Brooklyn (2015; Ireland/UK/Canada; Colour; 112m) ∗∗∗∗ d. John Crowley; w. Nick Hornby; ph. Yves Bélanger; m. Michael Brook. Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Michael Zegen, Mary O’Driscoll, Eileen O’Higgins, Emily Bett Rickards, Paulino Nunes, Eve Macklin, Maeve McGrath, Jenn Murray, Aine Ni Mhuiri, Nora-Jane Noone. Romantic drama set in the 1950s in which a young woman on a visit to her native Ireland from New York must decide in which country and with which man she will spend the rest of her life. Beautifully paced tale benefits from a strong cast and a script that manages to keep the heart of the story and avoid falling into cliché. Rich period detail adds greatly to this agreeably old-fashioned production. The city of Brooklyn in the film was actually shot in Montreal for budgeting reasons. Based on the novel by Colm Toibin. 
Issue #2 of David F Walker’s comic book Shaft: Imitation of Life was published on 9 March and reactions from the comic book fraternity are again very positive.
Enrique Rea at Spartantown awards the issue 4-stars and says: “Walker’s best asset is Shaft himself. A larger-than-life figure you can’t take your eyes off of. It’ll be interesting to see how this missing persons case will linger going forward to the two remaining issues. The art [by Dietrich Smith] is incredible and Walker knows his hero so well, ‘Shaft’ is an engaging series that deserves to be read.”
Dan Seitz at Uproxx rates the issue third in his top 20 releases of the week and says: “Smith’s layout work and vivid art stand out especially here, as Shaft starts working on a parody of, well, Shaft. Still, it’s the soul of Shaft that makes this a great book, and a must-read.”
Sal Lucci at Unwinnable says: “Walker continues to show why he’s the right person to helm a new Shaft series. He’s got Tidyman’s tone down pat but his own style shines through.”
Amani Cooper at OutrightGeekery says: “The story seems to bounce around a bit. Its one thing on top of another on top of his own internal monologue. It would be great to see Walker tone it down a bit or dedicate an issue to Shaft’s back story. Dietrich’s art is great. I love the bright colors and great fashion. I don’t know much about the 1970’s, but I feel like this story and art gives a pretty good look into it.”
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997; UK/USA; Colour; 119m) ∗∗∗ d. Roger Spottiswoode; w. Bruce Feirstein; ph. Robert Elswit; m. David Arnold. Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh, Teri Hatcher, Ricky Jay, Götz Otto, Joe Don Baker, Vincent Schiavelli, Judi Dench, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Colin Salmon, Geoffrey Palmer, Julian Fellowes. James Bond heads to stop a media mogul’s plan to induce war between China and the UK in order to obtain exclusive global media coverage. Destruction and mayhem delivered through explosive action set-pieces take over at the expense of plot and a credible threat. Pryce hams it up as the chief villain and Brosnan already seems to be coasting on his charm as Bond. It’s all professionally packaged, but the heart seems to have gone out of the franchise. 
GoldenEye (1995; UK/USA; Rankcolor; 130m) ∗∗∗½ d. Martin Campbell; w. Jeffrey Caine, Bruce Feirstein; ph. Phil Meheux; m. Eric Serra. Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean, Izabella Scorupco, Famke Janssen, Joe Don Baker, Judi Dench, Robbie Coltrane, Gottfried John, Alan Cumming, Tchéky Karyo, Desmond Llewelyn, Samantha Bond, Michael Kitchen, Serena Gordon, Simon Kunz. James Bond teams up with the lone survivor of a destroyed Russian research centre to stop the hijacking of a nuclear space weapon by a fellow agent believed to be dead. The plot may misfire occasionally, but Brosnan’s debut outing as 007 is a big, bold adventure with the tried and trusted formula shaken but not stirred. Well directed and with some exceptional action set-pieces. Janssen is both sexy and psychotic, but Bean lacks charisma as the villain. Based on a story by Michael France. 
Lady in the Van, The (2015; UK; DeLuxe; 104m) ∗∗∗½ d. Nicholas Hytner; w. Alan Bennett; ph. Andrew Dunn; m. George Fenton. Cast: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Frances de la Tour, Samuel Anderson, Gwen Taylor, Rosalind Knight, George Taylor. Based on real events, about a vagrant who the playwright Alan Bennett allowed to park her van in his driveway, where she lived for fifteen years. Amusing, if slight, character study is chiefly memorable for Smith’s brilliant performance as the eccentric lady of the title. Bennett’s wry observations on life and himself are witty and droll. 
Licence to Kill (1989; UK/USA; Technicolor; 133m) ∗∗∗½ d. John Glen; w. Michael G. Wilson, Richard Maibaum; ph. Alec Mills; m. Michael Kamen. Cast: Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi, Talisa Soto, Anthony Zerbe, Frank McRae, David Hedison, Wayne Newton, Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Starke, Everett McGill, Desmond Llewelyn, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., Robert Brown, Priscilla Barnes, Don Stroud, Caroline Bliss. James Bond leaves Her Majesty’s Secret Service to stop an evil drug lord and avenge his best friend, Felix Leiter. The toughest Bond since FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. This is an efficient action movie, but lacks some of the ingredients that made the very best Bond films stand out from the crowd. Dalton is again excellent as 007 and the plot has a more realistic base. Gladys Knight delivers the punchy theme song. 
SHAFT’S REVENGE by DAVID F WALKER (Dynamite Entertainment, 2016, 288pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: Like an unstoppable force of nature, private detective John Shaft is back with a vengeance. Ernest Tidyman’s iconic detective returns in the first original Shaft novel in more than forty years, and he’s as bad as ever. When the Godfather of crime in Harlem reaches out to Shaft for a favor, the hardboiled detective finds himself caught in a web of violence and murder. No one is safe as the bullets start to fly and the bodies start to drop, leaving Shaft with only two options: kill or be killed. From the writer of the award-winning graphic novel Shaft: A Complicated Man, comes the critically acclaimed return of the black private dick that’s a sex machine with all the chicks. It’s a two-fisted tale of revenge as Shaft cuts a bloody path through city, settling old scores and faces the demons of his past.
Unbeknownst to each other David Walker and I both set about the goal of bringing John Shaft back into public consciousness as we felt the character was as relevant today as in his heyday and there were more stories to tell. Whilst I took the route of researching and writing a history of Shaft both in print and on screen in order to test interest and establish my credentials (The World of Shaft being published by McFarland at the tail end of last year for which David kindly wrote the Foreword), David took the more direct route of obtaining the literary rights from Shaft creator and novelist Ernest Tidyman’s estate. A resultant deal was made with Dynamite Entertainment and Shaft was reborn in comic book form in December 2014. As part of the deal Dynamite also committed to re-publish the original Tidyman novels (yet to appear) and begin a new series of prose novels with Shaft’s Revenge being the first.
Shaft’s Revenge was originally serialised as a Smart Phone download as part of the initial comic book series’ 6-issue run. It has now finally been released in paperback form with a cover by Francesco Francavilla (who also contributed covers to the initial Dynamite comic book series) styled in similar fashion to the original UK Corgi books. In the story, Shaft is urgently summoned by Harlem crime lord Knocks Persons, but on arrival at Persons’ home Shaft and Bamma Brooks, the gangster’s right-hand man, find gunmen have stormed the house and Persons has been killed whilst corrupt cops look on. Escaping the gun battle with the help of an honest cop, Harry Townes, Shaft finds he has been bequeathed some papers including a letter from Persons prophesising his own death and hiring Shaft to find his killer. Also in the papers are notes concerning Shaft’s father, who was a numbers runner and had been killed when Shaft was an infant. Along the way Shaft comes across crooked cops and street kids who have no qualms about killing and an old friend with a score to settle. Shaft rescues Brooks, who was hospitalised following the shootout at Persons’ home, from an attempted hit and Townes from another. With the help of Lt. Vic Anderozzi, Shaft gets Townes away then returns to Harlem with the injured Brooks for a showdown with Persons’ assassin.
Walker’s story is full of hard-hitting action and dialogue. He has a strong knowledge of the character and has stuck by his promise to be true to the John Shaft of Tidyman’s novels. Walker has also wisely followed Tidyman’s approach in writing the book in the third person. The Shaft books are action fuelled crime thrillers rather than mysteries and this approach helps flesh out the supporting cast of characters and their motivations. Walker expands through reflective prose on Shaft’s foster parent upbringing and his father as well as his years as a Harlem gang war lord and his service in Vietnam. Walker is much more explicit about the impact of these events on Shaft’s life than Tidyman was in the original novels lending the book more depth as a result. He also references his own superb comic book series Shaft: A Complicated Man (2014/15), re-using characters and making references to events from that story. In doing so Walker has put his own personal stamp and interpretation on the character whilst remaining faithful to Tidyman’s vision. He also brings in supporting characters established in Tidyman’s novels – notably Anderozzi, who plays a more direct part in the action here. There is also Mildred, Shaft’s answering service, and Rollie Nickerson, Shaft’s friend and barman from the No Name Bar.
The book is a fast-paced read set out in short chapters and populated with interesting characters and is an excellent re-introduction to Shaft in prose form. The climax may feel a little anti-climactic in that it leaves the story open for a follow-up, which I hope David Walker will provide us with sometime soon, but this remains an impressive return. In the meantime, we have his ongoing second comic book series, Shaft: Imitation of Life.