Film Review – SPY (2015)

Spy (2015; USA; Colour; 120m) ∗∗∗½  d. Paul Feig; w. Paul Feig; ph. Robert D. Yeoman; m. Theodore Shapiro.  Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Morena Baccarin, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, Nia Long, 50 Cent, Peter Serafinowicz, Will Yun Lee, Zach Woods, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Jessica Chaffin, Miranda Hart, Carlos Ponce. A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster. Frequently funny spy spoof with McCarthy excellent as the reluctant heroine who excels in the field. Some genuine laugh-out-loud moments despite frequent coarse nature of the humour. Law and Statham both send up their screen images with aplomb. [15]

TV Review – MADIGAN: THE MANHATTAN BEAT (1972)

Madigan: The Manhattan Beat (TV) (1972; USA; Technicolor; 73m) ∗∗∗  d. Alex March; w. Roland Wolpert; ph. Jack Priestley; m. Quincy Jones.  Cast: Richard Widmark, Murray Hamilton, Ronnie Cox, Tony Lo Bianco, James J. Sloyan, Jennifer Harmon. A police detective is asked to break in a new colleague, a recent college graduate and finds his life in danger in the course of tracking down assault suspects and a possible murderer. Standard TV adaptation of 1968 movie benefits from NYC locations and a strong performance from Widmark. Premiere episode of a short-lived addition to the NBC Mystery Movie series. [PG]

Film Review – TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

Terminator Genisys (2015; USA; Fotokem; 126m) ∗∗∗  d. Alan Taylor; w. Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier; ph. Kramer Morgenthau; m. Lorne Balfe.  Cast: Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Lee Byung-Hun, Matt Smith, Michael Gladis, Sandrine Holt, Natalie Stephany Aguilar, Teri Wyble, Brett Azar, Starlette Miariaunii, Nolan Gross. John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be. Muddled temporal action thriller relies on series mythology and Arnie’s screen presence to get past some lazy scripting, which lacks the intelligence of earlier entries, and confusing time travel plot. Action sequences are impressive but the viewer ultimately becomes desensitised to the whole thing. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Shaft: Imitation of Life issue #1 cover unveiled

Shaft-Imitation-01-Cov-A-ClarkeA preview of the Matthew Clark’s prime cover for Shaft: Imitation of Life #1 (of 4), sub-titled Part One: Before and After has been released by Dynamite Entertainment along with the following blurb:

After a high profile case that put him in the headlines, private detective John Shaft is looking for something low profile and easy that will keep him out of the spotlight and out of danger. Shaft takes a missing person case that proves to be more difficult than he initially 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 all about, John Shaft is the cat that won’t cop out — even if it means squaring off against sadistic gangsters that want him dead.

The second Shaft comic book series is again written by David F. Walker with art work this time in the hands of Dietrich Smith. Issue #1 is due for publication in February 2016 alongside Walker’s novel, Shaft’s Revenge.

Film Review – BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY (2001)

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001; UK/Ireland/France; Technicolor; 97m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Sharon Maguire; w. Andrew Davies, Helen Fielding, Richard Curtis; ph. Stuart Dryburgh; m. Patrick Doyle.  Cast: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones, Sally Phillips, Shirley Henderson, Celia Imrie, Embeth Davidtz, Honor Blackman, James Faulkns. A British woman is determined to improve herself while she looks for love in a year in which she keeps a personal diary. Zellweger is excellent and charming in her portrayal of Bridget Jones. Firth and Grant head a strong supporting British cast. Whilst it descends into some standard rom-com/sit-com situations and has an all too cosy feel at times, this well-observed comedy still hits home. To prepare for the role, Zellweger gained 25 pounds. Based on the novel by Helen Fielding. Followed by BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON (2004). [15]

Film Review – SPECTRE (2015)

Spectre (2015; UK; Colour; 148m) ∗∗∗½  d. Sam Mendes; w. John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth; ph. Hoyte van Hoytema; m. Thomas Newman.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Monica Bellucci, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Jesper Christensen, Stephanie Sigman. A cryptic message from James Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. Satisfying globe-trotting 007 action vehicle with all the expected ingredients and several nods to the series’ history. The most traditional and outlandish of Craig’s outings offers little that is new but will undoubtedly satisfy fans. Action scenes are well-staged if a little mechanical. Bellucci is wasted in small role as grieving widow. Sam Smith’s theme song is unmemorable. Based on characters created by Ian Fleming. [12]

Music Review: JEFF LYNNE’S ELO – ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE (2015)

JEFF LYNNE’S ELO – ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE (2015) ∗∗∗½
Tracks: “When I Was a Boy” / “Love and Rain” / “Dirty to the Bone” / “When the Night Comes” / “The Sun Will Shine on You” / “Ain’t It a Drag” / “All My Life” / “I’m Leaving You” / “One Step at a Time” / “Alone in the Universe”  Bonus Tracks: “Fault Line” / “Blue”
All songs written by Jeff Lynne
Produced by Jeff Lynne
Musicians: Jeff Lynne – All instruments except the shaker and the tambourine; Steve Jay – shaker, tambourine, engineer; Laura Lynne – background vocals on “Love and Rain” and “One Step at a Time”.
Last year’s triumphant performance at Radio 2’s Hyde Park gig spurred Jeff Lynne back into writing songs for a new ELO album and tour. It’s been 14 years since the last ELO album, the overlooked and underrated Zoom, and here Lynne effectively produces a solo album under the band’s name. He brings in a range of influences from his heroes – The Beatles (“When I was a Boy” and “The Sun Will Shine on You”) and Roy Orbison (“Blue”) – to hints of disco (“One Step at a Time”) and reggae (“When the Night Comes”) in a varied collection of melodic songs. Whilst the album doesn’t reach the heights of the band’s classic mid-1970s period – A New World Record, Out of the Blue – and lacks the sustained excellence of 2001’s Zoom, this is still a classy selection.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – SLEEP NO MORE

SLEEP NO MORE
1 episode / 45m / 14 November 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗½
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Justin Molotnikov
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Reece Shearsmith (Gagan Rassmussen), Elaine Tan (Nagata), Neet Mohan (Chopra), Bethany Black (474), Paul Courtenay Hyu (Deep-Ando), Zina Badran (Morpheus Presenter), Natasha Patel (Hologram Singer), Elizabeth Chong (Hologram Singer), Nikkita Chadha (Hologram Singer), Gracie Lai (Hologram Singer).
Plot: Video recovered from the wreckage of Le Verrier Space Station details how the Doctor and Clara became entangled in a rescue mission. As the footage plays out, a horrifying secret is uncovered, one that might threaten the life, sanity and species of anyone who watches. Comment: Experimental episode using the popular found-footage horror genre as the basis for a confusing monster takes over space station story where the viewer is never sure if what they are seeing is real, fabricated or imagined. The sandmen are a creepy design and the inter-cutting between shifting viewpoints helps keep the tension high. Capaldi is looking increasingly at home as the Doctor now, having settled down his characterisation. I’m not really sure I got the whole thing and will probably need to re-watch to dig out some of the subtexts, but I did enjoy this episode for its willingness to bring a new twist to a more traditional Who plot, which it executed pretty well..

Graphic Novel Review – SHAFT: A COMPLICATED MAN (2015)

SHAFT: A COMPLICATED MAN (28 October 2015, Dynamite Entertainment, 176pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Bilquis Evely
Coloured by Daniela Miwa
Cover by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz
Collection Design by Geoff Harkins

BlurbWho’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine with all the chicks? Shaft! (You’re damn right!) Created by author Ernest Tidyman and made famous in a series of novels and films, iconic hero Shaft makes his graphic novel 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? Recently arriving home from his tour of duty in Vietnam, his first case – tracking down a missing person for his girlfriend – quickly turns into a matter of life and death, making him a target of gangsters and the police!

This trade paperback release of David F. Walker’s 6-part Shaft comic book is well presented. I have reviewed the comic book through each individual issue, so I will not repeat that here other than suffice to say this is a must for Shaft fans and comic book fans alike. Extras include Bilquis Evely’s Shaft profile designs; alternative covers as well as a potential cover drawn by Walker; script page extracts and accompanying final panel versions; and cover variant artwork for each of the original issues.

A second series of comic books, Shaft: Imitation of Life, has already been commissioned and Walker has his novel, Shaft’s Revenge, published in February next year.