Francesco Francavilla’s cover for Shaft #6 was recently posted on the artist’s Twitter site. It’s a moody piece with Shaft seated on the rear of a Cadillac Fleetwood. The sixth and final issue of the series is due out in May 2015.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008; Spain/USA; DeLuxe; 96m) ∗∗∗ d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Javier Aguirresarobe; ed. Alisa Lepselter. Cast: Javier Bardem, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson, Christopher Evan Welch, Chris Messina, Kevin Dunn, Julio Perillan, Zak Orth, Pablo Schreiber, Josep Maria Domenech, Abel Folk, Carrie Preston, Manel Barcelo. Two girlfriends on a summer holiday in Spain become enamored with the same painter, unaware that his ex-wife, with whom he has a tempestuous relationship, is about to re-enter the picture. Allen explores various themes around infidelity in this well-acted, but somehow unfulfilling story. Cruz is a knockout in an Oscar winning performance as Bardem’s temperamental ex-wife. 
Oblivion (2013; USA; Colour; 124m) ∗∗∗ d. Joseph Kosinski; w. Karl Gajdusek, Michael DeBruyn; ph. Claudio Miranda; m. Anthony Gonzalez, M.8.3, Joseph Trapanese; ed. Richard Francis-Bruce. Cast: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Zoe Bell, Melissa Leo, Lindsay Clift, Jaylen Moore, Julie Hardin, Paul Gunawan, Jay Oliver, Jason Stanly. A veteran assigned to extract Earth’s remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself. Engaging sci-fi which is visually impressive. Initially intriguing it settles into more traditional fare, but solid performances help to overcome some of the conventions in the script. Originated as an 8-page treatment written by Kosinski which was pitched as a graphic novel. 
Plunderers, The (1960; USA; B&W; 94m) ∗∗∗ d. Joseph Pevney; w. Bob Barbash; ph. Gene Polito; m. Leonard Rosenman; ed. Tom McAdoo. Cast: Jeff Chandler, John Saxon, Dolores Hart, Marsha Hunt, Jay C. Flippen, Ray Stricklyn, James Westerfield, Dee Pollock, Roger Torrey, Vaughn Taylor, Harvey Stephens. When four rowdy cowhands ride into a small town and make trouble, no one seems willing or able to take them on, not even the toughest man in town. But then there is a murder. Interesting psychological Western is well-directed and acted raising it above the routine. Chandler’s final Western. [PG]
SHAFT #3 (4 February 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
Shaft has been arrested under suspicion of the murder of his girlfriend, Arletha Havens and one of Sal Venneri’s men. Shaft’s boss, Butch Buchinsky, persuades Lt Vic Anderozzi to let Shaft back on the streets to track down the real killers and Arletha’s former flatmate, Marisol Dupree, is the key.
This issue sees the series continue to meet the excellent standard set by the first two. There is some intriguing use of the construction of the World Trade Center as a setting and the plot thickens as Shaft goes head to head with the syndicate looking to track down Marisol. We’re at the half-way point in the series and it will be interesting to see where Walker leads us having set up the characters and Shaft’s motives for getting involved.
Part 3 of Walker’s novel Shaft’s Revenge is available as a QR download and Walker also supplies another eclectic playlist including Telly Savalas’ “Who Loves Ya Baby.”
Equalizer, The (2014; USA; DeLuxe; 131m) ∗∗∗ d. Antoine Fuqua; w. Richard Wenk; ph. Mauro Fiore; m. Harry Gregson-Williams; ed. John Refoua. Cast: Denzel Washington, Chloë Grace Moretz, Melissa Leo, Haley Bennett, Marton Csokas, Dan Bilzerian, Bill Pullman, Vladimir Kulich, Johnny Messner, Robert Wahlberg, David Harbour, Meredith Prunty, Chanty Sok, David Meunier. In this big-screen adaptation of the cult ‘80s TV show, McCall believes he has put his past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by –— he has to help her. Washington adds class to this exceedingly violent crowd-pleaser. Much of the plot stretches credulity, but there are passages that allow characters to breathe too. Fuqua’s intrusively flashy approach to the subject matter occasionally strangles the action set-pieces. Original TV series devised by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim. 
Calvary (2014; Ireland/UK; Colour; 100m) ∗∗∗∗ d. John Michael McDonagh; w. John Michael McDonagh; ph. Larry Smith; m. Patrick Cassidy; ed. Chris Gill. Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, David Wilmot, Dylan Moran, Marie-Josée Croze, Killian Scott, Isaach De Bankolé. After he is threatened during a confession, a good-natured priest must battle the dark forces closing in around him. This parable has a sharply observed script and a powerful performance from Gleason with a subject matter that is both thought-provoking and shocking. 
Magic in the Moonlight (2014; USA; DeLuxe; 97m) ∗∗∗ d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Darius Khondji; ed. Alisa Lepselter. Cast: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Eileen Atkins, Simon McBurney, Hamish Linklater, Erica Leerhsen, Jeremy Shamos, Antonia Clarke, Natasha Andrews, Valérie Beaulieu, Peter Wollasch, Jürgen Zwingel, Wolfgang Pissors, Sébastien Siroux, Catherine McCormack. Set in the south of France in the 1920s during the glamorous Jazz Age, it’s a romantic comedy about a master magician (Firth) trying to expose a psychic medium (Stone) as a fake. Firth is engaging and Stone charming, but the romantic elements fail to gell in this otherwise light confection that occasionally amuses. 
blacknerdproblems.com: “Shaft continues to be a great read, one that should have a steadily growing fan base, because if you’re not reading this you’re crazier than he is. It’s going to hit the fan really soon when Shaft confronts Arletha’s killers, and I can’t wait to see the blast radius.” (8/10)
iblogalot.com: “So this is another solid issue, which reads like an illustrated crime novel. There’s also a sequence where we read Shaft’s inner-thoughts about Arletha, who he cared for more than he wanted to admit. Since this series is basically “Shaft Begins,” I think we’re seeing the reason behind Shaft’s legendary Ladies Man attitude, what happened to Arletha and how it effects him must be what made him wary of emotional attachments going forward. It’s very insightful. And, as always, I continue to enjoy Bilquis Evely’s artwork on this title.” (A)
comicbastards.com: “It’s a solid book but it’s hard to retain. It’s kind of like vanilla pudding, which is ironic given that the character is anything but vanilla pudding. I read this and it just kind of passed through me, not in a bad way, just kind of like a ghost. It was there and then it was gone and I had to keep referring back to it as I wrote this because there just wasn’t a lot of meat on these bones. I’m curious to see how it plays out though, I’m not dying to see what happens next but if it’s available next month I might pick it up.” (3/5)
Blurb: John Shaft didn’t go looking for trouble; it came looking for him, and in the process, a lot of people died. Devastated by the murder of a friend, Shaft wants answers and revenge-though not necessarily in that order. With vengeance on his mind and cold steel in his hand, Shaft finds himself caught up in a brewing gang war that threatens to consume the city. Everyone from the Mafia to the police wants Shaft to do their dirty work, but no one realizes that’s all part of his plan.
As usual my copy will arrive in a week or so and I will post a review then.
Bear Island (1979; Canada/UK; Colour; 118m) ∗∗∗ d. Don Sharp; w. David Butler, Don Sharp; ph. Alan Hume; m. Robert Farnon; ed. Tony Lower. Cast: Donald Sutherland, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark, Christopher Lee, Barbara Parkins, Lloyd Bridges, Lawrence Dane, Patricia Collins, Michael J. Reynolds, Nicholas Cortland. A group of people converge on a barren Arctic island. They have their reasons for being there but when a series of mysterious accidents and murders take place, a whole lot of darker motives become apparent. Typical of its author this adaptation benefits from a strong cast who manfully struggle with poor dialogue. The pace remains lively and the action frequent making it something of a guilty pleasure. Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. [PG]
What We Did on Our Holiday (2014; UK; Panalux; 95m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin; w. Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin; ph. Martin Hawkins; m. Alex Heffes; ed. Steve Tempia, Mark Williams. Cast: Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Celia Imrie, Emilia Jones, Ben Miller, Amelia Bullmore, Bobby Smalldridge, Alexia Barlier, Imogen Toner, Kirstin Murray. A couple and their three children travel to the Scottish Highlands for the kids’ grandfather’s birthday party. It’s soon clear that when it comes to keeping a secret under wraps from the rest of the family, their children are their biggest liability. Beautifully observed comedy with a game cast and a charming performance from Connolly. Descends into predictability in its final act, but a winner nonetheless. 
Diamonds Are Forever (1971; UK; Technicolor; 120m) ∗∗∗ d. Guy Hamilton; w. Richard Maibaum, Tom Mankiewicz; ph. Ted Moore; m. John Barry; ed. Bert Bates, John W. Holmes. Cast: Sean Connery, Jill St. John, Charles Gray, Lana Wood, Jimmy Dean, Bruce Cabot, Putter Smith, Bruce Glover, Norman Burton, Joseph Fürst, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Leonard Barr, Lois Maxwell, Margaret Lacey. A diamond smuggling investigation leads James Bond to Las Vegas, where he uncovers an extortion plot headed by his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Connery returns as Bond and the humour is played up at the expense of suspense. The film introduces a cartoonish feel that would dominate the series for more than a decade. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]
Die Another Day (2002; UK/USA; Colour; 133m) ∗∗ d. Lee Tamahori; w. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade; ph. David Tattersall; m. David Arnold; ed. Andrew MacRitchie, Christian Wagner. Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Michael Madsen, Will Yun Lee, Kenneth Tsang, Emilio Echevarría, Mikhail Gorevoy, Lawrence Makoare, Colin Salmon, Samantha Bond, Madonna. James Bond is sent to investigate the connection between a North Korean terrorist and a diamond mogul who is funding the development of an international space weapon. After a very strong first half this descends into some of the worst excesses seen in a Bond film since MOONRAKER. Berry is the films main asset in a lively turn, but some appalling CGI and a weak premise ultimately sink the film. 
Dr. No (1962; UK; Technicolor; 110m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Terence Young; w. Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, Berkely Mather; ph. Ted Moore; m. Monty Norman; ed. Peter R. Hunt. Cast: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord, Bernard Lee, Anthony Dawson, Zena Marshall, John Kitzmiller, Eunice Gayson, Lois Maxwell, Peter Burton. James Bond’s investigation of a missing colleague in Jamaica leads him to the island of the mysterious Dr. No and a scheme to end the US space program. First 007 film is a colourful adventure, if a little slow-moving by today’s standards. Connery eases into the role with style and Andress is stunning as the first Bond girl. Many of the elements are set here, but there is a simplicity to the production that remains endearing compared to later entries in the series. Great set designs by Ken Adam. Based on the novel by Ian Fleming. [PG]
Nerd Span has published an advanced review by Keith Hendricks of the third Shaft comic book written by David Walker with art by Bilquis Evely.
In his review the Hendricks notes: “Shaft #3 is an exemplary model for TV shows and movies looking to make the leap to the comic book medium. It’s also a great story, with heart and feeling that have enough staying power not only to get in your head but to be remembered later.”
Shaft #3 will be published on 4 February 2015.
Walk Among the Tombstones, A (2014; USA; Technicolor; 113m) ∗∗∗½ d. Scott Frank; w. Scott Frank; ph. Mihai Malaimare Jr.; m. Carlos Rafael Rivera; ed. Jill Savitt. Cast: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Marina Squerciati, Sebastian Roché, Boyd Holbrook, Stephanie Andujar, David Harbour, Briana Marin, Toshiko Onizawa, Purva Bedi, Maurice Compte, Patrick McDade, Luciano Acuna Jr., Hans Marrero, Laura Birn. Matt Scudder (Neeson), an unlicensed private investigator, reluctantly agrees to help a heroin trafficker (Stevens) hunt down the men who kidnapped and then brutally murdered his wife. Neeson is on fine form and although it never strays too far from genre conventions this is a professionally packaged dark thriller. Based on the novel by Lawrence Block. 
Crossfire (1947; USA; B&W; 85m) ∗∗∗½ d. Edward Dmytryk; w. John Paxton; ph. J. Roy Hunt; m. Roy Webb; ed. Harry W. Gerstad. Cast: Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame, Sam Levene, Paul Kelly, Jacqueline White, Steve Brodie, Lex Barker. This unusual and worthwhile black-and-white film noir was one of the first movies to deal with issues of anti-Semitism. A weary Washington detective must get to the bottom of a seemingly motive-lacking murder, with the prime suspect a boozy soldier who can only vaguely recall the events of the night. Dmytryk (also responsible for MURDER MY SWEET in 1944) directs with a sure and efficient hand giving the story sufficient room to breathe whilst keeping the plot moving along. Whilst this is not a classic, the film is one of the better examples of the atmosphere and tension the genre could create with a gifted director at the helm. Based on the novel “The Brick Foxhole” by Richard Brooks. Also available in a computer colourised version. [PG]
Crossfire Trail (TV) (2001; USA; Colour; 92m) ∗∗∗ d. Simon Wincer; w. Charles Robert Carner; ph. David Eggby; m. Eric Colvin; ed. Terry Blythe. Cast: Tom Selleck, Virginia Madsen, Wilford Brimley, David O’Hara, Christian Kane, Barry Corbin, Joanna Miles, Ken Pogue, Patrick Kilpatrick, Rex Linn, William Sanderson, Daniel Parker, Marshall R. Teague, Brad Johnson, Mark Harmon. Rafe Covington promises a dying friend that he’ll watch over the man’s wife and ranch after he’s gone. Well-made western with a strong central performance from Selleck, but an overly melodramatic villain in Harmon. Good support cast headed by Brimley as wisened cow hand. Based on the novel by Louis L’Amour 
Decision at Sundown (1957; USA; Technicolor; 77m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Budd Boetticher; w. Charles Lang; ph. Burnett Guffey; m. Heinz Roemheld; ed. Al Clark. Cast: Randolph Scott, John Carroll, Karen Steele, Valerie French, Noah Beery Jr., John Archer, Andrew Duggan, James Westerfield, John Litel, Ray Teal, Vaughn Taylor, Richard Deacon, H.M. Wynant. Scott and his sidekick arrive in the town of Sundown on the wedding day of the town boss, whom the Scott blames for his wife’s death years earlier. Well-made Western where all the characters are shades of grey. Scott delivers one of his best performances as an angst ridden ex-civil war vet out for revenge. Based on a story by Vernon L. Fluharty. [PG]