TV Review – CRACKER: TO SAY I LOVE YOU (1993)

Image result for cracker to say i love youCRACKER: TO SAY I LOVE YOU (TV) (UK, 1993) ****
      Distributor: ITV – Independent Television; Production Company: A&E Television Networks / Granada Television; Release Date: 11, 18 & 25 October 1993; Running Time: 153m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Andy Wilson; Writer: Jimmy McGovern; Executive Producer: Sally Head; Producer: Gub Neal; Director of Photography: Ivan Strasburg; Music Composer: Roger Jackson; Film Editor: Oral Norrie Ottey; Casting Director: Gail Stevens; Production Designer: Chris Wilkinson; Art Director: Deborah Morley; Costumes: Janty Yates; Make-up: Helen King; Sound: Phil Smith.
      Cast: Robbie Coltrane (Fitz), Barbara Flynn (Judith Fitzgerald), Christopher Eccleston (D.C.I. Bilborough), Geraldine Somerville (D.S. Penhaligon), Lorcan Cranitch (D.S. Beck), Susan Lynch (Tina Brien), Andrew Tiernan (Sean Kerrigan), Beryl Reid (Fitz’s mother), David Haig (Graham), Susan Vidler (Sammy), Tim Barlow (Judith’s father).Kieran O’Brien (Mark Fitzgerald), Ian Mercer (D.C. Giggs), Patti Love (Mrs Brien), Keith Ladd (Mr Brien), Tess Thomson (Katie Fitzgerald).
      Synopsis: Sean Kerrigan and Tina Brien, two of society’s rejects, are drawn together and will do anything to stay together forever, even murder. Fitz is drawn into the conflict when he begins to uncover the murder of Tina’s loan shark.
      Comment: Second story in the first season of Cracker is a dark and violent take on film noir and Bonnie & Clyde. It is another absorbing story with a superb Jimmy McGovern script and fantastic performances from the cast. Of specific note are Lynch and Tiernan as the unlikely criminal pairing. The set pieces are directed with a strong sense of authenticity by Wilson and Coltrane brings his flawed and intelligent character to life with a central performance that dominates whenever he is on screen and is laced with caustic humour. The production only slows in its final protracted act before it picks up again for its explosive finale.

TV Review – BERGERAC: PICKING IT UP (1981)

Bergerac series 1BERGERAC: PICKING IT UP (UK, 1981) ***½
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) / Seven Network; Release Date: 18 October 1981; Running Time: 57m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Martyn Friend; Writer: Robert Banks Stewart; Producer: Robert Banks Stewart; Associate Producer: Juliet Grimm; Director of Photography: Ian Hilton; Music Composer: George Fenton; Themes Music: George Fenton; Film Editor: Bernard Ashby, Chris Wimble; Production Designer: Antony Thorpe; Costumes: Pat Fisher; Make-up: Cheryl Wright; Sound: Bryan Showell.
      Cast: John Nettles (Jim Bergerac), Cécile Paoli (Francine), Terence Alexander (Hungerford), Sean Arnold (Crozier), Annette Badland (Charlotte), Mela White (Diamante Lil), Danny Schiller (Gulliver), Tony Melody (Chief), Raymond Adamson (Senator), Deborah Grant (Deborah), Lindsay Heath (Kim), David Savile (Gurney), Floella Benjamin (Juniper), Alan Thompson (Mr. Pollender), Elizabeth Choice (Mrs. Pollender), Judith Byfield (Mary Pollender), James Greene (Alcoholic), Roland Oliver (Flying Instructor), Lesley Murray (Hire-Car Receptionist), Michael Chesden (French Inspector), Stephen Bent (CID Man), Graeme Eton (Airport Sergeant), Michael Bott (Constable), Sally Harrison (Air Stewardess), Harry South (Nightclub Pianist), Brian Tully (Vicar), Lindsay Campbell (Chairman), Carole Walker (Theatre Sister), Sandra Miller (Nurse), Harold Messias (Asian), Frank Tregear (Businessman).
      Synopsis: Jersey detective Jim Bergerac returns from a recuperation leave to find his job in jeopardy and a colleague killed during an investigation into international gun sales to South Africa.
      Comment: The first episode of the long-running series (1981-91, nine seasons, 87 episodes) introduces us to Jim Bergerac – a police detective and recovering alcoholic. The key series elements are all set here including Bergerac’s caustic relationship with his ex-father-in-law, millionaire Charlie Hungerford, played in the early episodes in a more hard-nosed fashion by Alexander. The plot suffers a little from having to compete with the need to set up key series characters, but it maintains interest. Whilst Nettles may initially seem a little too clean-cut for the character, he would stamp his personality onto the role over the coming years. The Jersey locations are well used. Look out for Floella Benjamin as an American singer (dubbed here) who has got mixed up with the wrong crowd.

TV Review – CRACKER: MAD WOMAN IN THE ATTIC (1993)

Image result for cracker mad woman in the atticCRACKER: MAD WOMAN IN THE ATTIC (TV) (UK, 1993) ****
      Distributor: ITV – Independent Television; Production Company: A&E Television Networks / Granada Television; Release Date: 27 September & 4 October 1993; Running Time: 103m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Stereo; Film Format: 16mm; Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Michael Winterbottom; Writer: Jimmy McGovern; Executive Producer: Sally Head; Producer: Gub Neal; Director of Photography: Ivan Strasburg; Music Composer: Julian Wastall; Film Editor: Trevor Waite; Casting Director: Gail Stevens; Production Designer: Chris Wilkinson; Art Director: Deborah Morley; Set Decorator: ; Costumes: Janty Yates; Make-up: Helen King; Sound: Phil Smith.
      Cast: Robbie Coltrane (Fitz), Barbara Flynn (Judith Fitzgerald), Christopher Eccleston (D.C.I. Bilborough), Geraldine Somerville (D.S. Penhaligon), Lorcan Cranitch (D.S. Beck), Adrian Dunbar (Kelly), Nicholas Woodeson (Hennessy), Kieran O’Brien (Mark), Don Henderson (Hennessy Senior), Seamus O’Neill (D.C. Jones), Ian Mercer (D.C. Giggs), Paul Copley (Pathologist), Alan Partington (Mr Hobbs), Romy Baskerville (Irene Hobbs), Daryl Fishwick (Mrs Forbes), Kika Markham (Ann Appleby), John Grillo (Simon Appleby), Edward Peel (Chief Super), David Crellin (Quinlan), Andrew Brittain (Presenter), Diane Adderley (Mrs Royle).
      Synopsis: A young woman is brutally murdered on a train, the victim of a serial killer. The prime suspect is an amnesiac man, who cannot confess to the crime if he cannot remember committing it unless a troubled psychologist can crack him.
      Comment: The premiere episode of the Cracker TV series (1993-6) introduces us to Coltrane’s dynamite performance as the flawed psychologist, addicted to gambling and booze, and lays the template for a series that would reach new highs for crime TV in the UK. Fitz is such a compelling character he threatens to dwarf all around him. Fortunately, a very strong support cast is also on hand and Winterbottom’s inventive direction gets the best out of them. The story is intriguing as a ‘did he or didn’t he do it’ and that it succeeds in keeping you guessing for so long is down to McGovern’s strong script and a good supporting performance from Dunbar as the amnesiac suspect. Often a tough watch, this is never less than engrossing and is only let down by the rushed finale. Better was to follow, but this is still a great introduction.

Film Review – GOODFELLAS (1990)

Image result for goodfellas 1990GOODFELLAS (USA, 1990) ****½
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Warner Bros; Release Date: 17 September 1990 (USA), 26 October 1990 (UK); Filming Dates: 3 May 1989 – 9 August 1989; Running Time: 146m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Dolby SR; Film Format: 35mm (Eastman 5384); Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 18.
      Director: Martin Scorsese; Writer: Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese (based on the book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi); Executive Producer: Barbara De Fina; Producer: Irwin Winkler; Associate Producer: Bruce S. Pustin; Director of Photography: Michael Ballhaus; Music Editor: Christopher Brooks; Film Editor: James Y. Kwei, Thelma Schoonmaker; Casting Director: Ellen Lewis; Production Designer: Kristi Zea; Art Director: Maher Ahmad; Set Decorator: Leslie Bloom; Costumes: Richard Bruno; Make-up: Carl Fullerton, Ilona Herman, Allen Weisinger; Sound: Skip Lievsay; Special Effects: Connie Brink.
      Cast: Robert De Niro (James Conway), Ray Liotta (Henry Hill), Joe Pesci (Tommy DeVito), Lorraine Bracco (Karen Hill), Paul Sorvino (Paul Cicero), Frank Sivero (Frankie Carbone), Tony Darrow (Sonny Bunz), Mike Starr (Frenchy), Frank Vincent (Billy Batts), Chuck Low (Morris Kessler), Frank DiLeo (Tuddy Cicero), Henny Youngman (Henny Youngman), Gina Mastrogiacomo (Janice Rossi), Catherine Scorsese (Tommy’s Mother), Charles Scorsese (Vinnie), Suzanne Shepherd (Karen’s Mother), Debi Mazar (Sandy), Margo Winkler (Belle Kessler), Welker White (Lois Byrd), Jerry Vale (Jerry Vale), Julie Garfield (Mickey Conway), Christopher Serrone (Young Henry), Elaine Kagan (Henry’s Mother), Beau Starr (Henry’s Father), Kevin Corrigan (Michael Hill), Michael Imperioli (Spider), Robbie Vinton (Bobby Vinton), Johnny Williams (Johnny Roastbeef), Daniel P. Conte (Dr. Dan), Tony Conforti (Tony), Frank Pellegrino (Johnny Dio), Ronald Maccone (Ronnie), Tony Sirico (Tony Stacks), Joseph D’Onofrio (Young Tommy), Steve Forleo (City Detective #1), Richard Dioguardi (City Detective #2), Frank Adonis (Anthony Stabile), John Manca (Nickey Eyes), Joseph Bono (Mikey Franzese), Katherine Wallach (Diane), Mark Evan Jacobs (Bruce), Angela Pietropinto (Cicero’s Wife), Marianne Leone (Tuddy’s Wife), Marie Michaels (Mrs. Carbone), LoNardo (Frenchy’s Wife), Melissa Prophet (Angie), Illeana Douglas (Rosie), Susan Varon (Susan), Elizabeth Whitcraft (Tommy’s Girlfriend at Copa), Clem Caserta (Joe Buddha), Samuel L. Jackson (Stacks Edwards), Fran McGee (Johnny Roastbeef’s Wife), Paul Herman (Dealer), Edward McDonald (Edward McDonald), Edward Hayes (Defense Attorney), Bo Dietl (Arresting Narc).
      Synopsis: Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy.
      Comment: Stylish adaptation of Pileggi’s book about real-life gangster Henry Hill. Scorcese extracts dark humour from the violent drama and moves the story along in expert fashion assisted by editors Kwei and Schoonmaker. DeNiro, Liotta and Pesci each give exceptional performances as the Goodfellas of the title trying to find their own way in a world of organised crime. The inevitable descent into mistrust and retribution is brilliantly handled.
      Notes: Pesci won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Film Review – COLD PURSUIT (2019)

Image result for cold pursuit 2019COLD PURSUIT (USA, 2019) ***½
      Distributor: Lionsgate (USA), StudioCanal (UK); Production Company: StudioCanal / Paradox Films; Release Date: 8 February 2019 (USA), 22 February 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: March 2017; Running Time: 119m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital (7.1 surround); Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15 – strong violence.
      Director: Hans Petter Moland; Writer: Frank Baldwin (based on a screenplay by Kim Fupz Aakeson); Executive Producer: Michael Dreyer, Shana Eddy-Grouf, Ron Halpern, Didier Lupfer, Paul Schwartzman; Producer: Finn Gjerdrum, Stein B. Kvae, Michael Shamberg, Ameet Shukla; Associate Producer: Nicolai Moland; Director of Photography: Philip Øgaard; Music Composer: George Fenton; Film Editor: Nicolaj Monberg; Casting Director: Avy Kaufman; Production Designer: Jørgen Stangebye Larsen; Art Director: Kendelle Elliott; Set Decorator: Peter Lando; Costumes: Anne Pedersen; Make-up: Krista Young; Sound: James Boyle; Special Effects: Jason Paradis; Visual Effects: Jan Guilfoyle, Martin Lake, Noga Alon Stein.
      Cast: Liam Neeson (Nels Coxman), Laura Dern (Grace Coxman), Micheál Richardson (Kyle Coxman), Michael Eklund (Speedo), Bradley Stryker (Limbo), Wesley MacInnes (Dante), Tom Bateman (Trevor ‘Viking’ Calcote), Domenick Lombardozzi (Mustang), Nicholas Holmes (Ryan), Jim Shield (Jaded Coroner), Aleks Paunovic (Detective Osgard), Glenn Ennis (Night Club Bouncer), Benjamin Hollingsworth (Dexter), John Doman (John ‘Gip’ Gipsky), Emmy Rossum (Kim Dash), Chris W. Cook (Ski Bum), Venus Terzo (Mother), Dani Alvarado (Daughter), Julia Jones (Aya), Michael Adamthwaite (Santa), William Forsythe (Brock), Elizabeth Thai (Ahn), David O’Hara (Sly), Gus Halper (Bone), Elysia Rotaru (Diner Waitress), Kyle Nobess (Simon Legrew), Victor Zinck Jr. (Drunken Ski Dude), Raoul Max Trujillo (Thorpe), Nathaniel Arcand (Smoke), Glen Gould (War Dog), Mitchell Saddleback (Avalanche), Christopher Logan (Shiv), Tom Jackson (White Bull), Bart Anderson (Blizzard Bartender), Gary Sekhon (Denver Cabbie), Arnold Pinnock (The Eskimo), Ben Cotton (Windex), Emily Maddison (Gorgeous Woman), Glenn Wrage (Kurt), Michael Bean (Parson), Ben Sullivan (Teen), Travis MacDonald (Ski Lift Attendant), Manna Nichols (Minya), Loretta Walsh (Resort Clerk), Nels Lennarson (Chuck Schalm), Max Montesi (Paragliding Instructor), Peter Strand Rumpel (Viking’s Thug).
      Synopsis: A grieving snowplough driver seeks out revenge against the drug dealers who killed his son.
      Comment: Darkly comic thriller has much to commend it as Neeson plays it straight against a quirky cast of characters. The extreme violence is delivered via a series of well-shot action sequences. Where the story falls down is in not seeing through some of the elements of its plot – the relationship between Neeson and his wife Dern is not fully resolved and the theme of father-son relationships heavily hinted at across a number of the core characters is not fully explored. What remains is an entertaining and stylish story that only scratches at the surface of its potential.
      Notes: Based on the 2014 Norwegian film IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE.

Film Review – THE GODFATHER PART II (1974)

Robert De Niro and Leopoldo Trieste in The Godfather: Part II (1974)THE GODFATHER: PART II (USA, 1974) *****
      Distributor: Paramount Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); Production Company: Paramount Pictures; Release Date: 13 December 1974 (USA), 15 May 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: 2 October 1973 – 19 June 1974; Running Time: 202m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Francis Ford Coppola; Writer: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo (based on the novel by Mario Puzo); Executive Producer: Robert Evans (uncredited); Producer: Francis Ford Coppola; Associate Producer: Mona Skager; Director of Photography: Gordon Willis; Music Composer: Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola; Film Editor: Barry Malkin, Richard Marks, Peter Zinner; Casting Director: Jane Feinberg, Mike Fenton, Vic Ramos; Production Designer: Dean Tavoularis; Art Director: Angelo P. Graham; Set Decorator: George R. Nelson; Costumes: Theadora Van Runkle; Make-up: Charles H. Schram, Dick Smith; Sound: Nathan Boxer, Charles M. Wilborn; Special Effects: A.D. Flowers, Joe Lombardi.
      Cast: Al Pacino (Michael), Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen), Diane Keaton (Kay), Robert De Niro (Vito Corleone), John Cazale (Fredo Corleone), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone), Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth), Michael V. Gazzo (Frankie Pentangeli), G.D. Spradlin (Sen. Pat Geary), Richard Bright (Al Neri), Gastone Moschin (Fanucci), Tom Rosqui (Rocco Lampone), Bruno Kirby (Young Clemenza), Frank Sivero (Genco), Francesca De Sapio (Young Mama Corleone), Morgana King (Mama Corleone), Marianna Hill (Deanna Corleone), Leopoldo Trieste (Signor Roberto), Dominic Chianese (Johnny Ola), Amerigo Tot (Michael’s Bodyguard), Troy Donahue (Merle Johnson), John Aprea (Young Tessio), Joe Spinell (Willi Cicci), Abe Vigoda (Tessio), Tere Livrano (Theresa Hagen), Gianni Russo (Carlo), Maria Carta (Vito’s Mother), Oreste Baldini (Vito Andolini – as a Boy), Giuseppe Sillato (Don Francesco), Mario Cotone (Don Tommasino), James Gounaris (Anthony Corleone), Fay Spain (Mrs. Marcia Roth), Harry Dean Stanton (F.B.I. Man #1), James Murdock (F.B.I. Man #2), Carmine Caridi (Carmine Rosato), Danny Aiello (Tony Rosato), Carmine Foresta (Policeman), Nick Discenza (Bartender), Joseph Medaglia (Father Carmelo), William Bowers (Senate Committee Chairman), Joseph Della Sorte (Michael’s Buttonman #1), Carmen Argenziano (Michael’s Buttonman #2), Joe Lo Grippo (Michael’s Buttonman #3), Ezio Flagello (Impressario), Livio Giorgi (Tenor in ‘Senza Mamma’), Kathleen Beller (Girl in ‘Senza Mamma’), Saveria Mazzola (Signora Colombo), Tito Alba (Cuban President), Johnny Naranjo (Cuban Translator), Elda Maida (Pentangeli’s Wife), Salvatore Po (Pentangeli’s Brother), Ignazio Pappalardo (Mosca), Andrea Maugeri (Strollo), Peter LaCorte (Signor Abbandando), Vincent Coppola (Street Vendor), Peter Donat (Questadt), Tom Dahlgren (Fred Corngold), Paul B. Brown (Sen. Ream), Phil Feldman (Senator #1), Roger Corman (Senator #2), Ivonne Coll (Yolanda), Joe De Nicola (Attendant at Brothel), Edward Van Sickle (Ellis Island Doctor), Gabriella Belloni (Ellis Island Nurse), Richard Watson (Customs Official), Venancia Grangerard (Cuban Nurse), Erica Yohn (Governess), Teresa Tirelli (Midwife).
      Synopsis: Continuing saga of the Corleone family as they move to Nevada and make the casino business their major income source under the leadership of the increasingly paranoid and malevolent Michael, whose reign as the “Don” is juxtaposed against the parallel tale of his father’s escape from Sicily as a young boy and his subsequent rise to power in New York’s Lower East Side during the turn-of-the-century.
      Comment: Coppola does the seemingly impossible by topping THE GODFATHER with a follow-up that has even more depth of character and plot. The parallel plot threads weave nicely together giving Pacino and De Niro the opportunity to showcase their considerable acting skills. The supporting cast is perfect with universally strong performances. Coppola’s direction is note-perfect as he seamlessly moves his story between locale and time period. The production design is sumptuous and, aided by Willis’ evocative cinematography, wonderfully captures the contrasts between the poverty experienced by the young Don Vito with the enormous wealth of his legacy. Pacino’s transformation into a single-minded and ultimately lonely and unforgiving figure is beautifully captured by the actor’s skilful performance.
      Notes: Winner of six Academy Awards, including Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (De Niro), Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction and Music. James Caan appears uncredited in a brief cameo. Extended version runs 220m. Followed by THE GODFATHER PART III (1990).

Film Review – THE DROWNING POOL (1975)

Image result for the drowning pool 1975THE DROWNING POOL (USA, 1975) ***½
      Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: First Artists / Coleytown / Turman-Foster Company / David Foster Productions; Release Date: 25 June 1975 (USA), 14 September 1975 (UK); Filming Dates: began 16 October 1974; Running Time: 108m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Stuart Rosenberg; Writer: Tracy Keenan Wynn, Lorenzo Semple Jr., Walter Hill (based on the novel by Ross Macdonald); Producer: David Foster, Lawrence Turman; Associate Producer: Hawk Koch; Director of Photography: Gordon Willis; Music Composer: Michael Small; Film Editor: John C. Howard; Casting Director: Alan Shayne; Production Designer: Paul Sylbert; Art Director: Edwin O’Donovan; Costumes: Richard Bruno, Donald Brooks; Make-up: Monty Westmore; Sound: Larry Jost; Special Effects: Chuck Gaspar, Henry Millar.
      Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Joanne Woodward (Iris Devereaux), Anthony Franciosa (Broussard), Murray Hamilton (J.J. Kilbourne), Gail Strickland (Mavis Kilbourne), Melanie Griffith (Schuyler Devreaux), Linda Haynes (Gretchen), Richard Jaeckel (Franks), Paul Koslo (Candy), Joe Canutt (Glo), Andrew Robinson (Pat Reavis), Coral Browne (Olivia Devereaux), Richard Derr (James Devereaux), Helena Kallianiotes (Elaine Reavis), Leigh French (Red Head), Peter Dassinger (Peter), James Fontenot (Bartender), Tommy McLain (Nightclub Band), Martin Ahrens (Cajun Heavy #1), Philippe Blenet (Cajun Heavy #2), Jerome Greene (Butler), Cecil Elliott (Motel Switchboard Operator).
      Synopsis: Sequel to HARPER (1966), in which the big-city private detective travels to the Deep South to help out an old girlfriend who is being blackmailed.
      Comment: Newman returns to the role that fit him like a glove nine years earlier. This new case has more depth to the plot and also benefits from a strong supporting cast – with Hamilton’s sleazy oil magnate the most notable. A young Griffith takes on the role of rich couple’s spoilt daughter. The overall set-up may be familiar to noir fans and certainly to fans of Macdonald’s novel – despite the switch of setting – so it packs few surprises. Rosenberg’s direction is a little flat at times, but overall this is an enjoyable mystery.
      Notes: During post-production, director Stuart Rosenberg hired Composer Charles Fox to do additional scoring, integrating the composer’s melody “Killing Me Softly With His Song”, into the movie.

Film Review – HARPER (1966)

Image result for harper 1966HARPER (USA, 1966) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros. (USA), Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK); Production Company: Gershwin-Kastner Productions; Release Date: 23 February 1966 (USA), 1 July 1966 (UK); Filming Dates: 7 June 1965 – 20 August 1965; Running Time: 121m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Jack Smight; Writer: William Goldman (based on the novel “The Moving Target” by Ross Macdonald); Producer: Jerry Gershwin, Elliott Kastner; Director of Photography: Conrad L. Hall; Music Composer: Johnny Mandel; Film Editor: Stefan Arnsten; Art Director: Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Claude E. Carpenter; Costumes: William Smith; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Stanley Jones.
      Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Pamela Tiffin (Miranda Sampson), Robert Wagner (Allan Taggert), Robert Webber (Dwight Troy), Shelley Winters (Fay Estabrook), Harold Gould (Sheriff), Roy Jenson (Puddler), Strother Martin (Claude), Martin West (Deputy), Jacqueline deWit (Mrs. Kronberg), Eugene Iglesias (Felix), Richard Carlyle (Fred Platt).
      Synopsis: Lew Harper, a cool private investigator, is hired by a wealthy California matron to locate her kidnapped husband.
      Comment: Smight’s adaptation of Ross Macdonald’s classic mystery is a product of the period in which it was made as the free spirit of the 1960s threatens to drown the plot. Newman layers his charm onto Macdonald’s detective and it is his performance that is the main draw. The kidnapping plot involves a strong cast of eccentric characters but fails to invest any with significant depth. The dialogue, however, is smarter as Goldman captures the spirit of the wisecracking down on his luck PI genre, if not the mood.
      Notes: The title of Ross Macdonald’s source novel “The Moving Target” was this picture’s title in Great Britain. The lead character was changed from Lew Archer to Harper because the producers had only bought the rights to the first book in the series. Followed by THE DROWNING POOL (1975), again with Newman.

Book Review – LET IT BLEED (1995) by Ian Rankin

LET IT BLEED (1995) ****
by Ian Rankin
First published by Orion 1995
This edition published by Orion, 2011, 402pp (360pp)
ISBN: 978-0-7528-8359-5
includes an introduction by Ian Rankin and Reading Group Notes.

Blurb: Struggling through another Edinburgh winter Rebus finds himself sucked into a web of intrigue that throws up more questions than answers. Was the Lord Provost’s daughter kidnapped or just another runaway? Why is a city councillor shredding documents that should have been waste paper years ago? And why on earth is Rebus invited to a clay pigeon shoot at the home of the Scottish Office’s Permanent Secretary? Sucked into the machine that is modern Scotland, Rebus confronts the fact that some of his enemies may be beyond justice…

Ian Rankin’s seventh Rebus novel see the writer in maximum cynicism mode as he hits his stride taking on politics, the establishment, corporate industry and corruption. It is a complex plot the cleverly weaves its many strands into a cohesive whole. Rebus is the voice of conscience throughout, but he himself is no saint – failing in his relationships with his partner and his daughter and descending into greater dependency on alcohol. His wits remain as sharp as ever and this is his most expansive investigation to date. That Rebus is a flawed and human character makes him all the more believable and easier to forgive those failings. Whilst BLACK AND BLUE may be seen as the point where all the elements come together in the series, beginning a golden run, LET IT BLEED acts as an excellent prelude. I now only have the thirteenth book, RESURRECTION MEN, to read to have completed the whole series.

The Rebus Series:

Knots and Crosses (1987) ***
Hide and Seek (1991) ***
Tooth and Nail (original title Wolfman) (1992) ***
Strip Jack (1992) ***½
The Black Book (1993) ***
Mortal Causes (1994) ***
Let it Bleed (1996) ****
Black and Blue (1997) ****½
The Hanging Garden (1998) ****
Dead Souls (1999) ****
Set in Darkness (2000) ****
The Falls (2001) ****
Resurrection Men (2002)
A Question of Blood (2003) ****
Fleshmarket Close (2004) ****
The Naming of the Dead (2006)  ****½
Exit Music (2007) ****
Standing in Another Man’s Grave (2012) ***½
Saints of the Shadow Bible (2013) ***
Even Dogs in the Wild (2015) ****
Rather Be the Devil (2016) ***½
In a House of Lies (2018) ***½

Film Review – SHAFT (2019)

Image result for shaft 2019SHAFT (USA, 2019)
      Distributor: New Line Cinema / Warner Bros. (USA), Netflix (UK); Production Company: Davis Entertainment / Khalabo Ink Society / Netflix / New Line Cinema / Warner Bros.; Release Date: 14 June 2019 (USA), 28 June 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: December 2017 – February 2018; Running Time: 111m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Hawk Scope (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Tim Story; Writer: Kenya Barris, Alex Barnow (based on the character created by Ernest Tidyman); Executive Producer: Kenya Barris, Richard Brener, Marc S. Fischer, Josh Mack, Ira Napoliello, Tim Story; Producer: John Davis; Director of Photography: Larry Blanford; Music Composer: Christopher Lennertz; Music Supervisor: Trygge Toven; Film Editor: Peter S. Elliot; Casting Director: Tara Feldstein; Art Director: Jeremy Woolsey, Brittany Hites; Set Decorator: Missy Parker; Costumes: Olivia Miles; Make-up: Kimberly Jones; Sound: Sean McCormack; Special Effects: Russell Tyrrell; Visual Effects: Nicole Rowley.
      Cast: Samuel L. Jackson (John Shaft), Jessie T. Usher (JJ Shaft), Richard Roundtree (John Shaft, Sr), Regina Hall (Maya Babanikos), Alexandra Shipp (Sasha Arias), Matt Lauria (Major Gary Cutworth), Titus Welliver (Special Agent Vietti), Method Man (Freddy P), Isaach De Bankolé (Pierro ‘Gordito’ Carrera), Avan Jogia (Karim Hassan), Luna Lauren Velez (Bennie Rodriguez), Robbie Jones (Sergeant Keith Williams), Aaron Dominguez (Staff Sergeant Eddie Dominguez), Ian Casselberry (Manuel Orozco), Almeera Jiwa (Anam), Amato D’Apolito (Farik Bahar), Leland L. Jones (Ron), Jalyn Hall (Harlem Kid), Sylvia Jefferies (Once Beautiful Woman), Whit Coleman (Butch Lesbian Girl), Chivonne Michelle (Baby), Tashiana Washington (Sugar), Philip Fornah (Jacked Dude), Laticia Rolle (Cocktail Waitress), Ryan King Scales (Male Secretary), Tywayne Wheatt (Portly Doorman), Kenny Barr (Cop), Mike Dunston (News Anchor), Jordan Preston Carter (5-8 Year Old JJ), Nyah Marie Johnson (5-8 Year Old Sasha), Joey Mekyten (5-8 Year Old Karim), Sawyer Schultz (Mike Mitchell), Esmeree Sterling (Cute Bartender), Jose Miguel Vasquez (FBI Employee), Gabriel ‘G-Rod’ Rodriguez (Goon), Keith Brooks (Drunk Disorderly Man), DominiQue MrsGiJane Williams (Beautiful Woman), Michael Shikany (Older Man in Mosque), Lucia Scarano (Lady in Line), Greta Quispe (Employee), Heather Seiffert (Hostess), Charles Green (Hallway Man), Dorothi Fox (Old Lady Neighbor), Shakur Sozahdah (Worshiper).
      Synopsis: John Shaft Jr., a cybersecurity expert with a degree from MIT, enlists his family’s help to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death.
      Comment: Misguided continuation of the Shaft legacy is one misstep after another. Firstly Story re-tools the franchise as an action comedy that attempts to wring laughs from the generation gap separating Jackson’s John Shaft II from his son JJ, played far too broadly by Usher. Jackson’s Shaft also suffers by being made into a caricature of the character he portrayed in the 2000 series continuation. Jackson does what he tends to do best but even he gives a one-note performance that lacks nuance. The plot thread that brings the two Shafts together is given scant focus by an incredibly lazy script by Barris and Barnow.  The plot is frequently abandoned to demonstrate time after time the un-PC Jackson vs the PC Usher through a series of increasingly tiresome jokes and one-liners. Roundtree, as the original John Shaft, appears late in the proceedings and delivers the best performance with a dry understated delivery that has more class than is seen in his character namesakes. Lennertz’s score is insipid, lacking the grooves of Isaac Hayes’ 1971 music, and fails to add anything to the franchise whilst it is constantly interspersed with rap numbers that only serve to give you a headache. Even the use of Hayes’ theme is mishandled removing all elements of cool. To say I was disappointed in this destruction of Ernest Tidyman’s legacy is an understatement. My advice to Shaft fans is to stick to the originals, or better still the books. If there is any future for the franchise on screen it would be better served making reference to David F Walker’s recent comic books series prequel and rebooting the series set in period as a serious crime thriller.
      Notes: Most of the movie was shot in Atlanta, doubling for New York.