STAR TREK BEYOND (2016, USA, 122m, 12) ***
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
dist. Paramount Pictures; pr co. Paramount Pictures / Bad Robot / Skydance Productions; d. Justin Lin; w. Simon Pegg, Doug Jung (based on the TV series Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry); pr. J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Roberto Orci; ph. Stephen F. Windon (Colour | 2.35:1); m. Michael Giacchino; ed. Greg D’Auria, Dylan Highsmith, Kelly Matsumoto, Steven Sprung; pd. Thomas E. Sanders, Andrew Murdock; ad. Don Macaulay.
cast: Chris Pine (Captain James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Commander Spock), Karl Urban (Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy), Zoe Saldana (Lieutenant Uhura), Simon Pegg (Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott), John Cho (Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Idris Elba (Krall), Sofia Boutella (Jaylah), Joe Taslim (Manas), Lydia Wilson (Kalara), Deep Roy (Keenser), Melissa Roxburgh (Ensign Syl), Anita Brown (Tyvanna), Doug Jung (Ben), Danny Pudi (Fi’Ja), Kim Kold (Zavanko), Fraser Aitcheson (Hider), Matthew MacCaull (Blue Shirt), Emy Aneke (Blue Shirt).
The third of the Star Trek reboot series is a visually stunning but often hollow experience. A surprise attack in outer space forces the Enterprise to crash-land on a mysterious world. Left stranded in a rugged wilderness, Kirk (Pine), Spock (Quinto) and the rest of the crew must now battle a deadly alien race, led by the lizard-like Elba, while trying to find a way off their hostile planet. This big, action-packed blockbuster is helped considerably by the great chemistry between the cast but is hampered by a weak, often contrived, story and the anaesthetizing effect of its grandstand set-pieces. The dizzying camerawork makes it more difficult to feel attached to the action and as a result, we become desensitised to the threat. Lapses in logic and the frequent use of convenience suggest laziness at scripting and a certain contempt for the audience. Pine, Quinto and Urban spark off each other superbly, however, managing to generate much of the spirit of the original series. Boutella also scores as a female alien who works with the crew. Elba has little to work with as the villain and resorts to snarling and shouting whilst his motivation is muddled. Also shot in 3-D.
AAN: Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling (Joel Harlow, Richard Alonzo).
Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995; USA; Technicolor; 131m) ∗∗∗½ d. John McTiernan; w. Jonathan Hensleigh; ph. Peter Menzies Jr.; m. Michael Kamen. Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Sam Phillips, Anthony Peck, Larry Bryggman, Nicholas Wyman, Kevin Chamberlin, Sharon Washington, Stephen Pearlman, Aldis Hodge, Mischa Hausserman, Michael Alexander Jackson. John McClane and a store owner must play a bomber’s deadly game as they race around New York while trying to stop him. Third in this highly entertaining, if increasingly preposterous, series. The byplay between Willis and Jackson adds to the winning formula. Action and destruction on a huge scale. Followed by DIE HARD 4.0 (2007). 
Die Hard 2 (1990; USA; DeLuxe; 124m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Renny Harlin; w. Steven E. de Souza, Doug Richardson; ph. Oliver Wood; m. Michael Kamen. Cast: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Franco Nero, Reginald VelJohnson, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, John Leguizamo, Fred Dalton Thompson, Tom Bower, Sheila McCarthy, Don Harvey, Tony Ganios. John McClane, officer of the LAPD and hero of the Nakatomi Hostage Crisis, attempts to avert disaster as rogue military officials seize control of Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. Effective follow-up is another entertaining action thriller with Willis again excellent. Airport and winter setting is well-used and the set-pieces are well executed. Based on the novel “58 Minutes” by Walter Wager. This film was originally titled DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER. Followed by DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE (1995). 
HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER by ERNEST TIDYMAN (1973, Corgi, 150pp) ∗∗∗
Blurb: They whipped the last sheriff to death in the middle of the Main Street. Now a year of breaking rocks had made them hungry for revenge on the whole town. But first they had to deal with the stranger, a man with a lot of lean lightning on his hip – and a gut-urge to use it!
In the 1960s and 70s, before the advent of home video, paperback novelisations were the only way you could revisit a movie without waiting 5 years for a TV premiere or a re-release. They pretty much faded away once movies became readily available, firstly through the rental market and ultimately through retail. Tidyman’s High Plains Drifter is a solid example of how a novelisation could flesh out a screenplay, but could not always recapture the elements that made a movie special.
The novelisation of Tidyman’s screenplay for Clint Eastwood’s Western was published in May 1973 – a month after the release of the film. Tidyman had written the original screenplay during the early summer of 1972 and assigned Phillip Rock (uncredited here) to adapt the screenplay into a novel manuscript, which Tidyman would then edit. The book, therefore stays very close to Tidyman’s original draft. Eastwood saw the opportunity to add some mystical elements – suggesting the stranger was a re-incarnation of the murdered town marshal. Dean Reisner had been hired to add these elements into a final draft screenplay – although Tidyman retained sole credit on screen following a WGA ruling. It is these additional elements and Eastwood’s persona that made the film stand out from other westerns. The novel is, therefore, a much more straight forward tale. Most of the elements of Tidyman’s screenplay were used in the final version of the film, but in the novel there is no real suggestion of a link between the stranger and the marshal. The reader is left to ponder on the stranger’s motives. As a result, the novel – though well written and never less than engaging – does not stand out from the crowd in the same way as the movie.
Note: Phillip Rock wrote the novelisation of Eastwood’s Dirty Harry in 1971.
Omega Man, The (1971; USA; Technicolor; 98m) ∗∗∗ d. Boris Sagal; w. John William, Joyce Hooper Corrington; ph. Russell Metty; m. Ron Grainer. Cast: Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Eric Laneuville, John Dierkes, Brian Tochi, Jill Giraldi, Anna Aries, DeVeren Bookwalter, Monika Henreid, Linda Redfearn, Forrest Wood. An Army doctor struggles to create a cure for the plague that wiped out most of the human race. Enjoyable adaptation, despite its limitations, which creates an eerie post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Heston delivers a typically square-jawed performance, whilst Zerbe stands out as the leader of “The Family”. Based on the novel “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson. Previously filmed as THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) and remade as I AM LEGEND (2007). [PG]
Fear is the Key (1972; UK; Technicolor; 103m) ∗∗∗½ d. Michael Tuchner; w. Robert Carrington; ph. Alex Thomson; m. Roy Budd. Cast: Barry Newman, Suzy Kendall, John Vernon, Dolph Sweet, Ben Kingsley, Ray McAnally, Peter Marinker, Elliott Sullivan, Roland Brand, Tony Anholt. Following the death of his family in an aeroplane crash, a man plots an elaborate revenge scheme on those responsible. Taut thriller with an exciting, if over-extended car chase right at the start and a suspenseful ticking clock conclusion on the sea bed sandwiching more familiar espionage elements. Newman makes an effective action hero and Tuchner directs with style. Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. 
Dynamite are now trailing the trade paperback release of Shaft: Imitation of Life, due out on 21 February 2017. The cover art is the same as for issue 1 of the original 4-part run.
BIG BUCKS: THE TRUE, OUTRAGEOUS STORY OF THE PLYMOUTH MAIL ROBBERY AND HOW THEY GOT AWAY WITH IT by ERNEST TIDYMAN (W. W. Norton & Company, 1982, 317pp) ∗∗∗∗
Blurb: They came out of the mist on a Cape Cod highway one rainy August evening to write a chapter in the history of spectacular American crimes. They stole more money – over $1.5 million in cash – than anyone had ever stolen. Although three suspects went to trial for the robbery, the charges were dismissed, and the case of the Plymouth Mail Robbery has never been solved.
Tidyman’s telling of the Plymouth Mail Robbery is the book equivalent of the docu-drama. The result is a fascinating and in-depth realisation of the masterminding of one of the greatest heists ever. Tidyman largely presents the story as if it were a novel and this gives depth to the main protagonists on both sides of the law. The gang’s ring leader – here given the name Dan Murphy – is presented as a meticulous organiser of criminal activity. He works with a small group he trusts, which keeps his plans tight. he evades the law through his ingenuity right to the end. The book would have made for a great film adaptation – and indeed the author had prepared a screenplay co-written with his wife, Chris Clark-Tidyman in 1983 – but the story is yet to be filmed. This was to be Tidyman’s final book – he died two years later.
Rio Lobo (1970; USA; Technicolor; 114m) ∗∗∗½ d. Howard Hawks; w. Burton Wohl, Leigh Brackett; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Jerry Goldsmith. Cast: John Wayne, Jack Elam, Jennifer O’Neill, Jorge Rivero, Christopher Mitchum, Victor French, Mike Henry, David Huddleston, Bill Williams, Edward Faulkner. After the Civil War, Wayne searches for the traitor whose perfidy caused the defeat of his unit and the loss of a close friend. Hawks and Wayne team up for a final time in this entertaining, if derivative, Western. Wayne and Elam, as a trigger happy old rancher, stand out against a young and inexperienced cast. The finale replays that of RIO BRAVO (1959), which the team had previously riffed in EL DORADO (1966). Hawks’ final film. [PG]
El Dorado (1966; USA; Technicolor; 126m) ∗∗∗∗½ d. Howard Hawks; w. Leigh Brackett; ph. Harold Rosson; m. Nelson Riddle. Cast: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt, Paul Fix, Arthur Hunnicutt, R.G. Armstrong, Edward Asner, Christopher George, Jim Davis, Michele Carey, Marina Ghane, Robert Donner, John Gabriel, Johnny Crawford. Cole Thornton, a gunfighter for hire, joins forces with an old friend, Sheriff J.P. Hara. Together with an old Indian fighter and a gambler, they help a rancher and his family fight a rival rancher that is trying to steal their water. Western re-teams Hawks and Wayne with the second half of the movie being a re-working of RIO BRAVO (1959). Many of the elements of that classic are repeated here and whilst it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its inspiration it is still fabulous entertainment. Mitchum is superb as drunken sheriff. Caan and Hunnicutt also shine as the young protegee and old Indian fighter. The poem recited by Mississippi is an actual poem called “El Dorado” by Edgar Allan Poe. Based on the novel “The Stars in Their Courses” by Harry Brown. [PG]