Film Review – RED (2010)

RED (2010; USA; DeLuxe; 111m) ∗∗  d. Robert Schwentke; w. Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber; ph. Florian Ballhaus; m. Christophe Beck.  Cast: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Mary-Louise Parker, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ernest Borgnine, James Remar, Julian McMahon. When his peaceful life is threatened by a high-tech assassin, a former black-ops agent reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive and uncover his assailants. Flashy visuals and overly choreographed action sequences along with an interesting cast are the main draws to this otherwise superficial story. The stars all have fun with their eccentric roles, but a lazy script and a bland jazz-rock score do not help. Based on the comic book by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner. Followed by RED 2 (2013). [12]

Film Review – SANTA FE (1951)

Santa Fe (1951; USA; Technicolor; 87m) ∗∗½  d. Irving Pichel; w. Kenneth Gamet, Louis Stevens; ph. Charles Lawton Jr.; m. Paul Sawtell.  Cast: Randolph Scott, Janis Carter, Jerome Courtland, Peter M. Thompson, John Archer, Warner Anderson, Roy Roberts, Billy House, Olin Howland, Allene Roberts, Jock Mahoney. After the Civil War four brothers who fought for the South head west. Yanks are building the Santa Fe Railroad and one of the brothers joins them. The other three still hold their hatred of the North and join up with those trying to stop the railroad’s completion.  Disjointed and unevenly directed western still has its moments, but it uneasily blends melodrama with comic relief. Whilst Scott is as capable as ever in the lead the film is not one of his best. Based on the novel by James Vance Marshall. [U]

Film Review – TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991; USA; Technicolor; 137m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. James Cameron; w. James Cameron, William Wisher Jr.; ph. Adam Greenberg; m. Brad Fiedel.  Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, Edward Furlong, Earl Boen, Joe Morton, Xander Berkeley, Jenette Goldstein, S. Epatha Merkerson, Castulo Guerra, Danny Cooksey, Leslie Hamilton Gearren, Peter Schrum, Ken Gibbel, Robert Winley. The cyborg who once tried to kill Sarah Connor is dead, and another T-101 must now protect her teenage son, John Connor, from an even more powerful and advanced Terminator, the T-1000. Spectacular action and ground-breaking visual effects in this high-budget sequel. Additions include a new T-1000 Terminator in the form of Patrick with Arnie the protector this time. A nice twist sees Hamilton almost become a terminator herself. Elongated finale is breathtaking. Won four Oscars for Best Sound (Tom Johnson, Gary Rydstrom, Gary Summers, Lee Orloff); Sound Effects Editing (Gary Rydstrom, Gloria S. Borders); Visual Effects (Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Gene Warren Jr., Robert Skotak) and Makeup (Stan Winston, Jeff Dawn). Also released in extended versions at 152m and 154m. Followed by TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003). [15]

Doctor Who Retrospective – 1.11 BOOM TOWN

BOOM TOWN
1 episode / 44m / 4 June 2005
Rating: ∗∗½
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Joe Ahearne
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), William Thomas (Mr Cleaver), Annette Badland (Margaret), John Barrowman (Captain Jack), Noel Clarke (Mickey), Mali Harries (Cathy), Aled Pedrick (Idris Hopper), Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen).
Plot: The TARDIS crew take a holiday, but the Doctor encounters an enemy he thought long since dead. A plan to build a nuclear power station in Cardiff City disguises an alien plot to rip the world apart. And when the Doctor dines with monsters, he discovers traps within traps.
Comment: The Slitheen (or rather one of them), first seen in the earlier Aliens of London/World War Three, return in this uneven episode, which mixes juvenile humour, in the entrapment of Annette Badland’s alien, with commentary on the Doctor’s unwillingness to face the effects of the changes he instigates. The episode is best when tackling the latter issues packaged around a restaurant dinner in which Badland’s Slitheen prods and pokes at the Doctor’s conscience. There is also the reuniting of Piper’s Rose with Clarke’s Mickey and Clarke manages to at last add some depth to his character. Barrowman continues to impress as Captain Jack, but in more of a support role here. The finale adds a little spectacle to the proceedings and the denouement is fairly neat. But overall the episode is another struggling to find the balance between the serious and the silly. In retrospect it is easy to understand Davies’ broad brush approach during this first season, with him being keen to attract a wide enough audience back to the series after its lengthy absence. Fortunately he would get it right in the season’s finale.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO Hyde Park Concert to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray

Jeff Lynne’s ELO concert at Hyde Park last September will be released on both DVD and Blu-Ray on 11 September 2015. The concert, in which the band were backed by  demonstrated the true strengths of this underrated band and in particular the humble Jeff Lynne. The audience lapped up every song in the set and it was a truly memorable night.

The songs performed were:-
“All Over the World”
“Evil Woman”
“Ma-Ma-Ma Belle”
“Showdown”
“Livin’ Thing”
“Strange Magic”
“10538 Overture”
“Can’t Get It Out of My Head”
“Sweet Talkin’ Woman”
“Turn to Stone”
“Steppin’ Out”
“Handle With Care”
“Don’t Bring Me Down”
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Is King”
“Telephone Line”
“Mr. Blue Sky”
“Roll Over Beethoven”

A feature-length documentary will also be included on the discs.

Tony Banks Interview in Prog Magazine

In the latest issue of Prog Magazine Genesis keyboard player Tony Banks talks about his solo career and the forthcoming 4-CD retrospective A Chord Too Far. The magazine also includes a review of the box set, which is due out on 31 July and of the final vinyl box set of Genesis albums Genesis 1983-1998, which includes the albums Genesis (1983), Invisible Touch (1986), We Can’t Dance (1991) and Calling All Stations (1997).
Prog July

 

Film Review – FLIGHT (2012)

Flight (2012; USA; DeLuxe; 138m) ∗∗∗½  d. Robert Zemeckis; w. John Gatins; ph. Don Burgess; m. Alan Silvestri.  Cast: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Nadine Velazquez, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo, James Badge Dale, Tamara Tunie, Brian Geraghty, Garcelle Beauvais, Michael Beasley, Rhoda Griffis, E. Roger Mitchell, Dylan Kussman. An airline pilot saves a flight from crashing, but an investigation into the malfunctions reveals something troubling. Intense study of a man’s denial of his alcohol and substance abuse and self-destructive tendencies. The film often glosses over the more extreme struggles of the addicted, but Washington is superb as the hero pilot with a secret to hide. [15]

Film Review – JURASSIC WORLD (2015)

Jurassic World (2015; USA/China; FotoKem; 124m) ∗∗∗½  d. Colin Trevorrow; w. Colin Trevorrow, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly; ph. John Schwartzman; m. Michael Giacchino.  Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Nick Robinson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus, Brian Tee, Katie McGrath, Andy Buckley, Jimmy Fallon, James DuMont, Colin Trevorrow. Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World. But things go awry when the research team accidentally unleashes a genetically-modified hybrid dinosaur into the park. Crowd-pleasing popcorn movie brings nothing new to the franchise, instead choosing to re-visit themes from the original such as the theme-park gone wrong, corporate greed and familial bonding. Once the mayhem starts the dinosaur action is impressive and suspenseful. Pratt and Howard make for likeable leads and the CGI work is impressive. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Book Review – SET IN DARKNESS (2000) by Ian Rankin

SET IN DARKNESS by IAN RANKIN (2000, Orion, Paperback, 466pp) ∗∗∗∗
      Blurb: Edinburgh is about to become the home of the first Scottish parliament in 300 years. As political passions run high, DI John Rebus is charged with liaison, thanks to the new parliament being resident in Queensbury House, bang in the middle of his patch. But Queensbury House has its own, dark past. Legend has it that a young man was roasted there on a spit by a madman. When the fireplace where the youth died is uncovered another more recent murder victim is found. Days later, in the gardens outside, there is another body and Rebus is under pressure to find instant answers. As the case proceeds, the Inspector finds himself face to face with one of Edinburgh’s most notorious criminals...

The eleventh book in Ian Rankin‘s Inspector Rebus series is an engrossing mystery, which weaves its various plot threads with masterly precision. Whilst the book starts slowly it allows time for Rankin to introduce his characters. The mysteries surrounding a politician’s murder, a 20-year old corpse and a serial rapist who targets singles clubs dovetail into a satisfying thriller in which Rebus’ unconventional methods continue to annoy his superiors. Then, we discover Rebus’ nemesis and Edinburgh’s Mr Big – Big Ger Cafferty – has been released from prison having been diagnosed with cancer. This sets up a tense head to head between Rebus and Cafferty which adds additional edge to the second half of the book. Rankin brings all these elements to the boil brilliantly and the finale is ironic, brutal and shocking and leaves the reader wanting more.

The Rebus series runs to 20 novels. I’ve read 13 of them and these are marked in bold in the list below. The early books lack the depth that Rankin would add to the series later by linking his plots to topical issues, but all are very readable:

  1. Knots and Crosses (1987) ∗∗∗
  2. Hide and Seek (1991) ∗∗∗
  3. Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992) ∗∗∗
  4. Strip Jack (1992)
  5. The Black Book (1993) ∗∗∗
  6. Mortal Causes (1994) ∗∗∗
  7. Let it Bleed (1996)
  8. Black and Blue (1997)
  9. The Hanging Garden (1998) ∗∗∗∗
  10. Dead Souls (1999)
  11. Set in Darkness (2000) ∗∗∗∗
  12. The Falls (2001)
  13. Resurrection Men (2002) ∗∗∗∗
  14. A Question of Blood (2003)
  15. Fleshmarket Close (published in the USA as Fleshmarket Alley) (2004) ∗∗∗∗
  16. The Naming of the Dead (2006)  ∗∗∗∗½
  17. Exit Music (2007) ∗∗∗∗
  18. Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012) ∗∗∗½
  19. Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013) ∗∗∗
  20. Even Dogs in the Wild (2015)