his deputy, Lillie, know they’ve got their work cut out for them. But they don’t count on one more unwelcome visitor: a tornado that causes havoc just as events come to a head. Communications are down, the roads are impassable – and the rule of law is just about to snap.

9781472112149Ace Atkins’ third novel featuring Sheriff Quinn Colson maintains the solid standard of the first two books – The Ranger and The Lost Ones. The book weaves a tale of convicts on the run in search of their hidden loot, and the ex-convict who has turned to Christ and wants to marry Colson’s sister, with the natural disaster of a tornado hitting the town of Jericho.

Whilst the story holds no real surprises and unfolds in a similar fashion to the first two books in the series, the added dimension of the storm hitting the community makes for a large scale climax. The family conflict surrounding sister Caddy taking up with seemingly reformed and misunderstood Jamey Dixon, is also a familiar one, but essential to give the story some emotional clout. However, Atkins employs a tight writing style built around a group of strong characters, not least Colson’s support team including Deputy Lillie Virgil and the one-armed Boom.

The final showdown is suitably tense and whilst Atkins never scales the heights of Craig Johnson’s Longmire series, this is a perfectly entertaining read on its own terms.

Film Review – DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014, Chernin Entertainment/ TSG Entertainment, USA, 131 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, Dolby Atmos/SDDS/Datasat, Cert: 12, Sci-Fi Action Thriller) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Andy Serkis (Caesar), Jason Clarke (Malcolm), Gary Oldman (Dreyfus), Keri Russell (Ellie), Toby Kebbell (Koba), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Alexander), Kirk Acevedo (Carver), Nick Thurston (Blue Eyes), Terry Notary (Rocket), Karin Konoval (Maurice), Judy Greer (Cornelia), Jon Eyez (Foster), Enrique Murciano (Kemp), Larramie Doc Shaw (Ash), Lee Ross (Grey).
      Producer: Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver; Director: Matt Reeves; Writer: Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver  (Based on Characters created by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver; Premise suggested by the novel “Planet of the Apes” by Pierre Boulle); Director of Photography: Michael Seresin; Music: Michael Giacchino; Film Editor: William Hoy, Stan Salfas; Production Designer: James Chinlund; Art Director: Naaman Marshall; Set Decorator: Amanda Moss Serino; Costume Designer: Melissa Bruning.

10978699-1414085339-78304The sequel to RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a rousing continuation of the franchise. Ten years after a pandemic disease seen in that film, the apes who have survived are drawn into battle with a group of human survivors who seek to restore power to the city of San Francisco.

The technical achievements of this film are huge, from the brilliantly conceived apes with CGI mapped over the physical performance of real human actors, to the excellent design work. Andy Serkis is again excellent at conveying Caesar’s internal conflict and a nod should also go to Toby Kebell who as Koba, the rebellious ape carried forward from the first movie where he was played by Christopher Gordon.

The human actors are headed up by Gary Oldman, as the leader of the survivors and Jason Clarke as Malcolm, who acts as the bridge between the ape and human colonies. The drama unfolds around the conflict Caesar feels with doing what’s right for his ape colony and keeping relations with the humans harmonious. Eventually Koba rebels and, believing he has killed Caesar, leads the apes in an attack on the human colony in a spectacular action sequence which sees the apes take control. However, Caesar has survived and Malcolm helps him restore contact with his son and together they try to put a stop to Koba’s rule.

There are nods to the films roots, notably in the character names Blue Eyes (the nickname given to Charlton Heston in the original) and Maurice (the first name of the actor Maurice Evans who played Dr. Zaius in the same 1968 film). The plot resembles that from the fifth film in the original series BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, but at least this time they have the budget.

Whilst there are moments of pure Hollywood in some of the plotting, by sheer achievement of its ambition in providing intelligent escapist entertainment this is a refreshingly successful addition to the effects driven blockbusters crowding cinemas. Credit goes to director Matt Reeves for giving the story room to breathe rather than just create a succession of action scenes. A third film is in development and should be well worth the wait.

Film Review – GODZILLA (2014)

GODZILLA (2014, Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures, USA/Japan, 123 mins, Colour, 2.35:1, Dolby Atmos/SDDS/Datasat, Cert: 12, Sci-Fi Action Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Ford Brody), Ken Watanabe (Dr. Ishiro Serizawa), Bryan Cranston (Joe Brody), Elizabeth Olsen (Elle Brody), Carson Bolde (Sam Brody), Sally Hawkins (Vivienne Graham), Juliette Binoche (Sandra Brody), David Strathairn (Admiral William Stenz), Richard T. Jones (Captain Russell Hampton), Victor Rasuk (Sergeant Tre Morales), Patrick Sabongui (Lieutenant Commander Marcus Waltz), CJ Adams (Young Ford).
      Producer: Bob Ducsay, Jon Jashni, Mary Parent, Brian Rogers, Thomas Tull; Director: Gareth Edwards; Writer: Max Borenstein (Based on a story by Dave Callaham); Director of Photography: Seamus McGarvey; Music: Alexandre Desplat; Film Editor: Bob Ducsay; Production Designer: Owen Paterson; Art Director: Grant Van Der Slagt; Set Decorator: Elizabeth Wilcox; Costume Designer: Sharen Davis.

Godzilla_2014_Blu-ray_DVD_Digital_Download_Ultra_VioletUnlike Roland Emmerich’s 1998 version this is a straight remake of the 1954 Japanese monster movie classic. Here, the world’s most famous monster is pitted against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.

The set-up is well paced and promises a much more serious take on the subject. Cranston makes an effective misunderstood professor carrying an earnestness in his performance reminiscent of Harrison Ford. It’s a shame he disappears from the action too early as his character is presented as the focal point of the plot early on. Instead it is Taylor-Johnson, as his soldier son trying to re-unite with his family, who takes centre stage and the film veers into more typical destruction and mayhem. Godzilla is kept off screen for much of the film but some action in Hawaii and then the extended finale in San Francisco, where the creature battles the parasites, provide a showcase for the visual effects team.

Action fans will lap up the second half of the movie, whilst those looking for more intelligent film-making will feel slightly disappointed the production team wastes its promising opening by giving over the second half of the movie to technicians.

Shaft #3 Variant Covers Released

Covers by Francesco Francavilla and Sanford Greene for the third issue of Dynamite’s Shaft comic book series written by David Walker and due out on 4 February 2015 have been released.

Blurb for the issue gives an exciting summary of the plot: 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.

Shaft03-Cov-B-FrancavillaShaft03-Cov-C-SubGreene

Shaft’s Revenge

Shaft's RevengeEach of Dynamite Entertainment’s six Shaft comic books penned by David F. Walker will contain a download link, via a QR reader, to a short novel by Walker entitled Shaft’s Revenge. This is the first original prose work to feature Ernest Tidyman’s creation since the original books went out of print in the late 1970s.

As yet there are no details of plot or setting, but Walker’s desire to portray his Shaft in line with the character seen in Tidyman’s novels suggests fans of the books are in for a treat. Shaft #1 comic book is on sale on 3 December 2014 and #2 on 14 January.

Google have published preview pages from Shaft #1 in their Books section.

Film Review – A LONELY PLACE TO DIE (2011)

A LONELY PLACE TO DIE (2011, Carnaby International / Eigerwand Pictures / Molinare Studio, 99 mins, Colour, 2.35:1, Dolby Digital, Cert: 15, Action Crime Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Alec Newman (Rob), Ed Speleers (Ed), Melissa George (Alison), Kate Magowan (Jenny), Garry Sweeney (Alex), Holly Boyd (Anna), Douglas Russell (Hunter 1), Alan Steele (Hunter 2), Sean Harris (Mr. Kidd), Stephen McCole (Mr. Mcrae), Karel Roden (Darko), Eamonn Walker (Andy), Paul Anderson (Chris), Eric Barlow (Sergeant Gray), Jamie Edgell (House Owner), Mathew Zajac (Mr. Rakovic).
      Producer: Michael Loveday; Director: Julian Gilbey; Writer: Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey; Director of Photography: Ali Asad; Music: Michael Richard Plowman; Film Editor: Julian Gilbey, Will Gilbey; Production Designer: Matthew Button; Art Director: Daniela Faggio; Set Decorator: Cathy Featherstone; Costume Designer: Hayley Nebauer.

A Lonely Place to DieThe Gilbey brothers have written a neat little B-movie thriller, which makes effective use of its Scottish Highland setting. The story surrounds a group of mountaineers who discover a kidnapped girl buried underground and are pursued by her captors. The girl’s father has hired a group of mercenaries to retrieve her and when the three groups converge on a remote Scottish village in the middle of a Paegan festival a blood bath starts.

The mountain climbing scenes are authentically captured by director Julian Gilbey and the chase scenes on the mountain are gripping as the climbers and the girl are pursued by the kidnappers. The action in the closing village scenes is brutal and the whole thing becomes little more than a bloodbath in its finale. Characterisations are also in short supply, with the actors merely being cyphers for the plot. But the camerawork is excellent and the tension is maintained throughout.

A good example of using location and editing to get the best out of a slight story on a limited budget.