TV Review – KOJAK: THE CHINATOWN MURDERS (1974)

Image result for kojak season twoKojak: The Chinatown Murders (TV) (1974; USA; Technicolor; 95m) ∗∗∗  d. Jeannot Szwarc; w. Jack Laird; ph. Vilis Lapenieks, Sol Negrin; m. John Cacavas.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Michael Constantine, Sheree North, Tige Andrews, Roger Robinson, Dan Frazer, Kevin Dobson, George Savalas, Leonardo Cimino, Milton Selzer, Robert Ito, Victor Argo, Vincent Baggetta, Patrick Adiarte, Val Bisoglio. A series of gang-member murders in Chinatown starts a war. Kojak finds out that those murders were blamed on rival gangs in order to take over the territory from old families by a new gang. This feature-length episode opened Kojak’s second season. Despite attempts to inject some scope through its plot, the story is really nothing more than standard TV fare, albeit heightened by Savalas’ charismatic performance and a lean script. [PG]

Film Review – FUZZ (1972)

Image result for FUZZ BLU-RAYFuzz (1972; USA; DeLuxe; 92m) ∗∗∗  d. Richard A. Colla; w. Evan Hunter; ph. Jacques R. Marquette; m. Dave Grusin.  Cast: Burt Reynolds, Jack Weston, Tom Skerritt, Yul Brynner, Raquel Welch, James McEachin, Steve Ihnat, Bert Remsen, Peter Bonerz, Dan Frazer, Stewart Moss, H. Benny Markowitz, James Victor, Tom Lawrence, Vince Howard. Police in Boston search for a mad bomber trying to extort money from the city. Well-intentioned attempt to bring Ed McBain’s “87th Precinct” novels to the big screen. Colla struggles to find the right balance between serious crime drama and the humour drawn from the everyday police work, by occasionally lapsing into slapstick. The result is a hodge-podge of good and bad execution. Brynner appears all too late as the charismatic villain, whilst Reynolds adopts his usual persona. The result is entertaining but decidedly uneven. Inhat’s final film. Hunter adapted his own novel written as Ed McBain. [18]

TV review – PRIME SUSPECT: THE FINAL ACT (2006)

Prime Suspect: The Final Act (TV) (2006; UK/USA; Colour; 182m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Philip Martin; w. Frank Deasy; ph. Julian Court; m. Nicholas Hooper.  Cast: Helen Mirren, Stephen Tompkinson, Laura Greenwood, Eve Best, Gary Lewis, Katy Murphy, Frank Finlay, Tom Bell, Robert Pugh, Brendan Coyle, Robbie Gee, Russell Mabey. Approaching retirement, Jane Tennison investigates the murder of a missing girl. But the cracks soon begin to show as Jane struggles with an alcohol problem and the death of her father. Final installment in the series is a relentlessly downbeat affair. Mirren delivers a superb performance and the production values are excellent and authentic. There is the occasional contrivance and the finale seems rushed after over three hours of twists and turns. But this is still an absorbing last hurrah for one of TV’s great detectives. [15]

Film Review – ARRIVAL (2016)

Image result for arrival blu-rayArrival (2016; USA; Colour; 116m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Denis Villeneuve; w. Eric Heisserer; ph. Bradford Young; m. Jóhann Jóhannsson.  Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O’Brien, Tzi Ma, Nathaly Thibault, Pat Kiely, Joe Cobden, Julian Casey, Larry Day, Russell Yuen, Abigail Pniowsky, Philippe Hartmann, Andrew Shaver. When alien crafts land around the world, an expert linguist (Adams) is recruited by the military to determine whether they come in peace or are a threat. Thought-provoking sci-fi poses as many questions as it answers and as such may not satisfy everyone. But those looking for something more high-brow than the standard alien invasion movie, this gives much to enjoy. Great use of sonics to convey an alien language heightened by a resonant score. Murkily shot to create a genuinely memorable alien environment. Adams and Renner make for effective ordinary scientists in an extraordinary situation. Won Oscar for Best Sound Editing (Sylvain Bellemare). Based on a short story by Ted Chiang. [12]

TV Review – PRIME SUSPECT: THE LOST CHILD (1995)

Prime Suspect: The Lost Child (TV) (1995; UK/USA, Colour, 101m) ∗∗∗½  pr. Paul Marcus; d. John Madden; w. Paul Billing; ph. David Odd; m. Stephen Warbeck. Cast: Helen Mirren, Beatie Edney, Robert Glenister, Lesley Sharp, Tracy Keating, Richard Hawley, Jack Ellis, David Phelan, Stuart Wilson, John Benfield, Tony Rohr, Mark Bazeley, Chris Brailsford.  Supt. Tennison orchestrates a search for an abducted baby, but events take a turn for the worst when personal emotions cause complications. Emotive and dark episode due to its themes of child abduction and paedophilia. Again, the performances are uniformly excellent – notably Glenister as the prime suspect in question. Mirren continues to give a commanding portrayal of her career detective. The hostage resolution is tense and well-staged. Only some heavy-handed posturing in the script detracts from an otherwise excellent mystery drama. [15]

TV Review – PRIME SUSPECT 3 (1993)

Prime Suspect 3 (1993; UK; Colour; 207m) ∗∗∗½  pr. Paul Marcus; d. David Drury; w. Lynda La Plante; ph. David Odd; m. Stephen Warbeck.  Cast: Helen Mirren, Tom Bell, David Thewlis, Peter Capaldi, Struan Rodger, Mark Strong, Terrence Hardiman, Andrew Woodall, Richard Hawley, Philip Wright, Mark Drewry, John Benfield, Terence Harvey, Ciarán Hinds, Kelly Hunter.  Assigned to a Vice squad, Detective Jane Tennison investigates a child murder and discovers a sinister link to the police. Another intricately plotted crime drama in this quality series. It lacks the intensity of the first two stories, but the controversial subject matter and political manoevering helped by excellent performances all round make for another well-made mystery. [18]

Film Review – SULLY (2016)

Image result for sully blu-raySully (2016; USA; Colour; 96m) ∗∗∗½  d. Clint Eastwood; w. Todd Komarnicki; ph. Tom Stern; m. Christian Jacob, Tierney Sutton Band.  Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Sam Huntington, Jerry Ferrara, Jeff Kober, Chris Bauer, Holt McCallany, Carla Shinall, Lynn Marocola, Max Adler, Valerie Mahaffey, Ashley Austin Morris, Michael Rapaport. Based on the true story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who safely crash-landed a plane on the Hudson River in 2009. Efficiently made account of the investigation that followed. Hanks adds depth and dignity to his portrayal of the everyman hero, whilst Eastwood’s no-fuss direction ensures there is no Hollywood-isation of the story. Adapted from the book by Chelsey Sullenberg and Jeffrey Zaslow [12]

TV Review – BROADCHURCH: SERIES 3 (2017)

Broadchurch: Series 3 (2017; UK; Colour; 8x45m) ∗∗∗½  pr. Dan Winch; d. Paul Andrew Williams (1-3, 7-8), Daniel Nettheim (4-5), Lewis Arnold (6); w. Chris Chibnall; ph. Carlos Catalan; m. Ólafur Arnalds.  Cast: David Tennant, Jodie Whittaker, Olivia Colman, Sarah Parish, Arthur Darvill, Charlotte Beaumont, Georgina Campbell, Andrew Buchan, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Chris Mason, Charlie Higson, Mark Bazeley, Lenny Henry, Julie Cox, Sebastian Armesto, Carolyn Pickles, Hannah Rae, Adam Wilson, Roy Hudd.  Trish Winterman (Hesmondhalgh) reports being raped after a party held by Jim and Cath Atwood (Bazeley and Parish) several days earlier. She was hit on the head with something and could not see who attacked her. DS Ellie Miller (Colman) and DI Alec Hardy (Tennant) are called; they determine that it was a premeditated attack rather than a crime of opportunity, leading to fears that there may be a serial rapist on the loose planning to strike again. Better than Series 2 but lagging behind Series 1 this is a disturbing story dragged over a couple of episodes too many. The investigation meanders from suspect to suspect to maintain the mystery elements before managing to eventually build the suspense toward the final reveal. In between we get long shots of characters staring into the distance over glorious coastal scenery and a couple of side plots resolving story arcs from the earlier series. It’s all well done in a calculated way. [15]

TV Review – PRIME SUSPECT 2 (1992)

Prime Suspect 2 (TV) (1992; UK; Colour; 203m) ∗∗∗∗  pr.  Paul Marcus; d. John Strickland; w. Allan Cubitt; ph. Ken Morgan, David Odd; m. Stephen Warbeck.  Cast: Helen Mirren, Colin Salmon, John Benfield, Jack Ellis, Craig Fairbrass, George Harris, Richard Hawley, Philip Wright, Ian Fitzgibbon, Andrew Tiernan, Lloyd McGuire, Stephen Boxer, Fraser James, Jenny Jules, Matt Bardock. When a body is found in the backyard of a home in an Afro-Caribbean neighborhood of London, DCI Jane Tennison (Mirren) has to tread carefully in her investigation because of the racial tension surrounding unsolved crimes in the region.  This first sequel is another intense tale, although marginally less successful than the original – mainly down to occasional heavy-handed treatment of the racial politics and a more straight-forward mystery plot. There is also a dose of internal politics to add spice to the pot. Mirren is again excellent and the support cast of cops, victims and suspects is strong and authentic. Another fine axample of TV crime drama at its best. [18]

TV Review – PRIME SUSPECT (1991)

Image result for prime suspect 1 dvdPrime Suspect (1991; UK;  Colour; 207m) ∗∗∗∗∗  pr. Don Leaver; d. Christopher Menaul; w. Lynda La Plante; ph. Ken Morgan; m. Stephen Warbeck.  Cast: Helen Mirren, Tom Bell, John Benfield, John Bowe, Zoë Wanamaker, Gary Whelan, Craig Fairbrass, Jack Ellis, John Forgeham, Mossie Smith, Ian Fitzgibbon, Andrew Tiernan, Philip Wright, Richard Hawley, Mark Spalding.  Jane Tennison (Mirren) is a Detective Chief Inspector assigned to Southampton Row police station in Central London. She is repeatedly passed over for major cases but, following the death of a Senior Investigating Officer she is given the opportunity to take over his investigation which involves the brutal murder of a young girl. The girl’s body has been badly mutilated, and her hands have been tied behind her back. Forensic evidence puts a suspect in the frame. Thoroughly absorbing modern TV classic of the crime genre. This unsettling battle of wits between key suspect (Bowe), who denies all charges, and Mirren’s determined cop makes for riveting watching. The story is brilliantly directed and the script is exceptional, making this an undisputed classic. [15]