Film Review – TO CHASE A MILLION (1967)

To Chase a Million (1967; UK; Colour; 97m) **½  d. Pat Jackson, Robert Tronson; w. Stanley R. Greenberg; ph. Lionel Banes; m. Albert Elms.  Cast: Richard Bradford, Yoko Tani, Ron Randell, Norman Rossington, Anton Rogers, Mike Pratt, Aubrey Morris, Simon Brent, Gay Hamilton. A lone shark bounty hunter pits himself against secret agents from three countries. The prize: a million bucks in cash for vital state secrets. Flat spy thriller betrays its TV origins with studio sets and stock location footage. Bradford is excellent as the loner McGill, who it seems is forever being beaten up. Rodgers also impresses as a Russian spy. The plot unfolds at a slow pace and the resolution lacks punch. Compiled from a two-part story from the TV series Man in a Suitcase, originally entitled “Variation on a Million Bucks”. [PG]

Film Review – BODY HEAT (1981)

Body Heat (1981; USA; Technicolor; 113m) ***½  d. Lawrence Kasdan; w. Lawrence Kasdan; ph. Richard H. Kline; m. John Barry.  Cast: William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, Richard Crenna, Ted Danson, J.A. Preston, Mickey Rourke, Kim Zimmer, Jane Hallaren, Lanna Saunders, Carola McGuinness, Michael Ryan, Larry Marko. In the midst of a searing Florida heat wave, a woman persuades her lover, a small-town lawyer, to murder her rich husband. Modern reworking of the classic film noir DOUBLE INDEMNITY is hot and intense with a sultry performance from Turner. Hurt is also good as the ensnared lawyer. Elements and dialogue are occasionally overbaked in an attempt to recreate the noir feel, but Barry’s moody score and Kasdan’s low key direction make this a compelling tale. [18]

Film Review – SHAMUS (1973)

Related imageShamus (1973; USA; Eastmancolor; 106m) **½  d. Buzz Kulik; w. Barry Beckerman; ph. Victor J. Kemper; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: Burt Reynolds, Dyan Cannon, John P. Ryan, Joe Santos, Georgio Tozzi, Kevin Conway, John Glover, Ron Weyand, Beeson Carroll, Larry Block, Kay Frye, Merwin Goldsmith, Melody Santangello, Irving Selbst, Alex Wilson. A New York private eye likes girls, drink and gambling, but by the look of his flat business can’t be too hot. So, an offer of $10,000 to finds some diamonds stolen in a daring raid with a flame-thrower is too good to miss. Tonal shifts jar in this detective vehicle for Reynolds, whose easy-going charm is the best thing about this yarn. The action sequences are well staged and there is good use of grimy NYC locations, but the script lacks focus and the characters are stereotypical. Followed by the TV movie A MATTER OF WIFE… AND DEATH (1976) with Rod Taylor taking over the lead. [18]

Film Review – BLOOD WORK (2002)

Image result for blood work blu-rayBlood Work (2002; USA; Technicolor; 110m) ***  d. Clint Eastwood; w. Brian Helgeland; ph. Tom Stern; m. Lennie Niehaus.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston, Wanda De Jesus, Tina Lifford, Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh, Mason Lucero, Gerry Becker, Rick Hoffman, Alix Koromzay, Igor Jijikine, June Kyoto Lu, Dina Eastwood, Beverly Leech. Still recovering from a heart transplant, a retired FBI profiler returns to service when his own blood analysis offers clues to the identity of a serial killer. Interesting premise is occasionally undone by lapses in logic and the routine nature of the production. Eastwood is as charismatic as ever in the lead role, but as director fails to inject sufficient suspense. The strongest moments are the character conflicts. It remains an entertaining enough and serviceable mystery despite its flaws. Based on the novel by Michael Connelly. [15]

Film Review – BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

Image result for BLADE RUNNER 2049 blu-rayBlade Runner 2049 (2017; USA/UK/Canada; Colour; 163m) ****  d. Denis Villeneuve; w. Hampton Fancher, Michael Green; ph. Roger Deakins; m. Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch.  Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Lennie James, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Edward James Olmos, Barkhad Abdi, Hiam Abbass. Thirty years after the events of BLADE RUNNER, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. Expanding on the events and consequences of the original story, this is a visual treat. Gosling impressively portrays the ambiguity and doubts of his character, whilst Villeneuve patiently builds the narrative using the elements of the multi-layered plot. Fans of the original will be delighted, but it may be harder-going for others unfamiliar with the concept. [15]

Film Review – WIND RIVER (2017)

Wind River (2017; USA/UK/Canada; Colour; 107m) ***½  d. Taylor Sheridan; w. Taylor Sheridan; ph. Ben Richardson; m. Warren Ellis.  Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones, Matthew Del Negro, Kelsey Asbille, Gil Birmingham, Ian Bohen, Martin Sensmeier, Hugh Dillon, Eric Lange, Mason D. Davis, James Jordan, Teo Briones, Tara Karsian. A female FBI agent and a veteran game tracker investigate the circumstances surrounding the discovery of a dead woman on a Native American reservation. Leisurely-paced and well-written character-driven mystery retains interest throughout due to the compelling performances of the leads and the beautiful, but unforgiving snow-filled Wyoming location. [15]

Book Review – THE SECRET (2016) by Katerina Diamond

THE SECRET by  KATERINA DIAMOND (2016, Avon, 404pp) ***

The Secret Paperback by Blurb: When Bridget Reid wakes up in a locked room, terrifying memories come flooding back of blood, pain, and desperate fear. Her captor knows things she’s never told anyone. How can she escape someone who knows all of her secrets? As DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles search for Bridget, they uncover a horrifying web of abuse, betrayal and murder right under their noses in Exeter. And as the past comes back to haunt her, Grey must confront her own demons. Because she knows that it can be those closest to us who hurt us the most.

Diamond’s follow-up to The Teacher treads much of the same ground with its penchant for graphic body horror and sexual violence. Here we delve deeper into DS Imogen Grey’s past and the case that haunts her from two years earlier becomes entwined with her current investigation. Diamond’s plot calls on the reader to accept a lot of coincidental twists, which stretch the credibility of the narrative. If you can accept these, then the book will give you an absorbing read. Others may find these contrivances distracting from an otherwise well-written crime thriller from a talented writer. The book leaves enough room for Diamond to further explore her characters and a third book in the series, The Angel, was published last year.

Film Review – HELL IS A CITY (1960)

Image result for HELL IS A CITYHell is a City (1960; UK; B&W; 98m) ***½  d. Val Guest; w. Val Guest; ph. Arthur Grant; m. Stanley Black.  Cast: Stanley Baker, John Crawford, Donald Pleasence, Maxine Audley, Billie Whitelaw, Joseph Tomelty, George A. Cooper, Geoffrey Frederick, Vanda Godsell, Charles Houston. A police inspector pursues a dangerous jewel thief. Fast-paced and atmospheric crime thriller shot on location in and around Manchester. Baker is excellent as the driven detective on the hunt for Crawford. Director Guest works efficiently with a strong supporting cast (notably Pleasence as a tight-fisted bookmaker and Whitelaw as his promiscuous wife) and witty dialogue. Exciting rooftop climax adds to the suspense. Based on the novel by Maurice Procter. [PG]

Film Review – LIFE (2017)

Image result for life blu-rayLife (2017; USA; Colour; 104m) ***  d. Daniel Espinosa; w. Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick; ph. Seamus McGarvey; m. Jon Ekstrand.  Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya, Alexandre Nguyen. A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth. Derivative sci-fi horror adds nothing new to the genre but is a professional and competent chiller. The visual effects are excellent and the cast is strong, but there is little in the material for them to work with outside of the admittedly tense conventional thrills. If you’ve seen ALIEN, you’ll recognise the by-the-numbers plot mapping. [15]

Book Review – THE TEACHER (2016) by Katerina Diamond

THE TEACHER by KATERINA DIAMOND (2016, Avon, 396pp) ***

The Teacher: A shocking and compelling new crime thriller - NOT for the faint-hearted! by [Diamond, Katerina]Blurb: You think you know who to trust? You think you know the difference between good and evil? You’re wrong … The body of the head teacher of an exclusive Devon school is found hanging from the rafters in the assembly hall. Hours earlier he’d received a package, and only he could understand the silent message it conveyed. It meant the end. As Exeter suffers a rising count of gruesome deaths, troubled DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles must solve the case and make their city safe again. But as they’re drawn into a network of corruption, lies and exploitation, every step brings them closer to grim secrets hidden at the heart of their community. And once they learn what’s motivating this killer, will they truly want to stop him?

Enjoyment of this book depends on how much you buy into Diamond’s dark and macabre world, where every character is tarnished by their past. The plot is highly implausible and at times stretches the reader’s commitment. The themes of abused childhood, torture, rape and the grisly deaths that result are designed to heighten the reader’s emotional commitment to these characters. On this level, it largely succeeds. I found myself continuing to turn the pages in fascination at the horrific nature of the story.

There are no real surprises… this book is not targeted as a mystery, instead it is described as a psychological crime thriller. It’s main theme of revenge applies to more than one of the characters. The heroes are a new detective duo – Adrian Miles and Imogen Grey – both of whom have their own hidden traumas to deal with and have to tangle with secrets within their own force.

It all sounds very bleak and by and large it is. But there are moments where the strong characters cut through and there is promise the duo of Grey and Miles could become an interesting combination for future books. The second in Diamond’s series is The Secret and I will be interested to see how she progresses these characters.