Book Review – THE SINNERS (2018) by Ace Atkins

THE SINNERS (2018) ***½
by Ace Atkins
This paperback edition published by Putnam, June 2019, 432pp (417pp)
First published in hardcover by Putnam, June 2018
Includes an excerpt from the follow-up, THE SHAMELESS (2019)
© Ace Atkins, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-399-57675-1
      Blurb: The Pritchards had never been worth a damn–an evil, greedy family who made their living dealing drugs and committing mayhem. Years ago, Colson’s late uncle had put the clan’s patriarch in prison, but now he’s getting out, with revenge, power, and family business on his mind. To make matters worse, a shady trucking firm with possible ties to the Gulf Coast syndicate has moved into Tibbehah, and they have their own methods of intimidation. With his longtime deputy Lillie Virgil now working up in Memphis, Quinn Colson finds himself having to fall back on some brand-new deputies to help him out, but with Old West-style violence breaking out, and his own wedding on the horizon, this is without doubt Colson’s most trying times as sheriff. Cracks are opening up all over the county, and shadowy figures are crawling out through them – and they’re all heading directly for him.
      Comment: This is the eighth book in Ace Atkins’ Quinn Colson series. Here the sheriff is pitted against two country boys and their ex-con uncle as they attempt to take the narcotics trade away from organised crime. Atkins’ strength lies in his ability to create three-dimensional characters and craft wonderful dialogue. This helps carry the book over its rather simple plot-line, which unravels at a leisurely pace until the all-action finale. This does, however, give the colourful characters room to breathe and the result is a satisfying read in a very consistent series that plays to its strengths. Some plot threads are left open and will undoubtedly continue into the next book. It’s a series well worth investing in and one that favourably recalls the writing of one of Atkins’ heroes – Elmore Leonard.

The Quinn Colson series:
The Ranger (2011) ***
The Lost Ones (2012) ***
The Broken Place (2013) ***
The Forsaken (2014) ***½
The Redeemers (2015) ****
The Innocents (2016) ***½
The Fallen (2017) ****
The Sinners (2018) ***½
The Shameless (2019)

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: CAN YOU HEAR ME? (2020)

Image result for doctor who can you hear meDOCTOR WHO: CAN YOU HEAR ME? (UK, 2020) ***½
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 9 February 2020; Running Time: 49m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Emma Sullivan; Writer: Charlene James, Chris Chibnall; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Alex Mercer; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Ed Moore; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Agnieszka Liggett; Production Designer: Dafydd Shurmer; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Claire Pritchard-Jones; Sound: Harry Barnes; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Ian Gelder (Zellin), Buom Tihngang (Tibo), Clare-Hope Ashitey (Rakaya), Sharon D Clarke (Grace O’Brien), Bhavnisha Parmar (Sonya Kahn), Aruhan Galiva (Tahira), Sirine Saba (Maryam), Nasreen Hussain (Anita Patel), Everal A Walsh (Gabriel), Michael Keane (Fred), Amanda Liberman (Mum), Willie Jonah (Old Tibo), Anthony Taylor (Andrew).
      Synopsis: From ancient Syria to present-day Sheffield, and out into the wilds of space, something is stalking the Doctor and infecting people’s nightmares.
     Comment: An episode with lots of ideas around the psychological impact of nightmares linked to a god-like race known as the Eternals who feed off the mental instability that the dreams cause. It’s an intriguing and creepy episode for two-thirds of its runtime powered by some wonderful visuals, an intelligent script and a deliciously evil villain in  Gelder’s Zellin. The companions all get their own sub-plots as each has an element of their psyche manipulated by Zellin.  Unfortunately, things unravel a bit in the final third and give us a finale which is resolved all too quickly – continuing the issues the production team have in trying to tell complex stories and deliver new concepts in a single-episode format. It’s a shame as there is so much promise here, but Chibnall either lacks sufficient editing skills to understand how to best land the ideas of his writers or he is trying to cram too many story threads together and as a result creating too much for the viewer to absorb.

Film Review v- THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955)

James Stewart and Cathy O'Donnell in The Man from Laramie (1955)THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (USA, 1955) ***½
      Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corporation / William Goetz Productions; Release Date: 13 July 1955 (USA), August 1955 (UK); Filming Dates: 29 September–26 November 1954; Running Time: 104m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: 4-Track Stereo (RCA Sound Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: CinemaScope; Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Anthony Mann; Writer: Philip Yordan, Frank Burt (based on the novel by Thomas T. Flynn); Producer: William Goetz; Director of Photography: Charles Lang; Music Composer: George Duning; Film Editor: William A. Lyon; Art Director: Cary Odell; Make-up: Clay Campbell; Sound: George Cooper.
      Cast: James Stewart (Will Lockhart), Arthur Kennedy (Vic Hansbro), Donald Crisp (Alec Waggoman), Cathy O’Donnell (Barbara Waggoman), Alex Nicol (Dave Waggoman), Aline MacMahon (Kate Canaday), Wallace Ford (Charley O’Leary), Jack Elam (Chris Boldt), John War Eagle (Frank Darrah), James Millican (Tom Quigby), Gregg Barton (Fritz), Boyd Stockman (Spud Oxton), Frank DeKova (Padre).
      Synopsis: A stranger defies the local cattle baron and his sadistic son by working for one of his oldest rivals.
      Comment: Fifth and final Western collaboration between director Mann and start Stewart. It is another psychological tale with Stewart seeking revenge on the gun-runners who traded rifles to the Apaches who killed his brother. Stewart gets involved in a range war between Crisp and MacMahon in the process. Lively actions scenes and strong dramatic moments occasionally bring overwrought performances from less experienced members of the cast, but Stewart and Kennedy deliver the goods. Believed to be the first Western shot in cinemascope and Lang’s photography captures the New Mexican vistas admirably.
      Notes: The theme song was written by Lester Lee and Ned Washington and was recorded in the United States by Al Martino and in the United Kingdom by Jimmy Young.

Film Review – BEND OF THE RIVER (1952)

James Stewart and Julie Adams in Bend of the River (1952)BEND OF THE RIVER (USA, 1952) ****
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 23 January 1952 (USA), 13 March 1952 (UK); Filming Dates: 26 July–13 September 1951; Running Time: 91m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Anthony Mann; Writer: Borden Chase (based on the novel “Bend of the Snake” by William Gulick); Producer: Aaron Rosenberg; Associate Producer: Frank Cleaver; Director of Photography: Irving Glassberg; Music Composer: Hans J. Salter; Film Editor: Russell F. Schoengarth; Casting Director: Phil Benjamin (uncredited); Art Director: Bernard Herzbrun, Nathan Juran; Set Decorator: Oliver Emert, Russell A. Gausman; Costumes: Rosemary Odell; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Leslie I. Carey, Joe Lapis.
      Cast: James Stewart (Glyn McLyntock), Arthur Kennedy (Emerson Cole), Julie Adams (Laura Baile), Rock Hudson (Trey Wilson), Jay C. Flippen (Jeremy Baile), Lori Nelson (Marjie Baile), Chubby Johnson (Cap’n Mello), Stepin Fetchit (Adam), Harry Morgan (Shorty), Howard Petrie (Tom Hendricks), Frances Bavier (Mrs. Prentiss), Jack Lambert (Red), Royal Dano (Long Tom), Frank Chase (Wasco), Cliff Lyons (Willie), Frank Ferguson (Tom Grundy).
      Synopsis: When a town boss confiscates homesteader’s supplies after gold is discovered nearby, a tough cowboy risks his life to try and get it to them.
      Comment: James Stewart and director Anthony Mann team up for the second of five westerns they made together. The relatively simple tale is built around the complex characters of two former gunfighters (Stewart and Kennedy) attempting to distance themselves from their past as they fall in with a group of settlers led by Flippen. Adams plays Flippen’s daughter who is initially attracted to the more volatile Kennedy. Mann directs with a strong feel for the material and the characters and gets the best from his actors. The unforgiving landscapes and the glorious scenery are well captured by Glassberg’s cinematography. The story has a strong conclusion as Stewart and Kennedy go up against each other, demonstrating the different paths they have chosen. An early role for Hudson as a charming gambler.
      Notes: Original UK title: WHERE THE RIVER BENDS.

Film Review – THE ITALIAN JOB (1969)

THE ITALIAN JOB (UK, 1969) ***½
      Distributor: Paramount British Pictures; Production Company: Oakhurst Productions / Paramount Pictures Corporation; Release Date: 5 June 1969 (UK), 3 September 1969 (USA); Filming Dates: began 24 June 1968; Running Time: 99m; Colour: Eastmancolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Peter Collinson; Writer: Troy Kennedy-Martin; Producer: Michael Deeley; Associate Producer: Robert Porter; Director of Photography: Douglas Slocombe; Music Composer: Quincy Jones; Film Editor: John Trumper; Casting Director: Paul Lee Lander; Production Designer: Disley Jones; Art Director: Michael Knight; Costumes: Dinah Greet (uncredited); Make-up: Freddie Williamson; Sound: John Aldred, Gerry Humphreys, Stephen Warwick; Special Effects: Pat Moore.
      Cast: Michael Caine (Charlie Croker), Noël Coward (Mr. Bridger), Benny Hill (Professor Simon Peach), Raf Vallone (Altabani), Tony Beckley (Freddie), Rossano Brazzi (Beckerman), Margaret Blye (Lorna), Irene Handl (Miss Peach), John Le Mesurier (Governor), Fred Emney (Birkinshaw), John Clive (Garage Manager), Graham Payn (Keats), Michael Standing (Arthur), Stanley Caine (Coco), Barry Cox (Chris), Harry Baird (Big William), George Innes (Bill Bailey), John Forgeham (Frank), Robert Powell (Yellow), Derek Ware (Rozzer).
      Synopsis: Comic caper movie about a plan to steal a gold shipment from the streets of Turin by creating a traffic jam.
      Comment: Visually stylish caper comedy that is typical of its time, mixing late-sixties excess and imagery with stunning locations and quirky performances. Caine and Coward are in good form, with the latter making for a memorable imprisoned crime lord who enjoys all the luxuries of life from his cell. Troy Kennedy Martin’s script appears to have been used lightly by director Collinson. The set pieces – notably the heist and the ironic finale – are the main selling points alongside Douglas Slocombe’s gorgeous photography and Quincy Jones’ witty score.
      Notes: Remade in 2003.

Film Review – THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956)

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (USA, 1956) **½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures; Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 26 April 1956; Filming Dates: late Aug–mid Sep 1955; Running Time: 78m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: John Sherwood; Writer: Arthur A. Ross; Producer: William Alland; Director of Photography: Maury Gertsman; Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson; Film Editor: Edward Curtiss; Art Director: Alexander Golitzen, Robert Emmet Smith; Set Decorator: John P. Austin, Russell A. Gausman; Costumes: Jay A. Morley Jr.; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Leslie I. Carey, Robert Pritchard; Visual Effects: Clifford Stine.
      Cast: Jeff Morrow (Dr. William Barton), Rex Reason (Dr. Thomas Morgan), Leigh Snowden (Marcia Barton), Gregg Palmer (Jed Grant), Maurice Manson (Dr. Borg), James Rawley (Dr. Johnson), David McMahon (Captain Stanley), Paul Fierro (Morteno), Lillian Molieri (Mrs. Morteno), Larry Hudson (State Trooper), Frank Chase (Steward). Uncredited: Ricou Browning (The Gill Man (in water)), Don Megowan (The Gill Man (on land)), George Sowards (Ranchhand).
      Synopsis: In this third Gill-Man feature, the Creature is captured and turned into an air-breather by a rich mad scientist.
      Comment: The second sequel to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) starts promisingly if more than a little familiarly. Merrow and a group of scientists hunt the Gill Man in the Everglades. Merrow has brought along wife Snowden, who sets the pulses racing amongst the rest of the crew sending Merrow into jealous rages. Reason debates ethics with Merrow and the production becomes a little too talky during its mid-section. Once the Gill Man is captured and loses his gills via a fire the creature begins to adopt human physicalities. Unfortunately. this means the impressive creature design is shorn of its elegance and the Gill Man turns into a lumbering Frankenstein-like monster, but lacking any expressiveness through the heavy rubber mask. The finale at a coastal clinic reverts to formula and the creature becomes enraged when violence is inflicted on others, notably his fellow captive animals. The denouement is hugely disappointing lacking any resolution other than Merrow’s ultimate fate. Impressive underwater photography and the desire to stretch the characters are pluses in an otherwise largely routine fare.

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: PRAXEUS (2020)

Image result for doctor who praxeusDOCTOR WHO: PRAXEUS (UK, 2020) ***
      Distributor: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC); Production Company: BBC Studios; Release Date: 2 February 2020; Running Time: 50m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: HD; Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Jamie Magnus Stone; Writer: Pete McTighe, Chris Chibnall; Producer: Nikki Wilson, Alex Mercer; Executive Producer: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens; Director of Photography: Catherine Goldschmidt; Music Composer: Segun Akinola; Film Editor: Rebecca Trotman; Production Designer: Dafydd Shurmer; Supervising Art Director: Rebecca Brown; Casting: Andy Pryor; Costumes: Ray Holman; Make-up: Claire Pritchard-Jones; Sound: Deian Llyr Humphreys; Special Effects: REAL SFX; Visual Effects Producer: Pete Levy (DNEG).
      Cast: Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brian), Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Warren Brown (Jake Willis), Matthew McNulty (Adam Lang), Joana Borja (Gabriela Camera), Molly Harris (Suki Cheng), Gabrielle Tolol (Jamilia Velez), Soo Drouet (Joyce), Tristan de Beer (Zach Olson), Thapelo Maropefela (Aramu).
      Synopsis: The Doctor and her friends split up to investigate multiple mysteries across planet Earth. What connects a missing astronaut in the Indian Ocean, birds behaving strangely in Peru and a US naval officer washed up on a Madagascan beach
     Comment: There’s much to like in this episode through individual scenes and lines of dialogue but, as a whole, the story suffers from gaps in logic and character actions. It’s a shame because this episode is very effectively and visually directed by Stone, who manages to create a few moments of tension as well a sense of menace in those early scenes. McTighe and Chibnall’s script has some strong ideas around a viral epidemic being created through plastic pollution. But once again the production team feels the need to preach to the audience about populist issues via its heavy-handed messaging at the expense of solid story construction. Structurally, the story initially creates its mystery by having the Doctor and her companions split across three continents to triangulate seemingly independent events into a solution the answers each individual mystery. This works well and allows each companion a sub-plot. But as the story progresses the writers seem more concerned with getting over their environmental message of doom and ensuring they tick all the boxes on diverse and inclusive specifics, that they lose the plot with the plot. Historically, the series provided a haven from sexual politics but now it has almost become a campaign board, so much so that the relationships feel forced to fit the political agenda rather than add anything to the story itself. McTighe had written possibly the best episode of last season’s run (Kerblam!) and here too shows signs he potentially has a strong story in him. Whether or not Chibnall’s contribution knocked this off course cannot be discerned, but the early promise gave way to a disappointing conclusion.