Film Review – MADIGAN (1968)

Madigan (1968; USA; Technicolor; 101m) ∗∗∗½  d. Don Siegel; w. Howard Rodman (as Henri Simoun), Abraham Polonsky; ph. Russell Metty; m. Don Costa.  Cast: Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Inger Stevens, Harry Guardino, James Whitmore, Michael Dunn, Susan Clark, Steve Ihnat, Don Stroud, Sheree North. Two NYC detectives are given a weekend to bring a fugitive to justice. Gritty police thriller is largely a character study of two flawed but driven men – Widmark’s streetwise detective and Fonda’s by-the-book commissioner. Whilst the juggling of perspective reduces the narrative fluidity Widmark is excellent and Siegel directs with a sure hand. Based on the novel “The Commissioner” by Richard Dougherty. Followed by a 1972-3 series of six TV movies. [12]

Film Review – HALLOWEEN (1978)

Halloween (1978; USA; Metrocolor; 91m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. John Carpenter; w. John Carpenter, Debra Hill; ph. Dean Cundey; m. John Carpenter.  Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Nancy Kyes, P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers, Kyle Richards, Brian Andrews, Arthur Malet, Tony Moran, John Michael Graham, Nancy Stephens, Mickey Yablans, Robert Phalen, Brent Le Page, Adam Hollander. A psychotic murderer institutionalized since childhood for the murder of his sister, escapes and stalks a bookish teenage girl and her friends while his doctor chases him through the streets. Carpenter’s landmark slasher movie spawned many sequels and imitations, but none can better this masterclass in building tension through visuals and tight editing. Carpenter also contributed the eerie soundtrack. Curtis’ first feature film. Extended version runs 101m featuring footage shot during the filming of its sequel HALLOWEEN II in 1981. Remade in 2007. [18]

Shaft: A Complicated Man – Trade paperback released today

The trade paperback version of David F Walker’s 6-part Shaft comic book series, with art by Bilquis Evely, was released today. Alongside the comic book there are an introduction by Shawn Taylor, character sketches, a look at the making of the series, a complete cover gallery featuring art by Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Francesco Francavilla, Sanford Greene, and more.

Early reviews are also in…

“Overall this is an excellent contribution to Shaft’s legacy. More than just a tie-in to what’s already been established, it actually enhances the character by giving him a well-developed origin story. What might be the most surprising thing about A Complicated Man is how good it actually is.” – BigComicPage.com (read full review).

“This is a straight-forward R-rated type of drama with excellent artwork from Bilquis Evely, and a book very much deserving of attention. It’s realistic but still very artistic, with some great city scenery making for the perfect backdrop and really nice depictions of the various characters that inhabit it. There’s a depth to the illustrations that suit the dark ‘R-rated’ storytelling style Walker employs and the coloring from Daniela Miwa gives things the right sort of seventies flavor that a good Shaft story needs.” – Todd Jordan and Ian Jane, RockShockPop.com (read full review)

“Most Shaft stories have him already pretty well established, but I definitely thought this fit as a strong origin story for the character. You can tell David Walker has a lot of respect for the character, and a strong desire to make him into a complex, heroic figure. He managed to pull it off brilliantly.” – Mike Maillaro, CriticalBlast.com (read full review)

Book Review – WAIT FOR SIGNS (2015) by Craig Johnson

WAIT FOR SIGNS by CRAIG JOHNSON (2014, Viking/Penguin, 183pp) ∗∗∗∗
      Blurb: Wait for Signs gives Longmire fans a chance to own these beloved stories—and one that was published for the first time in the Viking edition—in a single volume. With glimpses of Walt’s past from the incident in “Ministerial Aid,” when the sheriff is mistaken for a deity, to the hilarious “Messenger,” where the majority of the action takes place in a Porta-Potty, Wait for Signs is a necessary addition to any Longmire fan’s shelf and a wonderful way to introduce new readers to the fictional world of Absaroka County, Wyoming.

This collection of short stories is a wonderful sampler into the life of Craig Johnson’s Sheriff Walt Longmire. The stories were initially issued as an annual holiday gift to fans and have now been collected into this book. There are twelve in all and they range from 10 to 30 pages in length. The two stand-outs – primarily because they embody the wry and sometimes laugh-out-loud humour Johnson has peppered his novels with – are “Ministerial Aid” and “Messenger”. The former sees a desperate woman, waiting on the resurrection of the Messiah, mistake a bath-robed and unshaven Walt for the same. The latter sees Walt, his deputy Victoria Moretti and his friend Henry Standing Bear trapped in a portable toilet with a hungry bear outside and a frightened owl inside.

Johnson’s writing is as readable as ever and his skill at creating strong and likeable characters and witty dialogue are well in evidence. This is a great stop gap whilst we wait for the next novel in the series (DRY BONES, the eleventh in the series, is due out in paperback in April 2016). The Longmire series is amongst the best mystery novels out there and I recommend any curious reader to start at the beginning with THE COLD DISH (2004).

About the authorCraig Johnson is the New York Times best-selling author of eleven novels in the Walt Longmire mystery series, which has garnered popular and critical acclaim. Among other awards, THE COLD DISH was a Dilys Award finalist; THE DARK HORSE, the fifth in the series, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year; JUNKYARD DOGS won the Watson Award for a mystery novel with the best sidekick, and HELL IS EMPTY, selected by Library Journal as the Best Mystery of the Year. The series is the basis for the hit TV drama Longmire, shown on TCM in the UK and starring Robert Taylor, Lou Diamond Phillips and Katee Sackhoff. Craig Johnson lives in Ucross, Wyoming, population twenty-five.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – THE GIRL WHO DIED / THE WOMAN WHO LIVED

THE GIRL WHO DIED / THE WOMAN WHO LIVED
2 episodes / 92m / 17 & 24 October 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗
Writer: (1) Jamie Mathieson, Steven Moffat & (2) Catherine Tregenna
Director: Ed Bazalgette
Cast: (1 & 2) Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Maisie Williams (Ashildr/The Knightmare). (1) David Schofield (Odin), Simon Lipkin (Nollarr), Ian Conningham (Chuckles), Tom Stourton (Lofty), Alastair Parker (Limpy), Murray McArthur (Hasten), Barnaby Kay (Heidi). (2) Rufus Hound (Sam Swift), Gareth Berliner (Coachman), Elisabeth Hopper (Lucie Fanshawe), John Voce (Mr Fanshawe), Struan Rodger (Clayton), Gruffudd Glyn (Pikeman Lloyd Llewelyn), Reuben Johnson (Pikeman William Stout), Ariyon Bakare (Leandro), Ariyon Bakare (Leandro), Daniel Fearn (Crowd 1), Karen Seacombe (Crowd 2), John Hales (Hangman).
Plot: (1) Captured by Vikings, the Doctor and Clara must help protect their village from space warriors from the future, the Mire. Outnumbered and outgunned, their fate seems inevitable. So why is the Doctor preoccupied with a single Viking girl? (2) England, 1651. Deadly highwayman ‘the Knightmare’ and his sidekick stalk the dark streets of London. But when they find loot that is not of this world, they come face to face with the Doctor. Who is theKnightmare in league with? And can the Doctor avoid the hangman’s noose and protect the Earth from a devilish betrayal?
Comment: A two-parter with each episode having distinct plots but an overarching theme concerning Williams’ Ashildr and how the Doctor impacts her life. Both stories are historical based with fantasy/alien elements incorporated and both are entertaining if slight. The Viking story is the more enjoyable of the two with a simpler plot, but occasionally it descends into childish humour. The highway bandit story is a more serious affair dealing with the aftermath of the Doctor’s decision from the first story. Clara is absent for most of the episode leaving the story to delve deeper into the cause and effect of the Doctor’s decision – notably its impact on Williams’ character. The resolution is a little disappointing for a series steeped in plot twists and unexpected turns, but may potentially be evidence that Moffat has scaled back on the big concept shock tactics and opted for more concise character-based stories – not necessarily a bad thing.

TV Review – JUSTIFIED (2010-2015)

JUSTIFIED (2010-2015, USA, 1 x 52m and 77 x 38-45m, Colour, 1.78:1, Dolby Digital, Cert: 15, Crime/Drama/Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗
     Starring: Timothy Olyphant (Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens); Nick Searcy (Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen); Joelle Carter (Ava Crowder); Jacob Pitts (Deputy U.S. Marshal Tim Gutterson); Erica Tazel (Deputy U.S. Marshal Rachel Brooks); Natalie Zea (Winona Hawkins); Walton Goggins (Boyd Crowder); Jere Burns (Wynn Duffy).
     Developed by Graham Yost, based on the short story “Fire in the Hole” by Elmore Leonard; Executive Producers: Elmore Leonard, Graham Yost, Fred Golan, Michael Dinner, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, Dave Andron, Don Kurt, Timothy Olyphant, Taylor Elmore, Benjamin Cavell, Chris Provenzano; Theme Music: Steve Porcaro
     DVD Blurb: For six electrifying seasons, no crime series proved more combustible than the Peabody Award-winning Justified. At the explosive centre of the action, Western-style, gun-slinging U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) confronts murder, drugs, bank heists, mobsters, crime families, corrupt politicians and even his own tumultuous past – and never backs down. His ultimate adversary is the cunning, complex outlaw Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), but the real wild card is Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), the mysterious woman torn between the two men and both sides of the law. From creator Graham Yost and based on legendary author Elmore Leonard’s crime novella “Fire in the Hole,” it all leads to a perfectly unexpected final showdown.
Season One (2010) ∗∗∗∗
The story arc of season one concentrates on the crimes of the Crowder family. Raylan seeks to protect Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) from the rest of the Crowder clan after she shoots her husband, Bowman Crowder, dead in retaliation for years of abuse. Mix of standalone episodes and story arc make for a slightly disjointed season offset by the strength of characters and a witty scripts. Olyphant displays a wry charm and toughness, whilst Goggins creates a character of real depth as the bigoted criminal who got religion, Boyd Crowder.
Season Two (2011) ∗∗∗∗∗
Season 2 deals primarily with the criminal dealings of the Bennett clan. Family matriarch Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) and her three sons Dickie (Jeremy Davies), Coover (Brad William Henke), and Corbin County Police Chief Doyle (Joseph Lyle Taylor) plan to expand their marijuana business into Crowder territory following Bo’s death, as Boyd has proven somewhat reluctant to follow in his father’s footsteps. The best series of Justified is helped by a superb support cast who give great depth to their characters, engaging plot and top-notch performances all round – notably Martindale as the matriarch Mags.
Season Three (2012) ∗∗∗∗
Season 3 introduces a new main villain, Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough) of Detroit. The criminal organization connected to the Frankfort, Kentucky, mob has exiled Quarles to Kentucky. Quarles allies himself with local enforcer Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) and supplants the local criminals when Raylan begins investigating. Quarles is an initially interesting character but McDonough’s performance quickly descends into psychotic overkill. This season sees sadistic overtones playing an increasing part in the series.
Season Four (2013) ∗∗∗∗
Season 4 is about a mystery which was left unsolved for 30 years. On January 21, 1983, a man wearing a defective parachute plummets onto a residential street in Corbin, Kentucky, dying instantly. His body is surrounded by bags full of cocaine and an ID tag for a “Waldo Truth”. Interesting change of pace for the series that hinges on the mystery element. Once the mystery is solved it then becomes a tense tug-of-war between organized crime and the US Marshal Service.
Season Five (2014) ∗∗∗∗
Season 5 features the alligator-farming Crowe crime family, led by Darryl Crowe, Jr. (played by Michael Rappaport). The Crowes try to muscle in on the drug scene in Harlan county. Lots of incompetency amongst the criminals in their quest to climb the totem pole. This is interspersed with the series’ sometimes laugh-out-loud and dark wry humour and increasingly bloody violence. This is the series we get to see the most of Damon Herriman’s likeable rogue Dewey Crowe and he is excellent playing off Olyphant and Goggins.
Season Six (2015) ∗∗∗∗∗
Season 6 revolves around the culmination of Raylan and Boyd’s rivalry, complicated by Ava’s betrayal, the machinations of Avery Markham (Sam Elliott), and a plot to rob him by Boyd, Wynn Duffy and Markham’s secret adversary. Boyd succeeds in robbing Markham, but Raylan’s plan to entrap him with Ava’s help has tragic consequences. Triumphant final season rivals season 2 in quality and depth of character, displaying all the series’ strengths in its writing and performances with humour, shock twists and a satisfying conclusion to the Raylan/Ava/Boyd triangle. This has always been an excellent series for females and Carter gives her best performance of the series as the resourceful Ava, whilst Mary Steenbergen is also very good as the seductive and cruel Katherine Hale.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – UNDER THE LAKE / BEFORE THE FLOOD

UNDER THE LAKE / BEFORE THE FLOOD
2 episodes / 86m / 3 & 10 October 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗½
Writer: Toby Whithouse
Director: Daniel O’Hara
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Colin McFarlane (Moran), Sophie Stone (Cass), Zaqi Ismail (Lunn), Morven Christie (O’Donnell), Arsher Ali (Bennett), Steven Robertson (Pritchard), Paul Kaye (Prentis), Peter Serafinowicz (Voice of Fisher King), Corey Taylor (Voice of Fisher King).
Plot: Under a lake, in the dripping gloom of an underwater base, stands a gleaming black space ship, recovered from the lake bed. Nothing is inside – but when the base crew start dying, they make a terrible discovery: ghosts are real! And their friends are refusing to stay dead! The Doctor and Clara arrive to find a base under siege from beyond the grave. But how can the dead be walking? What has brought them back? When the Doctor discovers the truth, it is more terrifying than any simple ghost story.Comment: A traditional Who story in many ways as it features many elements that have worked well throughout the show’s history – the isolated base under siege, the use of different time zones for the Doctor to influence events, etc. The first episode is set entirely in the underwater base and leaves the Doctor, Clara and the crew to untangle the mystery of the messages left in an abandoned spacecraft and the seeming ghosts that are beginning to kill them off one by one. The second episode sees the Doctor and two members of the crew travel back to 1980 and before the valley was flooded, where he ultimately finds the source of the message. The Fisher King is an imposing monster and the story neatly wraps up the mystery. Along the way there are some creepy and atmospheric scenes, even if there is a little bit too much chasing through corridors (another Who staple). Capaldi and Coleman are in top form, but the guest cast is a mixed bag with only Sophie Stone’s deaf/mute Cass and Paul Kaye’s alien undertaker standing out. The two-part format again works well allowing the plot room to develop and this is a good solid story – the type of which the series continues to do well. Not sure about the specs as a replacement for the sonic screwdriver though.

Phil Collins autobiography due October 2016

Phil Collins has intimated many times over the years that he would eventually write his autobiography. Well now it seems the time is right. With health problems curtailing his musical career Collins has made a publishing deal with Penguin Random House for an October 2016 release date.

Collins says, “Having found the right publisher in Penguin Random House I am ready to go on record about my life in music with all the highs and all the lows and to tell the story from my point of view – warts and all!”

With a mega-star career spanning nearly 50 years as drummer and singer with Genesis, solo artist, session player and producer as well as, for a time, actor, It promises to be a great read.

More Shaft on the way in 2016

A number of specialist comic book sites have reported on Dynamite’s announcement of a second comic book series of Shaft. David F. Walker will again be writing the series, titled Shaft: Imitation of Life with artwork passing from Bilquis Evely to Dietrich Smith. Smith’s character designs for Shaft are much closer in resemblance to Richard Roundtree.

Shaft designs by Dietrich Smith

Dynamite’s blurb for Shaft: Imitation of Life reads as follows: After a high-profile case puts him in the headlines, private detective John Shaft searches for something low-profile to keep him out of the spotlight and out of danger… and takes a missing person case that proves to be more difficult than he thought. At the same time, he is hired to be a consultant on a low budget film that may or may not be based on his life, and proves to be as dangerous as any job he’s ever had. But when there’s danger about, John Shaft won’t cop out – even if it means squaring off against sadistic gangsters that want him dead.

Quotes from Dynamites press release:

David F. Walker – “The idea for the new miniseries, Shaft: Imitation of Life, is one that’s been in my head for a long time, and is something that I’m really excited about. This has been a really fun story to develop.”

Dietrich Smith – “Of all the great action heroes I watched and imitated as a youngster, Shaft was at the top — a private eye with a chip on his shoulder, an attitude that dared anyone to try him. Having the opportunity to draw the smoothest man alive is something I’m very excited about.”

The new series is scheduled to begin in February 2016 to tie in with Black History Month and the release of Walker’s novel Shaft’s Revenge.