TV Review – DOCTOR WHO Series 8 (2014)

DOCTOR WHO: SERIES 8 (2014, BBC, UK, 1 x 77 mins, 1 x 60 mins and 10 x 45 mins, Colour, 1.78:1, Dolby Digital, Cert: PG, Sci-Fi/Adventure) ∗∗∗∗
Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald).
Executive Producer: Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Peter Bennett; Music: Murray Gold.

Doctor_Who_Series_8_boxsetPeter Capaldi is the most alien Doctor since the series returned to our screens in 2005. He produces a well-judged performance keeping the balance between eccentric humour and gravitas, something that could not be said of many of Matt Smith’s later stories where the humour began to take over. Capaldi’s age also helps give the Doctor a more authoritative presence.

Jenna Coleman embraces the new dynamic and rises to the occasion to produce her best performances of her tenure. The addition of Samuel Anderson as her love interest, teacher and former soldier Danny Pink, ensures she remains a central focus throughout the series.

The plot umbrella involving the mysterious Missy (played with almost pantomime like relish by Michelle Gomez) led to a two-part finale that attempted to cram in too many emotional thumps. In general, however, the stories are of the most consistently high quality since Matt Smith’s debut season with the most successful of them going back to the basics of what makes this show the most enjoyable thing on television.

1  DEEP BREATH (77m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Dan Starkey (Strax), Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint), Peter Ferdinando (Half-Face Man), Paul Hickey (Inspector Gregson), Tony Way (Alf), Maggie Service (Elsie), Mark Kempner (Cabbie), Brian Miller (Barney), Graham Duff (Waiter), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Peter Hannah (Policeman), Paul Kasey (Footman), Michelle Gomez (Missy [The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere]), Matt Smith (The Eleventh Doctor).
      Director: Ben Wheatley; Writer: Steven Moffat.

When the Doctor arrives in Victorian London, he finds a dinosaur rampant in the Thames and a spate of deadly spontaneous combustions. Who is the new Doctor and will Clara’s friendship survive as they embark on a terrifying mission into the heart of an alien conspiracy? The Doctor has changed. It’s time you knew him. A lively, if familiar, adventure with large doses of Moffat’s trademark humorous dialogue and manic energy interspersed with occasional moments of atmosphere and tension.

2  INTO THE DALEK (45m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Zawe Ashton (Journey Blue), Michael Smiley (Colonel Morgan Blue), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Laura Dos Santos (Gretchen Allison Carlysle), Ben Crompton (Ross), Bradley Ford (Fleming), Michelle Morris (School Secretary), Nigel Betts (Mr Armitage), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek [Rusty]), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of Battered Dalek), Michelle Gomez (Missy [The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere]).
      Director: Ben Wheatley; Writer: Phil Ford & Steven Moffat.

A Dalek fleet surrounds a lone rebel ship, and only the Doctor can help them now… with the Doctor facing his greatest enemy, he needs Clara by his side. Confronted with a decision that could change the Daleks forever he is forced to examine his conscience. Will he find the answer to the question, am I a good man?  An interesting mix of elements from the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage and Series 1’s Dalek episode. This gives Capaldi more room to establish himself as possibly the best Doctor of the new run and certainly the most alien.

3  ROBOT OF SHERWOOD (47m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Tom Riley (Robin Hood [Robert, Earl of Loxley]), Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Quayle), Sabrina Bartlett (Quayle’s Ward [Marian]), Ben Miller (The Sheriff of Nottingham), Ian Hallard (Alan-a-Dale), Trevor Cooper (Friar Tuck), Rusty Goffe (Little John), Joseph Kennedy (Will Scarlett), Adam Jones (Walter), David Benson (Herald), David Langham (Guard), Tim Baggaley (Knight), Richard Elfyn (Voice of the Knights).
      Director: Paul Murphy; Writer: Mark Gatiss.

In a sun-dappled Sherwood Forest, the Doctor discovers an evil plan from beyond the stars and strikes up an unlikely alliance with Robin Hood. With all of Nottingham at stake, the Doctor must decide who is real and who is fake. Can impossible heroes really exist? One of two lighter episodes (The Caretaker being the other) that harks back to the Matt Smith era. Capaldi handles the comedy well, but the whole thing feels a little too lightweight.

4  LISTEN (48m) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink / Orson Pink), Remi Gooding (Rupert Pink), Robert Goodman (Reg), Kiran Shah (Figure), John Hurt (The War Doctor).
      Director: Douglas Mackinnon; Writer: Steven Moffat.

When ghosts of past and future crowd into their lives, the Doctor and Clara are thrown into an adventure that takes them to the very end of the universe. What happens when the Doctor is alone? And what scares the grand old man of Time and Space? Listen! The first classic of the Capaldi era is a chilling evocation of bedtime nightmares and proves Moffat still has it in him to produce the scares in a lower budget episode, even if he is once again mining the child psyche to produce them.

5  TIME HEIST (46m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Keeley Hawes (Ms Delphox), Jonathan Bailey (Psi), Pippa Bennett-Warner (Saibra), Mark Ebulue (Guard), Trevor Sellers (Mr Porrima), Junior Laniyan (Suited Customer), Ross Mullan (The Teller).
      Director: Douglas Mackinnon; Writer: Steve Thompson & Steven Moffat.

The Doctor turns bank robber when he is given a task he cannot refuse – to steal from the most dangerous bank in the cosmos. With the help of a beautiful shape-shifter and cyber-augmented gamer, the Doctor and Clara must fight their way past deadly security and come face to face with the fearsome Teller: a creature of terrifying power that can detect guilt. Who’s version for a heist movie is well-played by a game cast, with The Teller a memorable monster creation. Whilst the story doesn’t really go anywhere it has its share of entertaining moments.

6  THE CARETAKER (46m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Edward Harrison (Adrian), Nigel Betts (Mr Armitage), Andy Gillies (CSO Matthew), Nanya Campbell (Noah), Joshua Warner-Campbell (Yashe), Oliver Barry-Brook(Kelvin), Ramone Morgan(Tobias), Winston Ellis (Mr Woods), Gracy Goldman (Mrs Woods), Diana Katis (Mrs Christopholou), Jimmy Vee (Skovox Blitzer), Chris Addison (Seb), Michelle Gomez (Missy [The Gatekeeper of the Nethersphere]).
      Director: Paul Murphy; Writer: Gareth Roberts.

The terrifying Skovox Blitzer is ready to destroy all humanity – but worse, and any second now, Danny Pink and the Doctor are going to meet. When terrifying events threaten Coal Hill School, the Doctor decides to go undercover. The better of the two comedic stories in the series. Capaldi really enjoys his undercover role and there is much fun to be had with Vee’s monster.

7  KILL THE MOON (47m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Ellis George (Courtney), Hermione Norris (Lundvik), Tony Osoba (Duke), Phil Nice (Henry), Christopher Dane (McKean).
      Director: Paul Wilmhurst; Writer: Peter Harness.

In the near future, the Doctor and Clara find themselves on a space shuttle making a suicide mission to the Moon. Crash-landing on the lunar surface, they find a mining base full of corpses, vicious spider-like creatures poised to attack, and a terrible dilemma. When Clara turns to the Doctor for help, she gets the shock of her life. Beautifully filmed episode that wracks up the tension through its claustrophobic setting. The spider creatures are truly terrifying, but the pay-off solution stretches credulity. However the coda between Capaldi and Coleman packs an emotional wallop.

8  MUMMY ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (47m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Frank Skinner (Perkins), David Bamber (Captain Quell), John Sessions (Gus), Daisy Beaumont (Maisie Pitt), Janet Henfrey (Mrs Pitt), Christopher Villiers (Professor Emil Moorhouse), Foxes (Singer), Jamie Hill (Foretold).
      Director: Paul Wilmhurst; Writer: Jamie Mathieson.

The Doctor and Clara are on the most beautiful train in history, speeding among the stars of the future – but they are unaware that a deadly creature is stalking the passengers. Once you see the horrifying Mummy you only have 66 seconds to live. No exceptions, no reprieve. As the Doctor races against the clock Clara sees him at his deadliest and most ruthless. Will he work out how to defeat the Mummy? Start the clock! Another race against the clock scenario (previously done in 42) but made with such style, grace and wit you can forgive its contrivances. The mummy creature is a brilliantly realised effect.

9  FLATLINE (44m) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), John Cummins (Roscoe), Jessica Hayles (PC Forrest), Joivan Wade (Rigsy), Christopher Fairbank (Fenton), Matt Bardock (Al), Raj Bajaj (George), James Quinn (Bill), Michelle Gomez (Missy).
      Director: Douglas Mackinnon; Writer: Jamie Mathieson.

Separated from the Doctor, Clara discovers a new menace from another dimension. But how do you hide when even the walls are no protection? With people to save and the Doctor trapped, Clara comes up against an enemy that exists beyond human perception. Brilliantly conceived and executed with some chilling moments and some fun with the Doctor trapped in a shrunken TARDIS. Again an example of the series working best when the budgets are limited.

10  IN THE FOREST OF THE NIGHT (46m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Abigail Eames (Maebh), Jaydon Harris-Wallace (Samson Jaydon Harris-Wallace), Ashley Foster (Bradley), Harley Bird (Ruby), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Siwan Morris (Maebh’s Mum), Harry Dickman (George), James Weber Brown (Minister), Michelle Asante (Neighbour), Curtis Flowers (Emergency Service Officer), Jenny Hill (Herself), Kate Tydman (Paris Reporter), Nana Amoo-Gottfried (Accra Reporter), William Wright-Neblett (Little Boy), Eloise Barnes (Annabel).
      Director: Sheree Folkson; Writer: Frank Cottrell Boyce.

One morning, in every city and town in the world, the human race wakes up to face the most surprising invasion yet. Everywhere, in every land, a forest has grown overnight and taken back the Earth. It doesn’t take the Doctor long to discover that the final days of humanity have arrived. A story where its ambitions outweigh its resources. There are some good moments here too, despite the over-reaching concept and Capaldi has settled nicely into his stride.

11/12  DARK WATER / DEATH IN HEAVEN (104m) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara), Samuel Anderson (Danny), Michelle Gomez (Missy), Ingrid Oliver (Osgood), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Lethbridge-Stewart), Sanjeev Bhaskar (Colonel Ahmed),  Chris Addison (Seb), Andrew Leung (Doctor Chang), Bradley Ford (Fleming), Antonio Bourouphael (Boy), Joan Blackham (Woman), Sheila Reid (Gran), Jeremiah Krage (Cyberman), Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Cybermen), Nigel Betts (Mr Armitage), Shane Keogh-Grenade (Teenage Boy), Katie Bignell (Teenage Girl), James Pearse (Graham), Nick Frost (Santa Claus).
      Director: Rachel Talalay; Writer: Steven Moffat.

In the mysterious world of the Nethersphere, plans have been drawn up. Missy is about to come face to face with the Doctor, and an impossible choice is looming. “Death is not an end” promises the sinister organisation known only as 3W – but, as the Doctor and Clara discover, you might wish it was. The set up in Dark Water is intriguing and echoes Revelation of the Daleks’ black humour. The cliffhanger reveal is not a surprise, however, and the final episode is overblown, contrived and confusing. There are too many convenient plot resolutions for comfort here, but the final scene between Capaldi and Coleman is perfectly judged.

Book Review – DEAD MEN AND BROKEN HEARTS (2012) by CRAIG RUSSELL

DEAD MEN AND BROKEN HEARTS by Craig Russell (2012, Quercus, Paperback, 438pp) ∗∗∗
      Blurb: Lennox is looking for legitimate cases – anything’s better than working for the Three Kings, the crime bosses who run Glasgow’s underworld. So when a woman comes into his office and hires him to follow her husband, it seems the perfect case. And, unusually for Lennox, it’s legal. But this isn’t a simple case of marital infidelity. When the people he’s following start to track him, once more Lennox must draw on the violent, war-damaged part of his personality as he follows this trail of dead men and broken hearts.

9780857381859This is the fourth in Craig Russell’s series about Glasgow enquiry agent Lennox (no first name). Whereas the first three were largely confined to the smog-ridden streets of Glasgow in the 1950s, this time Lennox is involved in two cases with deep plots of subterfuge. The broadening of scope not only extends to the plot but to the setting as we follow Lennox to the Highlands in the book’s latter stages.

Lennox is an interesting character, haunted by his deeds in the war, he is a carefree character, who is beginning to understand the need to have roots and the comfort that can be gained from a steady relationship. But things change in his life that force him to consider returning to his native Canada. But not before he is framed for murder and has to escape police custody in order to clear his name.

The plot elements may sound familiar, but the first-person narrative, again familiar in the genre, is put to good use to create an real sense of mystery around the Hungarian connection and the use of the plot McGuffin being the mystery surrounding a dying man’s last word, “Tanglewood”, is not only pure Hitchcock but evocative of the last James Bond movie, Skyfall.

This is the strongest book in what has been a consistently entertaining, if not overly original, series. I hope this isn’t the last we see of Lennox, although there seems to be a certain amount of finality about the epilogue that suggests it may be.

The other books in the series are:

untitledLENNOX (2009, Quercus, 426pp) ∗∗∗∗∗  Blurb: Glasgow has always been a tough city and it’s getting tougher. Three crime bosses control the mean streets and shady investigator Lennox is the man in the middle. Lennox can be certain of only one thing – in this place only the toughest survive. The McGahern twins are on the way up until Tam, the brains of the outfit, becomes the victim of a vicious contract killing. Tam’s brother Frankie looks to Lennox to find out who killed his twin. Then Frankie turns up dead, and Lennox finds himself in the frame for murder. To prove his innocence he’ll have to dodge men more deadly than Glasgow’s crime bosses if he hopes to survive.

71HYM1tIhvL._SL1000_THE LONG GLASGOW KISS (2010, Quercus, 420pp) ∗∗∗∗∗  Blurb: Glasgow in the 1950s – private investigator Lennox is keeping a low profile, enjoying a secret fling with the daughter of shady bookie and greyhound breeder MacFarlane. When MacFarlane is found bludgeoned to death, Lennox is a suspect. Luckily, he has a solid gold alibi – he was in bed with the victim’s daughter. Lennox is quickly drawn into hunting the killer. It turns out MacFarlane was into some seriously dodgy stuff. One of Glasgow’s notorious Three Kings, crime boss Willie Sneddon, is involved and he’s not a man Lennox wants to cross. But there’s an even bigger player lurking in the shadows and it looks like Lennox is going to get his fingers burnt, badly.

deepdark_sleep_staticcover_THE DEEP DARK SLEEP (2011, Quercus, 358pp) ∗∗∗∗∗  Blurb: Human remains are recovered from the bottom of the River Clyde. Not an unusual occurrence, but these have been sleeping the deep, dark sleep for eighteen years. Suddenly Glasgow’s underworld is buzzing with the news that the dredged-up bones belong to Gentleman Joe Strachan, Glasgow’s most successful and ruthless armed robber. Isa and Violet, Strachan’s daughters, hire private investigator Lennox to find out who has been sending them large sums of cash each year, on the anniversary of Strachan’s most successful robbery. But Lennox’s instincts tell him that this job spells trouble and will take him back in to the dark world of the Three Kings – the crime bosses who run the city. He takes the job nevertheless. And soon learns that ignoring his instincts might just cost him his life. This is the third fantastic thriller featuring shady investigator Lennox as he stalks Glasgow’s tough streets. The Deep Dark Sleep is gritty, fast-paced, and totally absorbing.

Film Review – COLD IN JULY (2014)

COLD IN JULY (2014, BSM Studio, 109 mins, Colour, 2.35:1, DTS/Dolby Digital, Cert: 15, Crime Thriller) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Michael C. Hall (Richard Dane), Sam Shepard (Ben Russell), Don Johnson (Jim Bob Luke), Vinessa Shaw (Ann Dane), Nick Damici (Ray Price), Wyatt Russell (Freddy), Lanny Flaherty (Jack Crow), Rachel Zeiger-Haag (Valerie), Brogan Hall (Jordan Dane).
      Producer: Linda Moran, Rene Bastian, Adam Folk, Marie Savare; Director: Jim Mickle; Writer: Jim Mickle, Nick Damici (based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale); Director of Photography: Ryan Samul; Music: Jeff Grace; Film Editor: John Paul Horstmann, Jim Mickle; Production Designer: Russell Barnes; Art Director: Annie Simeone; Set Decorator: Daniel R. Kersting; Costume Designer: Elisabeth Vastola.

Cold In July (2014) 720p WEB-DLMickle’s adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s novel wears its cinematic influences on its sleeve. There are strong echoes of Sam Peckinpah in the bloody violence and of John Carpenter in the tense opening and with the use of an electronic score echoing Carpenter’s classic scores.

Set in 1989, Hall plays an everyman who shoots an intruder and then is shadowed by the intruder’s father, played by Shepard, who is an ex-con. What at first seems like a re-tread of CAPE FEAR, turns on its head about mid-way as the plot twists and turns. At this point Johnson arrives on the scene as a pig farmer cum private detective and he, Hall and Shepard make an unlikely threesome.

The shifting plot focus keeps us on our toes, as the movie moves from a tense thriller to a more straightforward tale of vigilantes. The action is bloody and brutal but stops short of the excesses of a Tarantino. There are some unresolved plot points too, but the obvious enthusiasm of Mickle and his crew compensates, notably through Horstmann’s tight editing and strong performances by the leads. Shepard exudes quiet menace, whilst Johnson has the best witty lines. Hall is excellent as he slowly gets sucked into Shepard and Johnson’s world.

It doesn’t quite rank alongside NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, but this Texas-based crime thriller has a few tricks of its own and is a very entertaining ride.

David Walker talks Shaft

0b65c24196160ad8976fe3.L._V177507817_SX200_David Walker has been doing the promotional rounds talking about his new comic book series featuring John Shaft. A couple of podcasts – one with Publishers Weekly and another with Cold Beer and Comics give Walker the opportunity to talk about his work on the books and his enthusiasm for Ernest Tidyman’s novels, which are the basis for the stories Walker is developing.

The series is due to kick-off from Dynamite Entertainment on 3 December with six issues in total planned to date.

 

 

Film Review – FADING GIGOLO (2013)

FADING GIGOLO (2013, Antidote Films, 90 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, DTS/Dolby Digital, Cert: 15, Comedy Drama) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: John Turturro (Fioravante), Woody Allen (Murray), Vanessa Paradis (Avigal), Liev Schreiber (Dovi), Sharon Stone (Dr. Parker), Sofía Vergara (Selima), Tonya Pinkins (Othella), Aubrey Joseph (Cefus), Dante Hoagland (Coco), Isaiah Clifton (Cyrus), Michael Badalucco (Burly Driver), Aida Turturro (Driver’s Wife), Allen Lewis Rickman (Hasidic Driver).
      Producer: Bill Block, Paul Hanson, Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte; Director: John Turturro; Writer: Abraham Laboriel, Bill Maxwell; Director of Photography: Marco Pontecorvo (Color Lab); Music: Ken Thorne; Film Editor: Simona Paggi; Production Designer: Lester Cohen, Art Director: Sarah Frank; Set Decorator: Sheila Bock; Costume Designer: Donna Zakowska.

101667_frontTurturro wrote and directed this slight comedy drama in which he plays Fioravante, a cash-strapped florist who decides to become a professional gigolo as a way of making money to help his equally cash-strapped friend, Murray (Allen). With Murray acting as his manager, prompted by his dermatologist (Stone) requesting he find her someone willing to participate in a menage-a-trois, Tuturro quickly becomes a word-of-mouth hit. But when he is asked to help Avigal (Paradis) overcome the loneliness she still feels seven years after the death of her husband, he begins to question his choices.

What starts out as a comedy, much akin to some of Allen’s own later efforts, turns into something of a parable in its second half with the tenderness Turturro’s character feels toward Paradis. Allen adopts the shyster screen persona he plays so well, notably in BROADWAY DANNY ROSE. Much of the film’s humour is derived from his enthusiastically entrepreneurial approach to his new role.

But as the focus moves away from Stone’s spoilt loneliness to Paradis’ sad loneliness, the mood of the film turns more toward gentle drama. The shift in tone is undoubtedly deliberate, but betrays a movie that falls between two stools and fails to satisfy either camp completely. Turturro himself downplays his role too much thereby removing all emotion from the character, despite his obvious tender feelings for Paradis.

It is therefore left to Allen to give the movie its life and its most pleasurable moments and whilst FADING GIGOLO will only find a limited audience there is still enough there to make it enjoyable, as well as demonstrate it could have been better.

Film Review – JUGGERNAUT (1974)

JUGGERNAUT (1974, David V. Picker Productions/Two Roads Productions, 109 mins, Colour, 1.66:1, Mono, Cert: PG, Action Thriller) ∗∗∗
      Starring: Richard Harris (Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Fallon), Omar Sharif (Captain Alex Brunel), David Hemmings (Charlie Braddock), Anthony Hopkins (Supt. John McLeod), Shirley Knight (Barbara Bannister), Ian Holm (Nicholas Porter), Clifton James (Corrigan), Roy Kinnear (Social Director Curtain), Caroline Mortimer (Susan McLeod), Mark Burns (Hollingsworth), John Stride (Hughes), Freddie Jones (Sidney Buckland), Julian Glover (Commander Marder), Jack Watson (Chief Engineer Mallicent), Roshan Seth (Azad).
      Producer: Richard Alan Simmons (as Richard De Koker); Director: Richard Lester; Writer: Richard Alan Simmons (as Richard De Koker); Director of Photography: Gerry Fisher (De Luxe); Music: Ken Thorne; Film Editor: Antony Gibbs; Production Designer: Terence Marsh, Art Director: Alan Tomkins; Costume Designer: Evangeline Harrison.

Jug1Like GOLD, which I reviewed recently, JUGGERNAUT is another unfairly overlooked film from 1974. Set aboard the Britannic, a cruise ship crossing the Atlantic on which seven bombs have been planted by an extortionist, the story wittily plays around with standard disaster movie conventions. This is largely down to director Richard Lester’s observational and down-to-earth approach to filmmaking. Whilst the standard genre approach around establishing multi-character backgrounds amongst the passengers is adopted, Lester inhabits the story with a quirkiness in characterisation that somehow makes them more real than those seen in the bigger-budget blockbsuters of the day such as EARTHQUAKE and THE TOWERING INFERNO.

Lester is helped by an excellent cast including Hopkins as the detective tasked with tracking down the bomber, whilst his wife and family are aboard the Britannic. This situation could have become clichéd, but here comes across much more real due to the downplaying of the actors and Lester’s fly-on-the-wall approach to filming scenes. Harris is also on top form in the lead as the bomb disposal expert, Fallon, charged with de-activating Juggernaut’s seven bombs. Sharif plays the cold-hearted ship’s captain, involved in an affair with Knight whilst Kinnear is the other memorable performer as the ship’s entertainer, who won’t accept defeat in trying to lift the spirits of the passengers. Ian Holm, Julian Glover, David Hemmings, Freddie Jones and Clifton James all round out a diverse cast that keeps the film’s audience interested with their diverse characters.

The tension mounts during the bomb defusing sequences, and using an actual ship to film on adds to the sense of realism. Lester intersperses all of this with his trademark observational humour and overdubbed asides. Whilst acknowledging the conventions of its genre, Lester brings a fresh approach to it, which makes for a winning formula.

Film Review – GOLD (1974)

GOLD (1974, Killarney Film Studios, UK, 120 mins, Colour, 2.35:1, Mono, Cert: 12, Action Drama) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Roger Moore (Rod Slater), Susannah York (Terry Steyner), Ray Milland (Hurry Hirschfeld), Bradford Dillman (Manfred Steyner), John Gielgud (Farrell), Tony Beckley (Stephen Marais), Simon Sabela (Big King), Marc Smith (Tex Kiernan), John Hussey (Plummer), Bernard Horsfall (Dave Kowalski), Bill Brewer (Aristide), Norman Coombes (Frank Lemmer).
      Producer: Michael Klinger; Director: Peter R. Hunt; Writer: Wilbur Smith, Stanley Price (based on the novel “Gold Mine” by Wilbur Smith); Director of Photography: Ousama Rawi (Technicolor); Music: Elmer Bernstein; Film Editor: John Glen; Production Designer: Syd Cain, Alex Vetchinsky, Art Director: Robert W. Laing; Costume Designer: Marjory Cornelius.

Gold_(1974)An overlooked film from the 1970s, this conspiracy action adventure story based on Wilbur Smith’s novel mixes exciting sequences underground with standard plotting and characters above it. Moore plays Rod Slater a mine manager who is set up as the fall guy by Dillman and his team of crooked investors. Their scheme is for Moore to flood the mine with water, whilst he believes he is drilling a new area for gold, and thereby raise the price of gold so Dillman and his crew can cash in.

Moore is excellent as Slater instilling more energy and emotion into the role than in his James Bond movies of the same vintage. In fact many of the Bond crew are on hand here. Peter Hunt, who directed one of the very best Bonds in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, livens the film with his trademark fast editing, supported by future Bond director John Glen, during the action scenes and significantly heightens the tension. The finale is particularly well staged as Moore and Sabela battle their way through the flooding mine in an attempt to seal it with explosives. The supporting cast is strong too with York good as Dillman’s wife and Moore’s love interest; Milland suitably grumpy as the mine owner and Dillman conniving as the director of operations. Gielgud, however, is wasted in a smaller role as the head of the investment syndicate.

With grippingly authentic and well filmed mining scenes making up for those above ground, which sometimes drag, this is a neat movie that deserves some re-appraisal.

First example of new artwork for Shaft comic book

There is a great interview with David Walker writer of the new Shaft comic book on the Comic Alliance website. In the interview Walker covers the history of the character and his plans for both the comic books and new prose. Walker has been commissioned for six issues but has sufficient material for twenty four. He also has a desire to adapt the first Shaft novel.

Also on the site are the below example panels minus the dialogue and prose. This is the first glimpse of artist Bilquis Evely’s excellent work. As Walker points out in the interview the physical depiction of John Shaft is based on Ernest Tidyman’s description and not Richard Roundtree.

Shaft01Colors2Shaft01Colors4

Preview Cover for SHAFT #2 comic book from Dynamite due in January

Shaft no 2
A Cover for Shaft #2 by Francesco Francavilla. (Dynamite)

A preview for the cover to Shaft # 2 has been published. The comic is written by David F. Walker and drawn by Bilquis Evely and goes on sale on 7 January 2015. Variant covers will also again be provided by Sanford Greene and Denys Cowan & Bill Sienkiewicz

Here’s the blurb for Issue #2:
Every great detective has their first case. For John Shaft, that first case seems simple enough. But tracking down a missing person for his girlfriend quickly turns into a matter of life and death. With the bodies piling up, Shaft realizes he’s in over his head. But can he stay alive long enough to figure out what is going on, or will his first case be the death of John Shaft?

SHAFT-order-form-color
Shaft #1 in all its variant covers. (Dynamite)

I look forward to receiving the first issue published on 3 December 2014. I have ordered the Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz cover variant (top left of the six choices). The series will form an origin story set one year before Ernest Tidyman’s 1970 novel.

I will post reviews of the series here as the comics are published.

Book Review – SAINTS OF THE SHADOW BIBLE (2013) by Ian Rankin

SAINTS OF THE SHADOW BIBLE by IAN RANKIN (2013, Orion Books Ltd., Paperback, 389pp) ∗∗∗∗∗

Blurb: A thirty-year-old case is being reopened, and Rebus’ team from back then is suspected of foul play. With Malcolm Fox as the investigating officer, are the past and present about to collide in a shocking and murderous fashion? And does Rebus have anything to hide? His old colleagues call themselves “the Saints” and swore a bond on something called “the Shadow Bible”. But times have changed and the crimes of the past may not stay hidden much longer.

Saints-of-the-Shadow-Bible-Rebus is out of retirement and back on the force – although at the lower rank of Detective Sergeant with Siobhan Clarke now his boss, having ascended to his old rank of Detective Inspector. The case they are working is a car accident where the driver has fled the scene of the crime, but all is not as it seems as the plot thickens to involve local gangsters and a rich businessman. This give Rankin ample time to bring Rebus’ cynicism with both authority and big business to the fore.

Alongside this, the main plot around the death of a local low-life who had escaped prison thirty years previously – seemingly due to police ineptitude – looks like implicating the team Rebus joined as a Detective Constable when he began his career with CID. The relationship between these old-school veteran cops is strained and we also meet an old flame of Rebus as well as a potential new love interest.

Rankin weaves these two separate plots cleverly and the characters retain their interest throughout. He also allows us brief glimpses inside other characters – a variance from his usual focus on Rebus and Clarke. Whilst the book is not as strong as the best entries in the series – its recurrent themes give it a feeling of familiarity – it is still an entertaining read. Rebus is a fantastic creation and it is great to see him back.