David Walker has posted a preview of Francesco Francavilla’s cover art for Shaft # 5 due out in April. The issue will be the penultimate in Walker’s initial six-part story arc.
SHAFT #2 (7 January 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
The second issue follows John Shaft as he starts his career as a private detective working for National Investigation and Security Services. He is immediately assigned to work undercover in a department store to apprehend shoplifters. In doing so he draws the attention of Arletha Havens. The couple quickly build up a close relationship, but when two hoods come searching for Arletha’s former flatmate, Marisol Dupree, Shaft is drawn into a search that will end in multiple deaths.
This second issue continues the excellent standard set by Shaft #1. Walker has mined Shaft’s background from Tidyman’s novels and fleshed out the story. By adding a love interest and a tragedy, Walker lights the fuel under Shaft’s anger with a cliffhanger finale and sets him on a road for revenge. The artwork is again mostly excellent with its endearing retro feel taking us back to the late 1960s. The result is a comic that will delight enthusiasts of Ernest Tidyman’s novels.
Part 2 of Walker’s novel Shaft’s Revenge is available as a QR download and Walker also supplies another fantastic playlist.
Veronica Mars (2014; USA; Colour; 107m) ∗∗½ d. Rob Thomas; w. Rob Thomas, Diane Ruggiero; ph. Ben Kutchins; m. Josh Kramon; ed. Daniel Gabbe. Cast: Kristen Bell, Enrico Colantoni, Jason Dohring, Martin Starr, Krysten Ritter, Tina Majorino, Gaby Hoffmann, Percy Daggs III, Ryan Hansen, Francis Capra, Brandon Hillock, Sam Huntington, Chris Lowell, Max Greenfield, Daran Norris, Christine Lakin, Ken Marino, Dax Shepard, Eddie Jemison, Kevin Sheridan, Justin Long, Jamie Lee Curtis, James Franco. Years after walking away from her past as a teenage private eye, Veronica Mars gets pulled back to her hometown – just in time for her high school reunion – in order to help an old flame, who’s embroiled in a murder mystery. Mystery elements are light and story is populated by annoying one-dimensional characters. This puts a heavy reliance on Bell’s charisma and smooth line in sarcastic humour to maintain interest. 
Klute (1971; USA; Technicolor; 114m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Alan J. Pakula; w. Andy Lewis, David E. Lewis; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Michael Small; ed. Carl Lerner. Cast: Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Charles Cioffi, Roy Scheider, Jean Stapleton, Rita Gam, Dorothy Tristan, Richard B. Shull, Vivian Nathan, Nathan George, Morris Strassbert, Barry Snider, Betty Murray, Jane White, Shirley Stoler. A small-town detective searching for a missing man has only one lead: a connection with a New York prostitute. Fonda’s call girl’s inner turmoil is the real focus of this thriller and she produces a magnetic Oscar-winning performance. Pakula manages to bring an authentic feel to the drama through naturalistic performances and dialogue alongside and uncompromising use of NYC locations. 
Above the Law (1988; USA; Technicolor; 97m) ∗∗ d. Andrew Davis; w. Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett, Andrew Davis, Steven Seagal; ph. Robert Steadman; m. David Michael Frank; ed. Michael Brown. Cast: Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Sharon Stone, Daniel Faraldo, Ron Dean, Jack Wallace, Henry Silva. An ex-CIA policeman working for the local police department, while doing an investigation discovers the existence of a big weapon trade. Seagal has the physical attributes but not the charisma of a Clint Eastwood. The plot is used merely as a prop from which to hang a number of admittedly polished action scenes. Aka: NICO: ABOVE THE LAW. 
Absence of Malice (1981; USA; Colour; 117m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Sydney Pollack; w. Kurt Luedtke; ph. Owen Roizman; m. Dave Grusin; ed. Sheldon Kahn. Cast: Paul Newman, Sally Field, Bob Balaban, Melinda Dillon, Luther Adler, Barry Primus, Josef Sommer, John Harkins, Don Hood, Wilford Brimley, Arnie Ross, Anna Marie Napoles. When a prosecutor leaks a false story that a liquor warehouse owner is involved in the murder of a union head, the man’s life begins to unravel. Absorbing and well-made conspiracy thriller with excellent star turns from Newmand and Field. Adler’s last film. [PG]
The Big Store (1941; USA; B&W; 83m) ∗∗∗ d. Charles Reisner; w. Sid Kuller, Hal Fimberg, Ray Golden; ph. Charles Lawton Jr.; m. George Stoll (musical director); ed. Conrad A. Nervig. Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Tony Martin, Virginia Grey, Margaret Dumont, Douglass Dumbrille, William Tannen, Marion Martin, Virginia O’Brien. A detective is hired to protect the life of a singer, who has recently inherited a department store, from the store’s crooked manager. Although the musical interludes threaten to drown the comedy there is much here to enjoy notably Groucho’s rendition of “Sing While You Sell” and the slapstick finale chase through the department store. Based on a story by Nat Perrin. The Marx Brothers announced that this would be their last film, but they actually went on to make two more. [U]
Casino Royale (1967; UK; Technicolor; 131m) ∗∗ d. Ken Hughes, John Huston, Joseph McGrath, Robert Parrish, Val Guest; w. Wolf Mankowitz, John Law, Michael Sayers; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Burt Bacharach; ed. Bill Lenny. Cast: Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, David Niven, Woody Allen, Orson Welles, William Holden, Deborah Kerr, Daliah Lavi, John Huston, George Raft, Joanna Pettet, Charles Boyer, Kurt Kasznar, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Peter O’Toole. In an early spy spoof, aging Sir James Bond comes out of retirement to take on SMERSH. Out-of-control spoof is interesting mainly for its cast and Burt Bacharach’s score. The whole thing, though, is ill-conceived and loses its way completely in a free-for-all climax. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]
Casino Royale (2006; USA/UK/Germany/Czech Republic; Colour; 144m) ∗∗∗∗½ d. Martin Campbell; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis; ph. Phil Meheux; m. David Arnold; ed. Stuart Baird. Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Isaach De Bankolé, Jesper Christensen, Ivana Milicevic, Tobias Menzies, Claudio Santamaria, Sebastien Foucan, Malcolm Sinclair. In his first mission, James Bond must stop Le Chiffre, a banker to the world’s terrorist organizations, from winning a high-stakes poker tournament at Casino Royale in Montenegro. Craig makes an excellent debut in arguably the best Bond movie. The action is fast and furious in the opening sequence and the plot carries us through the centre of the film. All the elements are there but this is a tough, rugged entry in a series that has rebooted itself in some considerable style. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. 
David Melton at Coming Up Comics says, “This is Walker’s rendition of the well-known story, and it’s fantastic.”
Jimi Longmuir at The Big Comic Page say, “In short, everyone is earning their cheques on Shaft #2 so I would gladly recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of the genre and of comics in general.”
I will post my review when my copy arrives from Forbidden Planet, which will likely be in about a week’s time.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008; USA; DeLuxe; 122m) ∗∗∗ d. Steven Spielberg; w. David Koepp, George Lucas, Jeff Nathanson; ph. Janusz Kaminski; m. John Williams; ed. Michael Kahn. Cast: Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent, Igor Jijikine, Andrew Divoff, Alan Dale, Dimitri Diatchenko, Ilia Volokh, Emmanuel Todorov, Venya Manzyuk, Pavel Lychnikoff. Famed archaeologist/adventurer Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones is called back into action when he becomes entangled in a Soviet plot to uncover the secret behind mysterious artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls. Good to see Ford back as Indy in this belated retread. Highly choreographed action sequences give the movie a manufactured feel, but at times it recalls the spirit of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. 
My Gun is Quick (1957; USA; B&W; 90m) ∗∗½ d. Phil Victor, George White; w. Richard Collins, Richard Powell; ph. Harry Neumann; m. Marlin Skiles; ed. Frank Sullivan. Cast: Robert Bray, Whitney Blake, Patricia Donahue, Donald Randolph, Pamela Duncan, Booth Colman, Jan Chaney, Genie Coree, Richard Garland, Charles Boaz, Peter Mamakos, Claire Carleton, Phil Arnold, John Dennis, Terence de Marney. Private detective Mike Hammer helps a prostitute being assaulted, and notices that she is wearing a very unique ring. She is later found murdered and there is no trace of the ring, which turns out to be part of a cache of jewellery stolen by the Nazis during World War II and smuggled out of France after the wary by an American army colonel. Bray delivers a one-note performance in this flat and loose adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s novel. [PG]
M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen (TV) (1983; USA; DeLuxe; 120m) ∗∗∗½ d. Alan Alda; w. Alan Alda, Burt Metcalfe, John Rappaport, Dan Wilcox, Thad Mumford, Elias Davis, David Pollock, Karen Hall; ph. Dominic Palmieri; m. Johnny Mandel (theme), Lionel Newman (supervisor); ed. Larry L. Mills, Stanford Tischler. Cast: Alan Alda, Mike Farrell, Harry Morgan, Loretta Swit, David Ogden Stiers, Jamie Farr, William Christopher, Allan Arbus, G.W. Bailey, Rosalind Chao, John Shearin, Kellye Nakahara, Jeff Maxwell. In the closing days of the Korean War, the staff of the 4077 M*A*S*H Unit find themselves facing irrevocable changes in their lives. Mixes drama, comedy, pathos and sentiment in an expert way that echoed the strengths of the series. This became the most-watched television broadcast in American History. [PG]
American Gangster (2007; USA; Technicolor; 157m) ∗∗∗½ d. Ridley Scott; w. Steven Zaillian; ph. Harris Savides; m. Marc Streitenfeld; ed. Pietro Scalia. Cast: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Lymari Nadal, Ted Levine, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Hawkes, RZA, Yul Vazquez, Malcolm Goodwin, Ruby Dee, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, John Ortiz, Cuba Gooding Jr., Armand Assante, Idris Elba. In 1970s America, a detective works to bring down the drug empire of Frank Lucas, a heroin kingpin from Manhattan, who is smuggling the drug into the country from the Far East. Straightforward biopic coasts on strong performances from Washington and Crowe and solid direction from Scott despite the stuttering nature of the narrative. Based on the article “The Return of Superfly” by Mark Jacobson. Unrated version runs to 176m. 
Argo (2012; USA; DeLuxe; 120m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Ben Affleck; w. Chris Terrio; ph. Rodrigo Prieto; m. Alexandre Desplat; ed. William Goldenberg. Cast: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Taylor Schilling, Chris Messina, Kyle Chandler, Clea DuVall, Alan Arkin, Zeljko Ivanek, Tate Donovan, Titus Welliver, Victor Garber, Adrienne Barbeau, Michael Cassidy, Rory Cochrane. A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran. Absorbing account of the rescue is brilliantly directed and acted. Occasional lapses into contrivances to create dramatic tension and an unnecassary subplot involving Affleck’s family stop this from being great – but impressive nevertheless. Won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Writing: Adapted Screenplay (Terrio) and Best Film Editing (Goldenberg). Based on the book “The Master of Disguise” by Tony Mendez and the article “Escape from Tehran” by Joshuah Bearman. Extended cut runs to 130m. 
The Asphalt Jungle (1950; USA; B&W; 112m) ∗∗∗∗ d. John Huston; w. Ben Maddow, John Huston; ph. Harold Rosson; m. Miklós Rózsa; ed. George Boemler. Cast: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, James Whitmore, Sam Jaffe, John McIntire, Marc Lawrence, Marilyn Monroe, Barry Kelley, Anthony Caruso, Teresa Celli, William ‘Wee Willie’ Davis, Dorothy Tree, Brad Dexter, John Maxwell. A major heist goes off as planned, until bad luck and double crosses cause everything to unravel. Slick, efficient and highly effective with a strong cast giving excellent performances. Became a major influence on a generation of filmmakers. Debuts of Strother Martin and Jack Warden. Based on the novel by W.R. Burnett. [PG]
At the Circus (1939; USA; B&W; 87m) ∗∗∗½ d. Edward Buzzell; w. Irving Brecher; ph. Leonard Smith; m. Harold Arlen; ed. William H. Terhune. Cast: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Kenny Baker, Florence Rice, Eve Arden, Margaret Dumont, Nat Pendleton, Fritz Feld, James Burke, Jerry Maren, Barnett Parker, Mariska Aldrich, Irving Bacon, Willie Best. The Marx Brothers try to help the owner of a circus recover some stolen funds before he finds himself out of a job. Entertaining mix of zany comedy and musical numbers with the Marxes in good form. More controlled than their earlier films but the laughs are still frequent. [U]
A preview of the second Shaft comic book, due to be published on 7 January 2015 is available on Google Books. The preview also highlights author David Walker’s playlist and a look at the cover art for Shaft #3 by Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz & Ivan Nunes (below right), which will be published on 4 February 2015.
DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? by PHILIP K. DICK (1968, Gollancz/Orion Books Ltd., Paperback, 214pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
Blurb: Through the mean streets of a grim 21st century megalopolis, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, searching out the renegade andys who were his prey. But this assignment involved Nexus-6 targets and as a result Deckard quickly found himself involved in a nightmare kaleidoscope of violence and subterfuge – and the threat of death for the hunter rather than the hunted…
I saw BLADE RUNNER on its first release, when it sank without a trace and I was one of those who was enthralled by the nightmare world it presented and championed the movie. The film has been re-edited and re-appraised since and is now regarded as an SF masterpiece. The book it is based on is a 1968 pulp novel by Philip K. Dick curiously entitled Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Many of the elements of the book found their way into Ridley Scott’s film, but just as many were jettisoned. Dick’s novel is a mix of themes of spirituality and technophobia. Scott’s movie focused on the latter, ignoring the references to Mercerism (a kind og mystic religion) and keeping animals as pets to replace the fact no-one can have children. As a result the mix adopted in Dick’s novel gives the book a different feel to the movie. Here Deckard is in an unhappy marriage where mood machines are used to control people’s emotions. Deckard is a loner and a bounty hunter who starts to question his actions, as he seeks and “retires” six escaped Nexus-6 androids. He even has a dalliance with a female android, Rachael Rosen, whose creator is responsible for the Nexus-6 programme.
The emphasis of the book is on the contradictions of a post-nuclear life and the compromises made. It taps into an age of paranoia and is a thoughtful book that is thankfully not steeped in the cod-literacy that often dogs the genre. It is a quick read and recommended to anyone who wishes to explore Dick’s vision further.