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.

Film Review – THE YAKUZA (1974)

Yakuza, The (1974; USA/Japan; Technicolor; 123m) ∗∗∗½  d. Sydney Pollack; w. Paul Schrader, Robert Towne, Leonard Schrader; ph. Kôzô Okazaki; m. Dave Grusin.  Cast: Robert Mitchum, Ken Takakura, Brian Keith, Herb Edelman, Richard Jordan, James Shigeta, Keiko Kishi, Eiji Okada, William Ross, Denis Akiyama, Kyosuke Mashida, Christina Kokubo, Eiji Go, Lee Chirillo, Akiyama. Mitchum returns to Japan after several years in order to rescue his friend’s kidnapped daughter – and ends up on the wrong side of the Yakuza, the notorious Japanese Mafia. Mitchum and Takakura are excellent as men from different cultures who find a mutual sense of honour in taking on the powerful gang. Explosive gunplay mixes with bloody swordplay in a tense finale. Edited version runs 112m. [15]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: THE ZYGON INVASION / THE ZYGON INVERSION

THE ZYGON INVASION / THE ZYGON INVERSION
2 episodes / 93m / 31 October & 7 November 2015
Rating: ∗∗∗∗
Writer: Peter Harness & Steven Moffat
Director: Daniel Nettheim
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), Jaye Griffiths (Jac), Nicholas Asbury (Etoine), Cleopatra Dickens (Claudette), Sasha Dickens (Jemima), Rebecca Front (Colonel Walsh), Abhishek Singh (Little Boy [Sandeep]), Samila Kularatne (Little Boy’s Mum), Todd Kramer (Hitchley), Jill Winternitz (Lisa [Drone Op]), Gretchen Egolf (Norlander), Karen Mann (Hitchley’s Mom), James Bailey (Walsh’s Son), Aidan Cook (Zygon), Tom Wilton (Zygon).
Plot: The Zygons, a race of shape-shifting aliens, have been living in secret amongst us on Earth, unknown and unseen – until now! When Osgood is kidnapped by a rogue gang of Zygons, the Doctor, Clara and UNIT must scatter across the world in a bid to set her free. But will they reach her in time, and can they stop an uprising before it is too late?
Comment: A somewhat heavy-handed political allegory enlivened by some atmospheric visuals and a towering performance from Capaldi, who has really grown into the role of the Doctor. Jenna Coleman is also excellent in her dual-role as Clara and Zygon duplicate and Ingrid Oliver is again appealing as Osgood. The Zygons are an effective classic monster and the plot concerning a faction group looking to break the peace treaty brokered at the close of Day of the Doctor is involving. The story occasionally suffers from some over elaborate ideas, which lack follow-through such as the UNIT jet being shot down and no-one seemingly blinking an eyelid. I’m also not sure I still get the whole dual-Osgood scenario, but it did set up a splendid finale which gave Capaldi the opportunity to deliver one of the most passionate speeches in the series’ history. Capaldi’s performance is reminiscent of Tom Baker at this best as The Doctor argues ethics and values with the Zygons and Jemma Redgrave’s UNIT commander in an attempt to restore the treaty. Stirring stuff then in a story that ultimately satisfies despite its none-too-subtle political messaging.

TV Review – EDGE: THE LONER (2015)

Edge the LonerEdge: The Loner (TV) (2015; USA; Colour; 62m) ∗½  d. Shane Black; w. Shane Black, Fred Dekker; ph. Dante Spinotti; m. Brian Tyler.  Cast: Max Martini, Ryan Kwanten, Yvonne Strahovski, Alicja Bachleda, William Sadler, Beau Knapp, Robert Bailey Jr., Noah Segan. A Union officer turned cowboy roams the Old West in the post-Civil War era on a quest for revenge in this series based on the best-selling books of the same name. Martini gives a one-note performance in this familiar tale further marred by over-the-top violence, misfiring black humour and one-dimensional characters. Pilot for Amazon TV series is based on the books by George C. Gilman (Terry Harknett). [15]

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)