Film Review – MURDER, MY SWEET (1944)

Murder, My Sweet (1944; USA; B&W; 95m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Edward Dmytryk; w. John Paxton; ph. Harry J. Wild; m. Roy Webb.  Cast: Dick Powell, Anne Shirley, Mike Mazurki, Claire Trevor, Otto Kruger, Miles Mander, Douglas Walton, Donald Douglas, Ralf Harolde, Esther Howard, Jack Carr, Ralph Dunn, George Anderson, Paul Phillips, Larry Wheat. After being hired to find an ex-con’s former girlfriend, Philip Marlowe is drawn into a deeply complex web of mystery and deceit. Densely plotted and stylishly filmed mystery with Powell making a strong impression as a pre-Bogart Philip Marlowe. Proved to be hugely influential on the film noir genre with its use of voiceover, night-time settings, adventurous framing, seedy characters and hardboiled dialogue. Based on the novel “Farewell, My Lovely” by Raymond Chandler, the title used for its UK release. Filmed previously as THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942) and remade as FAREWELL, MY LOVELY in 1975. [PG]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO – THE MAGICIAN’S APPRENTICE / THE WITCH’S FAMILIAR

THE MAGICIAN’S APPRENTICE / THE WITCH’S FAMILIAR
2 episodes / 95m / 19 & 26 September 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗∗½
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Hettie MacDonald
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Julian Bleach (Davros), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Jaye Griffiths (Jac), Harki Bhambra (Mike), Daniel Hoffmann-Gill (Bors), Joey Price (Young Davros),
Benjamin Cawley (Kanzo),  Aaron Neil (Mr Dunlop), Clare Higgins (Ohila), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks), Kelly Hunter (Shadow Architect), India Ria Amarteifio (Alison), Dasharn Anderson (Ryan), Stefan Adegbola, Shin-Fei Chen, Lucy Newman- Williams (Newreaders), Barnaby Edwards, Nicholas Pegg (Daleks), Jonathon Ojinnaka (Soldier).
Plot: Capaldi returns as the Doctor for another series of time-travelling exploits. However, as this first adventure begins, it seems the Time Lord has gone missing – which is bad news for Earth, as a mysterious alien force has frozen the skies. Clara needs to find her friend – but where is he and what is he hiding from? Things soon become clear with the appearance of a familiar old enemy with a black hat and Scottish accent.
Comment: Confident two-part series opener. The plot takes the concept from the powerful scene from 1975’s GENESIS OF THE DALEKS – in which Tom Baker’s Doctor and Michael Wisher’s Davros debated genocidal ethics – and stretches it over a full story. Capaldi’s scenes with Bleach are enthralling and their interplay is the highlight of what is a stylish production. The story also pairs off Gomez’s Missy and Coleman’s Clara and their exchanges are lively and witty. It is also great to see the Daleks in most of their various liveries from over the years. Great ideas abound – including Hand Mines reaching out from the mud and a sewerage system on Skaro that is literally alive with waste. In recent series Moffat has taken an increasingly scattergun approach to his writing, cramming so many ideas that the stories can sometimes lose focus for the sake of a witty or wacky scene, but here he stretches them over two-episodes allowing the story room to breathe. The result is a visual treat combined with an emotive plot, creating a very satisfying whole.

Film Review – BLACK SEA (2014)

Black Sea (2014; UK/USA/Russia; Cinelab; 115m) ∗∗∗  d. Kevin Macdonald; w. Dennis Kelly; ph. Christopher Ross; m. Ilan Eshkeri.  Cast: Jude Law, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, David Threlfall, Konstantin Khabenskiy, Sergey Puskepalis, Michael Smiley, Grigory Dobrygin, Sergey Veksler, Sergey Kolesnikov. In order to make good with his former employers, a submarine captain takes a job with a shadowy backer to search the depths of the Black Sea for a sub that’s rumoured to be loaded with gold. Law heads a strong cast in this claustrophobic underwater heist thriller. Script throws in heavy-handed socio-political statements alongside clichéd character motivation, but Macdonald’s capable direction keeps it undeniably tense. [15]

Film Review – SADDLE THE WIND (1958)

Saddle the Wind (1958; USA; Metrocolor; 84m) ∗∗∗  d. Robert Parrish; w. Rod Serling, Thomas Thompson; ph. George Folsey; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: Robert Taylor, Julie London, John Cassavetes, Donald Crisp, Charles McGraw, Royal Dano, Ray Teal, Richard Erdman. A world-weary former gunslinger, now living as a peaceful farmer finds things go wrong when his wild younger brother arrives on the scene with his new bride. Sturdy western explores generational values and sees Taylor and Cassavetes capture the differences in their characters to good effect. Whilst the finale is a little too contrite, this is still a well-written tale. A first score was written and recorded by Jeff Alexander but had to be replaced due to extensive re-cutting. [PG]

Shaft’s Revenge due for paperback release

ShaftsRevenge-COver-100gsmWoodFreeReports on Bleeding Cool say David F. Walker’s novel, Shaft’s Revenge, is due for paperback publication this December – although Amazon displays an 18 February 2016 release date.

Walker had written the recent comic book series Shaft, which itself is due for a trade paperback release next month as Shaft: A Complicated Man. Walker says: “Writing the first Shaft book in forty years has been not only an honor and a privilege, it has been a dream come true.” “Ernest Tidyman created one of the most iconic and enduring pop culture characters in John Shaft, a legacy that has reached across multiple mediums, and sparked the imagination of millions of people, myself included.” “My goal in writing Shaft’s Revenge was to craft a hard-boiled work of pulp fiction that would honour the character created by Ernest Tidyman, as well as introduce him to new fans.” “For those that are already familiar with the exploits of John Shaft, I hope this new book is like a reunion with an old friend.”

Shaft’s Revenge is the first prose work to feature Ernest Tidyman’s John Shaft since the author’s The Last Shaft forty years ago. The blurb states: When the Godfather of crime in Harlem reaches out to Shaft for a favour, the hardboiled detective finds himself caught in a web of violence and murder. No one is safe as the bullets start to fly and the bodies start to drop, leaving Shaft with only two options: kill or be killed.

Cover design for the book is by Francesco Francavilla.

TV Review – THE TRIALS OF JIMMY ROSE (2015)

Trials of Jimmy Rose, The (TV) (2015, UK, Colour, 135m) ∗∗  d. Adrian Shergold; w. Alan Whiting; ph. Tony Slater-Ling; m. Ben Bartlett; ed. Tania Reddin.  Cast: Ray Winstone, Amanda Redman, John Lynch, Mel Raido, Paul Jesson, Tom Cullen, Leticia Dolera, Marion Bailey, Akin Gazi, Charlotte Randle, Leticia Dolera, Jack Colgrave Hirst, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Daisy Cooper-Kelly, Montanna Thompson.  Winstone stars as a former armed robber released from prison after a lengthy sentence. He returns home to try and get his life back in order and reconnect with his wife and children – but he finds the world and his family have changed in his absence, and faces a struggle to avoid being drawn back into a life of crime. Predictable crime drama with over-wrought script and one-dimensional performance from Winstone. Tone is heavily downbeat and noir-ish, without the saving grace of rhythm and wit. Redman tries her best to overcome the clichés within the script, but ultimately this is standard fare with nothing new to offer. Shown in 3 episodes. DVD [15]

Phil Collins – Remastered back catalogue releases commence on 6 November

Phil Collins’ back catalogue has been remastered and readied for re-release with added material including live versions not previously released, demos and non-album tracks. The first two albums to be released are Phil’s highly influential debut FACE VALUE (1981) and potentially his most personal album BOTH SIDES (1993). The releases, scheduled for 6 November, will include 2-CDs for each album as well as downloads and vinyl versions. New artwork has been produced, which basically updates the previous covers with new photos of Phil.

Phil Collins - Face Value 2015              Phil Collins Both Sides 2015

               Bonus tracks for both releases:

Face Value Bonus Tracks:
1. “Misunderstanding” – Live
2. “If Leaving Me Is Easy” – Live*
3. “In The Air Tonight” – Live*
4. “Behind The Lines” – Live*
5. “The Roof Is Leaking” – Demo*
6. “Hand In Hand” – Live*
7. “I Missed Again” – Live*
8. “….And So To F” – Live*
9. “This Must Be Love” – Demo*
10. “Please Don’t Ask” – Demo*
11. “Misunderstanding” – Demo*
12. “Against All Odds” – Demo

Both Sides Bonus Tracks:
1. “Take Me With You”
2. “Both Sides Of The Story” – Live*
3. “Can’t Turn Back The Years” – Live*
4. “Survivors” – Live*
5. “Everyday” – Live*
6. “We Wait And We Wonder” – Live*
7. “Can’t Find My Way” – Demo*
8. “I’ve Been Trying”
9. “Both Sides Of The Story”
10. “Hero” – Demo
* Previously unreleased on CD

Book Review – THE FINAL SILENCE (2014) by Stuart Neville

THE FINAL SILENCE by STUART NEVILLE (2014, Vintage, 336pp) ∗∗∗∗
      Blurb: Rea Carlisle has inherited a house from an uncle she never knew. It doesn’t take her long to clear out the dead man’s remaining possessions, but one room remains stubbornly locked. When Rea finally forces it open she discovers inside a chair, a table – and a leather-bound book. Inside its pages are locks of hair, fingernails: a catalogue of victims.
Horrified, Rea wants to go straight to the police but when her family intervene, fearing the damage it could cause to her father’s political career, Rea turns to the only person she can think of: DI Jack Lennon. But Lennon is facing his own problems. Suspended from the force and hounded by DCI Serena Flanagan, the toughest cop he’s ever faced, Lennon must unlock the secrets of a dead man’s terrifying journal.

This is the fourth of Stuart Neville’s crime thrillers featuring Belfast Detective Inspector Jack Lennon. We catch up with Lennon some time after the events of the excellent STOLEN SOULS (2013) recovering from post-traumatic stress having been shot in the previous book. He is on leave from the force and on the verge of splitting with his partner, Susan, who looks after their daughters from other relationships. It is against this domestic backdrop that Lennon links up with his ex-girlfriend, Rea, who has discovered her uncle, who had recently committed suicide, was keeping a dark secret. When Rea discovers the book she had found documenting a number of murders has gone missing leaving her nothing to show Lennon, the detective declines to help. When later Rea is murdered, Lennon is implicated as the prime suspect.

What follows is a familiar but expertly written variant on the fugitive trying the clear his name story. We are introduced to DCI Serena Flanagan (who will feature in her own series later), tasked with tracking down Lennon, who is on the run trying to clear his name. Flanagan also has problems of her own having been diagnosed with breast cancer and struggling to come to terms with her mortality. We also discover Rea’s father is a politician with his own secrets to protect. Neville expertly weaves themes of domestic violence, terrorist activity, political ambition and the psyche of a serial killer into his novel. His writing style is visual but concise with short sharp chapters many ending with a hook to take the reader to the next. As such it is the very definition of the page-turner.

Lennon has degenerated into an thoughtless and dislikeable individual by this book, yet the reader sticks with him as he tries to prove his innocence. There are questions from previous books still left unanswered at the conclusion, signifying Neville is not yet done with his characters. Flanagan is the career professional who likes to get things done by the book, but we also see her compassionate side through her consoling of Rea’s mother in both the death of her daughter and the abuse she has taken from her husband.

Overall, this book is a great read, that whilst written in a concise and efficient manner still manages to create three-dimensional characters. Whilst the subject matter is familiar there are enough twists in the story for it to remain an exciting thriller.