Sunday, February 28, 2010

Saturday, February 27, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 8 - Oscar Gold

Two months into this little experiment and I've realized something- I've completed more books than movies so far.  It might not sound terribly strange or unusual to you, but I used to slave away at a video store.  Watching three to four movies a week was normal, and because of the free rentals, encouraged.  Of course, during that employment I had fifty people asking me "Is this any good" every single soul crushing day.  I felt I should at least know whether a movie was good or not before I lied to them.  Which I did on many occasions.  I'm sorry, but when you've got 90 copies of Practical Magic on the shelf, it's necessary. 

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining.  I've always been a reader.  Reading is fundamental, and all that other afterschool special nonsense.  And I've found that when I have an hour or so of free time, I reach for a novel instead of a remote.  I would assume my vocabulary has increased for the better. 

But I don't want to limit myself.  When I began this, I wanted to make sure I experienced all types of crime fiction, and I feel I've been slacking in the movie department.  So today I'm making a plan.  This scheduling structure I've worked out for myself has worked well, so I'm going to implement some more.

I'm gonna have me some theme months.  And I'll need everyone's help for suggestions because Netflix can't always be trusted.

First month is easy.  March 7th is the Academy Awards, and I've always been a bit of an Oscar snob.  I'm the guy who will sit in a near empty theater watching a movie I couldn't convince my friends to go see because I have to see all the nominated films before the big night.  I've done this since '96, and this year is no different, although increasing the Best Picture category to 10 made it a bit more complicated.  (Dick move Academy) Thankfully many of the films are already on DVD.

March is nominated film month.  It doesn't have to be a  best picture nominee.  Nominations for Actor/Actress and especially Screenwriting are allowed.  The tough part will be finding films I haven't seen.  It could be I'll end up rewatching films.  So recommendations are encouraged and appreciated, but seriously, first person to say Godfather gets a punch in the mouth.

I've got a few more months planned out as well.  There will be blaxsploitation, foreign, rogue cop/vigilante etc. etc. etc.   But I'd love to hear suggestions on those as well. 

I'm off to make a list.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 8 - Edge of Darkness

Edge of Darkness

Let's get this out of the way quick.  Yes, it's a remake of the BBC mini-series.  Yes, it covers the same ground.  Yes, it's directed by Martin Campbell, the bloke who directed the mini-series.  No.  It's not as good. 

Do we have that out of our systems, because for the most part, that's all I'm going to say about the comparison.  It is a creature all it's own, and I'd rather not do a frame by frame comparison Mr. Van Sant.


I'll watch Mel Gibson in anything.  I've always enjoyed his work, from Mad Max to Martin Riggs to William Wallace.  The guy knows how to portray a compelling character.  Put him in some sort of stressful situation and watch his eyes and Adam's apple do all the work.  Yeah, he's so good that his throat can act.  Take that Meryl Streep.

But is the movie any good?

Yes and no.

It's got it's weak points for sure.  Mel can't do a Boston accent.  I understand, it's tough to pull off.  Matt Damon and Ben Affleck had trouble with it in Good Will Hunting and they are from Boston.  Luckily, to steal a line from my friend the Paparazzi, Mel attends the Kevin Costner School of Accents.  If it bothers you, wait a minute.  Odds are the accent will disappear.  And it does.  Unfortunately, he's not the only actor struggling with it.  There are at least three other characters that I want to slap each time they open their mouths.

One of them is not Ray Winstone.  I would not dare raise a hand to him.  Not because he speaks with his regular accent, but because he would mess me up.  I'll admit it, I'm afraid of him.  He uses the frightening quaility he possesses beautifully in this film.  He's a guy who solves problems, wink wink, nudge nudge.  Each moment he is on screen, the film is elevated beyond it's level.  He's that good. 

His character, Captain Jedburgh, is the conscience of the film.  It's his job to right the wrongs that need to be, regardless of his bosses wishes.  Everyone has a secret in this movie, and his is what compells him.  I wasn't suprised of his actions, and if you pay attention, neither will you.  The twists aren't exactly telegraphed, but they are easy enough to spot ahead of time.

So what's my verdict?  The film is solid, but nothing spectacular, with the exception of the aforementioned Ray Winstone.  Remove him or replace him and this film suffers beyond Mel's repair.  It's worth a viewing, but it won't go down as classic Mel.

I'm going to go watch Lethal Weapon now.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Long Con Week 8 - King Suckerman

Show me someone who says he’s satisfied, and I’ll show you someone who is full of shit. We always want more, it’s in our DNA. We want the most money, the most toys, the most anything. I'm just as guilty as the next man. Do I think I’ll reread all the books on my shelf? Hell no. But I like owning them, looking at them, and yes, showing them off. You know what they say about the size of a man’s library don’t you?

We don’t necessarily limit our greed to the things we own. Me, I always want to be smarter. It’s why I read so damn much. I like it when I have the answers. At times, I’m sure I think I’m smarter than I actually am, and I know that can get on people’s last nerves. It won’t stop me though, despite the realities that someone will always be smarter than me.

King Suckerman, by George Pelecanos, is all about people wanting to be more than they are, and desperately trying to convince others of the same lie. There isn’t a single character in the book who isn’t showing off just a bit, and as an audience we are invited in on the game.

The first hint should come from the title of the book. King Suckerman is actually a movie that everyone wants to see. It’s the 70's, and KS is the new Shaft, or more acurately, the new Mack. From what little we are told, he’s a badass pimp who is gonna take it to the man. Lines form around the block, and I’m not exaggerating when I say everybody in the book wants to see it, all expecting the greatest movie.

But the truth is a funny thing. King Suckerman doesn’t show the life of a pimp as a glamorous profession. I won’t ruin the ending of the movie, but let’s just say it’s not a happy ending. And it certainly wasn’t the ending everyone expected.

The movie nicely parallels every characters arc as well, most notably Bobby Ray Clagget, the young white boy who fancies himself a hard boiled killer straight out of the midnight picture shows. It’s his murder of his projectionist boss (at a drive in no less) that kickstarts the plot, and it’s the first murder of many.

"Damn, he hadn’t even heard the pump. That wasn’t at all like the script he had written up in his head. Clagget went ahead with the dialogue anyway. There wasn’t much else he could do."

Right from the beginning, we as readers are clued in to what’s going to happen. And it’s a great ride, full of more music references than High Fidelity, and characters straight out of Hell up in Harlem. It’s authentic and a ton of fun.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 8 - An open letter to Brian Michael Bendis

Dear Mr. Bendis,

It's hard to believe there was once a day where I, as well as 99% of comic readers, had never heard of you.  But it's true.  I was first introduced to your work by my friend the Fashionista, who at the time worked at a comic shop.  He handed me a copy of Powers #1 and insisted I buy it.  He assured me I would fall in love almost instantly, and indeed, he was right.

I had just gotten back into reading comics after many years away.  (This was circa '99)  Kevin Smith's Daredevil had brought me back to shops, and I was looking for new titles to add to the pile.  At first it was hard.  Sure, I had Batman, but books such as Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Superman had left me cold.  They were not the books I had remembered fondly as a child. At my friend's urging, I turned to the so-called "indy" titles, which were sparsely scattered on the shelf.  Powers was like a beacon.

Soon I saw your unusual name more freqently.  Was that you on Sam & Twitch?  Why yes it was!  I could hardly believe I'd actually be reading a Spawn book or actually enjoying it.  I stayed with you on that book, and even hung in for your brief run on HellSpawn.

Then I heard of your crime books.  Could it be that all these books existed without me even hearing the faintest whisper?  I scoured the 50% off trade bins at shows and soon had copies of Torso, Jinx, Goldfish, and Fire.  Not only could you write up a storm, but you had some art chops in you as well.

You were soon given the keys to the Spidey mobile, and I couldn't have been happier for you.  This would be the book that would bring you fame and fortune, and you had earned every bit of it.  Not only were you remaking the Web-Head for a new generation, but you were also continuing on with Daredevil, the book that brought me back.  Circle of life and all that happy stuff. 

You, along with Alex Maleev, made Daredevil THE BOOK to read for me.  Every month was fantastic, and before I could shout to the rooftops with nerd glee, you brought back Power Man and Iron Fist, my two favorite Marvel characters.  You made them relevant again, and soon they were Avengers.

This is where my story begins to get a little misty eyed.  You were put in charge of the Avengers.  At first it was I bumpy ride, and I've got to hand it to you, you handled it well.  The internet was not kind to you.  Even I had to wonder if this was going to be your big misstep.  But you charged on, weaving your tale, and slowly taking over the Marvel Universe like a one man Hydra.  Soon, it was seemingly all under your control.

And now, you are bringing about "The Heroic Age."  This is where you wanted it to go all along.  I should be happy for you.  But part of me misses the you that made creator owned crime comics.  Sure, I've still got Powers, and for that I'm thankful.  Would it be greedy to ask for more?

I don't think I'm alone in this.  And so I plead to you, Brian Michael Bendis, please go back to writing more crime.  You don't give up your day job.  The MU hasn't been this interesting in years, and I'm sure the paychecks are damn sweet.  But, if you can, find the time for another creator owned book.  Or revisit an old one.  Who among us wouldn't love to see Maleev get another crack at Jinx?

Give it a thought.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Short Con Week 8 - Proof of God

Proof of God
by Holly Goddard Jones

I swear, for the first part of this story I was convinced it had been included in The Best American Mystery Stories by mistake.  Fifteen or so pages in, and all I'd read about was some poor sad sack kid named Simon who was a closeted gay and in love with his friend Marty.  He'd had a hard adolescence, but maybe now in college he'd find that one thing that would make him feel happy, feel whole.  It was good, but the only hint of a crime/mystery was the keying of his Dad's Corvette.  Not exactly hard boiled to this point.

But that I believe, was the point of the story.  It wasn't about the crime, which happens a few pages later.  The title of the story should have clued me in.  Proof of God.  What proof of God do we have, especially the non-believers such as Simon.

Could it be his love for Marty?  The man who conspired to "get him laid" only to see it turn into murder?  Or perhaps his father's love, which is absent for most of the story, only to see it shine through when his son needs him most?  Perhaps all the proof he needed comes with the jury's verdict.

I'll most likely re-read this story in a few days, letting it soak into my brain a little more.  So far, most of the stories in the collection have revolved around the crime, or a crime. This story instead focuses on Simon himself, and his thought process as he proceeds through life, not ever really happy with who he is. 

Perhaps the greatest crime committed in the story is his inability to be who he really wants to be?

No, it's the murder.  I'd really like to get caught up and swept away with all the talk of Descartes that punctuates the story, but I find it hard to display any sympathy for Simon.  Sure, he was a confused young man, who was hopelessly in love with someone who would never love him, but he had options.  He could have not gone with Marty.  He could have left the room.  There were outs for him at every turn, and when you get right down to it, he fucked up big time.  Instead of coming clean and taking his medicine, he chose otherwise.

And he got away with it.  When his car was vandalized for the second time, where once there was sympathy, now there was only righteous vindication.  He deserved worse.

He dialed his father's number and waited, thinking, as he always did when despair wanted to settle on him, of Marty's touch that night; the heat in his wet cheek, the only proof Simon had ever needed, the only higher power.

If I could, I'd slap the shit out of Simon.

But still, good story.  It's not often I can outright hate the main character by the end.

Monday, February 22, 2010

45 Minutes Week 8 - Homicide:Heartbeat

TRUE! - nervous - very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses - not destroyed - not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily - how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

Our personalities are capable of walking a tightrope of good and evil.  Usually, we keep our balance, and we make it to the other side safely, our good intentions still intact.  However, when there is a shift, for any reason, over the edge we go. How or why this shift emerges differs with all of us. What makes one man crazy only makes another man laugh.  For some, it means murder.  And the difference can be slight.

Poe understood that.  The above quote is from "The Tell Tale Heart," his story of a murderer's conscience getting the best of him.  Sometimes, the one person who cannot keep our secrets, is us.

I'd like to think my favorite misanthrope, Detective Munch understands as well.

He and Kay get a case involving a ten year old murder.  Seems someone was buried alive inside a wall.  Theatrical, even for homicide standards.  Usually getting a cold case like this would drive any detective, especially Munch, crazy.  But he's got a spring in his step.  He's in love with his new girlfriend, medical examiner Dr. Alyssa Dyer, and nothing is bringing him down.  In true Munch fashion, he screws it up immediately, sleeping with her cop roommate.  Now he's got a secret, and the guilt is wearing on him.

But he's got a case to solve, and the lead suspect is a street "poet/drug dealer" Joseph Cadero.  He's also obsessed with Poe.  Starting to see a theme?  Munch knows he has his man.  Whose guilt will get the best of them first?

Throw in tons of Poe references, complete with a beating heart during interrogation, and a hell of an ending, and you've got perhaps my favorite episode of Season Four. 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cover of the Week 8

Because I never would have thought of this.  And it shouldn't work, but it does.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 7- Bald Face Liar

J. Kingston Pierce, editor of The Rap Sheet, has challenged me to participate in the latest meme wending its way around the crime-fiction blogosphere.  This Bald-Faced Liar (aka “Creative Writer”) Award meme was kicked off last month by Arizona library manager and book critic Lesa Holstine. Since then, an assortment of clever and crafty bloggers have participated, including Evan Lewis, Keith Raffel, Laurie Powers, Bill Crider, the pseudonymous le0part13, Randy Johnson, Paul D. Brazill, and Loren Eaton.

The rules are pretty simple:

• Thank the person who gave this to you. (Thank you Jeff)
• Copy the logo and place it on your blog. (Done)
• Link to the person who nominated you. (And Done)
• Tell up to six outrageous lies about yourself, and at least one outrageous truth - or - switch it around and tell six outrageous truths and one outrageous lie. (I will let you decide what I have done)
• Nominate seven “Creative Writers” who might have fun coming up with outrageous lies of their own.
• Post links to the seven blogs you nominate.
• Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know that you have nominated them.

1. I got a drink of water for Harlen Ellison, only to have him call me a pussy.
2. I once got a sinus infection from the glitter on a strippers chest.
3. I have fallen asleep in an alleyway in Boston and woken up in my dorm the next morning with money, but without socks.
4. Two ex-girlfriends have held guns on me with intent to do me harm.
5. I drank Henry Rollins' water and gained his strength and the ability to not need shoes.
6. I helped start the mudfight at the Green Day show at Woodstock 94.
7. Debated the merits of The Dead Hate the Living with Stephen King.

Chris Beckett - Warrior Twenty-Seven
Duane Swierczynski - Secret Dead Blog
Jimmy Palmiotti - Listen to Jimmy
Alex Irvine
Allen Appell - The Thriller Guy
Jason Starr
Joe Hill

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 7 - Black Dynamite

"Hit the sheets or hit the streets"

I grew up in a tiny central Maine town.  We're talking like a thousand people, with half as many livestock.  It's about as far away from the "street" as one can get.  I never had to worry about "the man" keeping me down.  My urban experiences were nil with the exception of cable television.  WGN out of Chicago, which I'm still not sure why my cable company carried that particular station, brought me Good Times, The Jeffersons, and most importantly Chicago Cubs baseball.

And every so often a movie would be broadcast, sometimes late Saturday nights, which would expand my "street" knowledge.  I didn't know the term blaxsploitation, but I knew these films were something special.  Made on the cheap, usually with bad actors and terrible effects, the centered around one man and his need to make things right.  And because I was a young man, I paid careful attention to the ladies he met along the way.

Black Dynamite made me feel like that kid again.

Raw with energy, kung fu, and yes, boobs, Black Dynamite spends the entire movie putting the moves on the ladies and making with the moves on any jive ass turkey who decides to test his skills.  It's outrageous, endlessly quotable, full of stock footage (I see you Missing in Action 2) and the most fun I've had watching a movie in quite some time.

Michael Jai White, an actor I've never really liked, is pitch perfect, flexing his muscles and kicking his way to a criminally underrated performance.  The writing is intentionally flawed, with the deliveries from all actors as mannered as possible.  Watch in delight as one such performer actually reads his directions as well as his dialogue.  Sure, they knew they were making an homage, but not once did they overplay it.  They were serious in their humor, if that makes sense.  And in an industry where pieces of shit like Epic Movie are considered "funny" its nice to see that a sly wink to the audience can succeed.  (Too bad it wasn't as financially as successful.)

Hopefully it'll do well enough on DVD to warrant a sequel.

So grab you 40oz of Anaconda Malt Liquor, or on second thought, don't.  You'll understand why.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Long Con Week 7 - Dead or Alive

Dead or Alive
by Michael McGarrity

I'm not much for the wild wild west.  When I was a kid, my father would watch shows like Bonanza, and The Rifleman, and since they were in black and white, I naturally hated them.  Like any rational child, I decided that I would hate all westerns in any medium.  Even my illustrated classics version of Last of the Mohicans went unread because it sounded too much like a western.

It wasn't until high school, when I was forced to read Shane that my mind slowly accepted the possibility that some entries in the genre might have merit.  A while later Unforgiven came out, and I was forced to eat my words.

Since then I've watched a few westerns, mostly with Eastwood, and have formed a distant respect for them.  Still not really my cup of tea, but they can be good.

I'm not really sure why I decided to pick up Dead or Alive.  The title alone sounds like those old television shows that I avoided like the plague.  And from the book description, it's quite obvious it's set in the west, though not the dreaded Old West.  I can definitely say it wasn't because of the cover, which is so...boring, that I'm surprised anyone picked it up. 

But I'm glad I did. 

The book claims its a Kevin Kerney novel, but he's only 1/3 of the main characters in the book.  McGarrity returns home to Santa Fe when his business partner and friend is shot and killed by an escaped convict.  He joins in the manhunt with his son, and vows to stop at nothing to bring the criminal to justice.  Jail might not be the justice he's looking for.  He's a great character, and I'd love to read more books in the series, but in this book, he's not why I kept reading.  In all honesty, I like the other two characters much more. 

One is his son, half-Apache Lieutenant Clayton Istee.  He brings his heritage to the role, and his treatment of the dead and the land make for an interesting character.  At the very least, it sets him apart from all other lawmen.  He has a spirituality about him, and it rounds him out quite well.  It's also interesting to see the relationship between himself and his father, a man he barely knew a few years ago, as they interact with one another.

The other interesting character is the books antagonist, Craig Larson.  To call him an amoral psychopath would be an understatement.  He's a man who can justify each crime he commits, no matter how needless or horrible.  McGarrity does us a great service by telling the story from his point of view whenever possible as he makes his run from the law.   It's a believable sneak peak into the head of man we wouldn't want to know.

The authors bio states that McGarrity is himself a former deputy sheriff and investigator.  I have no problem believing this, as each page drips with procedural authenticity.

So despite the bland cover and generic title, I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 7 - Noir Part 2

Continuing on with NOIR

Kane the Card Player
written and illustrated by Paul Grist

Another character and creator that's been around for a while that I've never read.  I must say, I'm a big fan of his art.  The line work is simple and clean, and very effective at telling the story.

Detective Kane is on the trail of the playing card burglar.  Five burglaries have been reported, each leaving a playing card, it's value marking the crime.  Only problem is, card number five of diamonds has yet to show up. 

Kane knows more than he's letting on, and as the quick investigation continues, it's easy to see he's involved in much more as well.  I'm very intrigued by the character.  Add Kane to the list of books to pick up in the future.  Grade B

Blood On My Hands
written and illustrated by Rick Gerry

Having never heard of the creator, I wasn't prepared to like this story.   But this might have been the best surprise of the whole book.  The unnamed main character has just lost his job.  He's depressed and on prescription drugs which might be altering his thinking a bit.  And he's pretty sure his wife is cheating on him.  He does what they always do in stories like this, hires and investigator.  And from there it goes exactly where you think it will, only it doesn't.  I know that doesn't make sense, but once you read the story it will. 
Rating A

written by Ken Lizzi, illustrated by Joelle Jones
An illustrated prose piece?  This entry through me for a loop.  With every other story being sequential art, I was unsure as to why this piece was added. 

Perhaps because it was a damn good, well written story?  It's got all the trappings.  Innocent man thrown into an unbelievable situation, the damsel in distress who is more trouble than she is worth, and of course, the drug dealer.  Who is going to play who?  It's got enough twists and turns to make the story move along, and Lizzi does have a way with words.  The prose crackles with energy, and the illustrations are nice.  I just want a few more. 

Grade B

The New Me
written by Gary Phillips, illustrated by Eduardo Barreto

Sadly, this is the one story I couldn't find artwork for online.  That's a shame.  Baretto's skills are perfect for this genre, especially this story.

Chad Reynolds is a personal trainer at Susan's gym.  Supposedly he's the best. He's also a ladies man, at least ladies that don't look like Susan.  But she's trying hard to lose that weight.  Before long, she has his attention.  He might wish he'd left this one alone. 

I saw the ending coming a mile away, but the story was still worth it.  Grade B

Lady's Choice
written and illustrated by the Fillbach Brothers

Finally, a story with a cowboy, something usually not found in this type of tale.  The girl is bored with her life, and bored with Franz.  She's ready to move on, and this tall drink of water just might be the guy to carry her off on his white horse.  Not much actually happens in this story, but it's still worth a read.
Grade B

Criminal: 21st Century Noir
written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips

This story might as well have been titled "Why Dan bought this book."  I wasn't going to miss out on a Criminal story.  And believe it or not, this might have actually been more hardcore than any of the stories in the ICON series.  If you are following those issues, you need to read this.  Grade A+

The Bad Night
written by Brian Azzarello, art by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon

I shouldn't have to convince you to read this story.  Look at the creators.  But how is this for a tease... this might be the best origin story of a modern character that we are all familiar with.  The last page is worth the price of the book, and it's the perfect way to end the collection.  Grade A+

The final word...this book is worth every penny of it's $12.95 price tag.  It's not only a great crime anthology, its a great anthology period.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Short Con Week 7 - Noir Part 1

My book room looks like a yard sale unfortunately.  Often, books I'm dying to read get stacked up on the floor (that's what happens when you need more bookshelves than you have walls) and forgotten for a spell.
It's a shame because books will sit there for months, their existance a distant memory until a synapse fires in my brain, reminding me that NOIR was in the fourth pile on the left.

I went and found it yesterday.

NOIR, published by Dark Horse books, is something the comic industry needs more of, crime anthologies with stories by some top tier creators.  The plans were to read one story and review it today, but it was so enjoyable I just couldn't stop turning the pages.  Before I knew it, I had put the book down, each and every segment read and enjoyed.

Therefore, I'm going to combine today's entry with tomorrows and review the entire book, story by story.  I'll do my best to avoid the dreaded spoilers, as most of the stories have a twist-type ending. 

Stray Bullets: Open the Goddamn Box
written and illustrated by David Lapham

Two horny, and possibly homicidal, young men kidnap a classmate and lock her in a box.  In the third grade she had stabbed one of the boys with a pencil, and his revenge plan involves raping and killing her.  She has other plans.

I haven't read much of Stray Bullets, so I'm wondering if these characters appear anywhere in those stories.  The story did it's job if it's intent was to promote SB, because I'm interested in reading more about them.  And it worked as a short as well.  The characters were quickly defined, the story engaging, and the ending, which I won't reveal, was spot on.  I've always enjoyed Lapham's art, and these ten pages were no exception.  Great way to kick off the book.   Rating A

The Old Silo
written and illustrated by Jeff Lemire

I've just recently gotten acquainted with Lemire's work, and it strikes a chord with me.  His tales of Small Town desperation are all too familiar to someone having grown up in much the same manner.

Henry's having a tough go with life right now.  He's behind on his farm payments, and his wife has been sick.  The bills are piling up and the money isn't coming in.  But one morning he goes out to his barn and finds a man, a bank robber, who has been shot.  He's offering money in exchange for help.  Could this be the break Henry's been looking for.

As always, Lemire's artwork fits the story. Rating A

Mister X: Yacht on the Styx
written and illustrated by Dean Motter

An interesting little tale, told with lots of style.  Mister X and Rosie are investigating the death of a shipping magnate named Virgil Charon. (Gotta love that)  Only problem is, if his body has been dead for twenty five years, who has been alive since?  One word, Dopplegandroid. Don't worry, I'm not giving it away. 

A very clever story, with some cool steampunk/futurist vibes to it.  Motters greytoned art is well suited for the story.  I've got to read more Mister X. Rating B

The Last Hit
written by Chris Offutt, illustrated by Kano and Stefano Gaudiano

This story instantly caught my eye because of the illustrators, who were behind  so much wonderful artwork in the DC Comics series Gotham Central.  Their gritty work was perfect for this collection.  But I'll tell you something, this Offutt guy, I'd never heard of him, but he crafted a nice little cat and mouse story. 

The main character, he's an assassin for Mr. Machine, and this is his last job.  But something about it just isn't right.  Could it be he's the one being hunted?  He's got to rely on his instincts and rules if he's going to survive this mission. Rating B

written by Alex De Campi,  illustrated by Hugo Petrus

The first story in the collection to leave me a little cold.  It's got a good premise.  Perhaps today is the day to finally push that bothersome bum into the path of the oncoming train.  And the story is told well, through a series of really tiny, mostly silent, panels.  And the art is good as well.    My one complaint would be the two page spread, which I didn't read as a two page spread, which did bring about some confustion.  On the second reading I tried it the other way and it made more sense.

So I'm not really sure why I didn't like this story as much as some of the others.  Just a gut feeling.  Grade C

The Albanian
by M. K. Perker

What would you do if you were the night cleaning man and happened to find a whole lot of dead bodies on your regular rounds?  Very fun story that amused me to no ends.  And the puppet!  Oh man the puppet.  That is all.  Grade A

Monday, February 15, 2010

45 Minutes Week 7 - Television's Biggest Bad Asses

Last weeks viewing of Underbelly got me thinking.  More specifically, it was Vince Colosimo's portrayal of Alphonse Gangitano that turned the wheels.  He was a scary, brutal sociopath, and if I ever found myself in a room with him, I'd bolt for the nearest exit so fast he'd be looking at my speed outlines.  So of course, I was facinated with him.

What is it about the so-called villains that engage us?  Within seconds I knew he was the character I wanted to watch.  And that's how it usually goes for me.  Any show with good guys and bad guys and I'm going to watch for the criminal. 

What does that say about me?

Is it a coincidence that my favorite characters are often the most reprehensible?

So today, I bring you three of my favorite characters.  They are...

Television's biggest, scariest badasses!

Vic Mackey - The Shield

Put yourself in this situation.  You're a good cop.  Every T has been crossed, every I adorned with the necessary dot.  Following the book has been the way you've always played it.  But now you've got a guy in the box.  To call him human would be debatable.  He might not be guilty of the crime you want him to be guilty of, but this man hasn't been innocent in years, if ever.  There is information you need, and a little girls life might depend on it.  To give you what you need, he'd have to admit he's a degenerate scumbag, and that's not going to happen today.  He's well aware of his rights, and a lawyer is but a few moments away.

What do you do?

You are not the type of cop that's going to cross that line.  The man watching behind the mirrored glass, he is.  And he's been itching to introduce himself to the man you've got cuffed to the desk.  He walks in, phonebook in hand.  You excuse yourself, knowing what is about to happen, but not wanting to see it with your own eyes.  This cop, he gives you nightmares.

That cop is Vic Mackey.  He's crossed that line so many times you wonder if he's able to find his way back.  But you smile, laugh at his jokes.  When you're on his side, you can't help but like the guy.  He's funny, charming, and for the most part, damn fine police.

But those pieces of evidence that get tampered with, those perps that disappear, he might as well leave his calling card with them.  He's dirty.  And God help you if you ever end up in his crosshairs.

Omar Little - The Wire

This is your fucking corner.  You sling out here all day, giving the customers what they want.  You get some money in your pocket and some rep attatched to your name.  Some punk comes up on you, he's going to get one in his head.

You've been doing this since you were eight years old.  Started out as lookout, moved up to runner, and here you are, sixteen and large and in charge.  Nobody is moving you from this corner.  Nothing scares you.

Nothing except Omar, the boogyman of Baltimore.  You've never even seen him.  You've heard the talk, the stories that seem damn near impossible.  Nobody walks down the middle of the street in broad daylight, shotgun in hand.  At least nobody with any fear in his heart.  He'll pull that piece on anybody in the game, whistling while he works.

Simon Adebisi - Oz

You watch him as the fish come in.  He's got his headphones on, swaying to some unheard rhythm.  He appears to be nodding off. As much tits as he snorts, he could be.  But you know him better than that.  The man is a shark. He already smells blood in the water.

Five dollars says that new white boy, the pretty one who lost the lottery and drew bunk with Adebisi, ain't lasting the night in there with him.  And if he does, he's not coming out the same man that went in.  See, Simon might not fuck him tonight, but he will soon enough.  He'll be clear with those intentions.  Before long that boy will be putting an entire box of powder up his nose to forget what he had to feel the night before.  And guess who'll be supplying him?

I'd warn him off if I could.  Tell him to bunk with anybody, even those Nazi fucks I can't abide.  But I don't cross Adebisi.  I've seen what he can do, and that's not going to be me.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cover of the Week 7

Happy Valentine's Day.

And this is what  happens when you google search "blond" "gun" and "cover."

If the name Mickey Spillane was not present, I would seriously think this was the title of a soft-core porn.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 6 - Edgar Award Nominees

Again, I've been busing myself with scripting more pages for my friend Geoff to draw.  It wouldn't be so bad, but I swear he can draw them faster than I can write them.  So for today, the latest nominees for the Edgar Award.  Very happy to see a nomination for Charlie Huston, as I really enjoy his Joe Pitt series.  Also, this is I believe the third nomination in as many years for John Hart.  I should get around to reading one of his books.

2010 Nominees for The Edgar Awards. 

Best Novel:
· The Missing by Tim Gautreaux
· The Odds by Kathleen George
· The Last Child by John Hart
· The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston
· Nemesis by Jo Nesbo, translated by Don Bartlett
· A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn

Best First Novel by an American Author:
· The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano
· Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley
· The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
· A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
· Black Water Rising by Attica Locke
· In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff

Best Paperback Original:
· Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott
· Havana Lunar by Robert Arellano
· The Lord God Bird by Russell Hill
· Body Blows by Marc Strange
· The Herring-Seller’s Apprentice by L.C. Tyler

Best Fact Crime:
· Columbine by Dave Cullen
· Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn
· The Fence: A Police Cover-Up Along Boston’s Racial Divide by Dick Lehr
· Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo
· Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R.A. Scotti

Best Critical/Biographical Work:
· Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James
· The Lineup: The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives edited by Otto Penzler
· Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King by Lisa Rogak
· The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar
· The Stephen King Illustrated Companion by Bev Vincent

Best Young Adult:
· Reality Check by Peter Abrahams
· If the Witness Lied by Caroline B. Cooney
· The Morgue and Me by John C. Ford
· Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone by Dene Low
· Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell

Best Juvenile:
· The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett
· The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil
· Creepy Crawly Crime by Aaron Reynolds
· Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn
· The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline by Nancy Springer

Grand Master Award:
· Dorothy Gilman

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 6 - Double Feature Picture Show

I'm hip deep in a script right now, so no time to chat.  Instead, here are some great Double Features from the 60's and 70's that I plan on viewing soon.  I'd love to hear more suggestions.  And damn, those old style posters beat the hell out of the photoshopped pieces of shit we get today.

Mean Streets/Taxi Driver

The Mack/Superfly

Death Wish/Dirty Harry

Coffy/Foxy Brown

Shaft/Black Caesar

Get Carter/The Italian Job

Bullitt/The Getaway

The Killers/Point Blank

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Long Con Week 6 - Little Girl Lost

“It made sense, damn it. All you had to do was look at the world through the eyes of a calculating, soulless bitch who used people and threw them away.”

Sometimes dead is better.

That’s a lesson I learned from Herman Munster the summer between my fifth and sixth grades. Or at least it was a lesson that was told to me. It was important, and it probably would have made the next few years a bit easier had I listened. I went from Top Dog at Milo Elementary to Pre-pubescent Twerp at Penquis Valley Middle School, and the transition was not an easy one. Instead of going to the Big Dance that would have introduced me to the older kids a few months ahead of schedule, I went with my friend Tom to see Pet Semetary. I thought, even at that early age, that I knew everything I needed to get along just fine.

I didn’t know a damn thing, except that movie scared the hell out of me.

Sure, I was a smart kid. The grades came easy, even though sixth grade did bring my very first B. But put me in a group of people larger than my five friends, and I quickly became the village idiot. I wasn’t terribly strong on the social skills. Awkward would be putting it nicely.

What I didn’t have in knowledge, I made up for in effort. I tried so hard. I studied everything I had little knowledge in, whether it be science, girls, sex, and the most elusive problem of all, how to be cool. My curious mind needed to solve that problem as if it were a simple equation. Too bad I didn’t know a single variable. And once you start trying too hard, “cool” is unobtainable.

To my credit, I didn’t give up. I’d sneak peaks at everything from Teen Beat to Playboy. I’d listen to Top 40 radio for hours. I was going to open that Pandora’s box of Popular, consequences be damned. And at that age, becoming like everyone else is the key. Getting rid of your personality, trying to fit in to what everyone else is. Being miserable. Perhaps not knowing would have been easier, and happier.

I’d like to think I’m cool now. I’ve come into my own, realized that certain things might make you feel cool,  but decided that I’m going to do my own thing. The need to be cool is no longer necessary, and perhaps that’s why it was easier to achieve. How I’d love to go back and show all those 8th graders just how cool I’ve become.

Sometimes dead is better.

These days it would be all to simple to find them. There’s no need to attend a class reunion, or track down Johnny and Jane Popular and show them up. That girl you never got over, odds are she’s got a Facebook page. A few quick searches and you could find out what she looks like, if she’s married, and where she lives and works. With the push of a button, she can be back in your life, for better or worse. Can you resist that temptation?

P.I. John Blake, the protagonist of Richard Aleas’s novel Little Girl Lost knows what I’m talking about. His high school sweetheart Miranda was supposed to be living the American Dream in some mid-western suburb, complete with a husband, two children and a dog. She should have been a doctor, and not some stripper, shot dead on the roof of a strip club right in his back yard.

He shouldn’t look into it. It’s not his job. The girl she was is not the girl he knew. That’s what’s driving him crazy. If her life was so easy to derail, what’s to stop his from taking a turn for the worst. After all, he should have been a professor, not an investigator. He knows the choices he made, and he wants to know hers.

So he starts asking questions, more than aware the answers will be something he really doesn’t want to know.

Do yourself a favor, as you read this book, ask yourself all those questions that have poked at the back of your skull throughout the years. Are answering them that important to you? Pay attention to how this book ends. Maybe those answers won’t seem so important. Perhaps you’ll forget all about that Facebook search.

Sometimes, dead is better. I think I get it now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 6 - Chew

Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory

Hype can be a terrible thing.  It can inflate expectations to the point where anything short of spontaneous orgasm will be considered a disappointment.

Case in point, Star Wars.  In all fairness, The Phantom Menace could have been the equal to Empire and nerds such as myself would still be burning Jar Jar Binks standees in effigy.  Did it help that the movie was underwhelming?  No, but we had years of build up to write the movie in our own minds.  No matter what, it wasn't going to be good enough.

But hype can also have it's merits.  Without it, would books such as Blankets, Mouse Guard, or Fun Home have found the audience they deserved?  Those books gained a small but vocal audience and then exploded. I remember desperately wanting to get my hands on a copy of Blankets despite never hearing of Craig Thompson or knowing what the book was about.  All I knew was everyone at the San Diego Con were losing their shit over it.

Let's call hype a double edged sword.

Today's example of hype is Chew, by John Layman and Rob Guillory.

When this book first stormed the shelves, people were wetting the bed over it's awesomeness.  Message boards were filled with joyous exclamations and parents were re-naming their newborn children.  The first printing sold out.  So did the second.  At that point I stopped paying attention to the press releases and just assumed the book would reach Harry Potter-like print runs before the third issue.

I needed to have this book in my hands.

Only problem was my local comic shop is not exactly "Indy" friendly.  And yes, to him, Image comics is considered an Indy.  I'd bet my copy of Lovely Biscuits that if he ordered even two copies for his store,  those would have been preorders.  Even then, big if.

With all the attention the book had garnered, I figured someone besides myself must have inquired about the book, but my questions were just met with a blank stare.  He'd try to get some in.  That meant he'd forget the request the second my money went back into my pocket.  I knew it was a hopeless task. 

(The situation was so dire, I even looked on ebay for the issue.  I've never paid $50 for a recent issue, but the hype machine was now controlling me.  Somehow, I regained my senses, and fiscal responsibility, and avoided hitting the Buy It Now button.)

Thankfully, the fine folks at Image came to the rescue.  Within seconds of shipping Issue 5 to the store, they followed it up with Chew Volume One: Taster's Choice.  Five issues, one basement low price of $9.99,  and my preferred format.    The book was mine all mine.

Then something strange happened, I didn't read it.  It sat there on my shelf, dying to be read, but with me keeping a cautious distance.  Hype had burned me in the past, and the possibility of being disappointed beyond comprehension was paralyzing my reading hand.  (Think about it, you do have to hold the book.)

So I went back to the internet, which is usually a bad idea.  The strange thing was, people were still telling me good things about the book.  By now the backlash machine should have been in full effect.  Where were the cries of "sellout!?"  After reading a few reviews I half expected the book to open up like the Arc of the Covenant, peel my skull back, fill it with candy and boobs, then leave me to a life of complete fulfillment.

I gave it a shot.

And it was excellent. 

Tony Chu is a cop with a secret. A weird secret. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It also means he's a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn't mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit, and why. It`s a dirty job, and Tony has to eat terrible things in the name of justice. And if that wasn`t bad enough, the government has figured out Tony Chu`s secret. They have plans for him… whether he likes it or not.
(from Chew: The Official Website)

Seriously, is that not the greatest of hooks?

But the book goes beyond the premise and gives us interesting characters, even better situations, and perhaps the strangest love inducing vomit of all time. It's quirky and idiosyncratic and about 1000 more words that mean the same thing.  I'd be doing a disservice by telling you more, as spoilers are indeed the work of the Devil.

And the art! Oh my, it's amazing.  I'd never heard of Rob Guillory before, but by gum if he isn't THE artist for this story.  It's over-the-top quality is a perfect compliment to the story shenanigans.  (Seriously, if this book had been drawn by a photo realist like Greg Land, we'd all be reaching for guns and buckets by now.)

Consider me another cog in the hype machine. 

That money you were saving for beer and porn, take it to the bookstore instead.  You'll get the same result.  Chew is orgasmapathic.

(Orgasmapathic- The ability to make fanboys cream themselves over a book. See also "Geoff Johns")

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Short Con Week 6 - Fear of a Short Story

I write, therefore I suck.

It's something everyone, from Aaron Sorkin to Uwe Boll, has said to themselves as they put pen to paper, or fingers to keys.  We live with it everyday, that gnawing fear that what we are trying to do is utter bullshit, that no one is reading, and even worse, no one cares.

We write in a vacuum.  At least I do.  I'll tap tap tap away, fearful that anyone will sneak a peak at what I'm doing.  It's why I've never been trendy enough to write at Starbucks.  The chance of someone asking what I'm doing is far too great.

Nobody reads a word I've written, oddly enough with the exception of this blog, until I am 100% sure it isn't a steaming pile.  That's what I'll tell myself anyway. 

I'll never be convinced that what I write isn't shit.  Ever.  Someone can attribute this to the correct person, as I am only paraphrasing, but writing takes the narcissism to believe that what you write is worth reading, and the doubt to believe that what you've written is terrible.

Sadly, the only way to become a better writer is to continue doing so, even when you're inner guidance counselor is telling you to enter another profession.  Slinging burgers won't bring you fame and fortune, but it hardly opens you up to ridicule.  And nothing makes you want to be a better writer that seeing your less than great work out there in the world where it cannot hide any longer.

For the most part, I've gotten over this fear.  I've published some comics, some of them even well received,  and I've come to accept that my comic work is decent.  It' doesn't hurt that I can hide behind artists as well.

But prose, oh she's a bitch.  I've written far too many things that sit, unread, on hard drives.  I came oh so close to finishing a novel, only to become a coward at the last moment.  That first chapter, it's solid, but only because I've re-written it a thousand times.  Page 225 hasn't been written once.

Perhaps I'm just setting myself up for failure, aiming for the novel.

Solution, the short story.

I've been reading a metric ton of them lately, and it's something I'm sure I can do.  Can I do it well?  Who the hell knows?  It's worth a try. I've been reading what are apparently the best written mysteries, and it's encouraging.  They've energized and inspired me.

The problem with all these "best of" collections are self-evident, they only have the really good stories.  That's all fine and dandy, but to really learn, you should read some of the bad stuff as well.  Unfortunately, my creative writing classes are behind me.  It makes it harder to read fiction that might not be quite up to snuff.

Enter the internet.

It shouldn't have come as a surprise, as everything is on the internet.  Complete a few searches, and suddenly I've got about twenty short story sights filled with amateur fiction. 

Some of this stuff, although unpublished by traditional standards, is quite good.  Other stories, not so much.  Honestly, some of it reminds me of stuff I wrote when I was eighteen and in love with Quentin Tarantino's cadence.  That's not a good thing. 

It's helpful though.  I don't want to sound like my writing is wonderful, I know it has bad days just as everything else does.   The people on these sites, they don't care if it's their best work.  Or maybe they do, and it is their best and they are willing to look foolish just to see their work on screen.

I'm coming off like a complete asshole.

I admire everyone who is willing to put their balls out there.  Writing is a scary thing to do, and being judged on that writing can be absolutely terrifying.  Paralyzing fear has stopped me from even submitting my work time and time again.

I think I've overcome that fear.  Today's rambling would certainly suggest this statement to be truth.

Was I even trying to make a point?

Oh yeah.  I'm gonna write me some short fiction and submit the hell out of it.

And go and visit Beat to a Pulp.  They've got the goods, no visit to a bookstore necessary.

Monday, February 8, 2010

45 Minutes Week 6 - Underbelly

As a general rule, when Ed Brubaker speaks, I listen. 

When it comes to modern crime comics, to this point, he is the be all, end all.  Along with Greg Rucka, he brought Gotham City's streets to the forefront with Gotham CentralScene of the Crime, his early Vertigo mini-series, is a hidden gem.  Well worth searching back issue bins for, it's got beautiful art by Michael Lark and was nominated for an Eisner award.  Books such as Point Blank and Sleeper brought a seedy noir style to the rather over the top Wildstorm Universe for DC comics.  He's proven his genre chops.

But all of his work was just leading to his masterpiece, Criminal.  Dark, mean, and littered with people you never ever want to meet, each storyline offers you up another chance to view the world you don't see.  It's my favorite book on the shelves.  (And yeah, I will be talking in depth about it in the future.)

There is a podcast, Wordballoon, that I listen to quite frequently.  Ed's on there from time to time, and it's always a treat.  Sure, he'll talk about his own work, but he also loves giving recommendations on books, movies, television, whatever he's enjoying at the moment.  Last time he was on, he spoke quite highly of some little seen, at least in the states, show from Australia called Underbelly.

I'd never heard of it.  Most of my Australian knowledge is limited to Lost, Crocodile Dundee, and all things Baz Luhrman.  But Mr. Brubaker couldn't stop gushing over this, which meant I had to see it.  Thankfully Ed did most of the leg work, explaining that it was an import Region 2 box set.  Netflix and Blockbuster were not going to have this.

So I had to put my faith in Brubaker.  I hopped on Amazon UK,  punched in my all too familiar credit card number, and ordered myself a box set, sight unseen.

Only two episodes in, and I can tell you it was worth every penny.

Some history.  This is based on a true story.  Apparently there was a ten year gang war in Australia, and it made famous men out of many criminals.  There, that's what I knew.  I was going to have to pay close attention and try to keep my head afloat because characters were getting introduced at a breakneck pace.

Luckily, the performances are magnetic.  Whenever Vince Colosimo, playing Alphonse Gangitano, is on the screen, he completely commands it.  From his first bullet fired, to the unbelievable things he says to his wife, this guy just screams charisma.  That's him front and center on the cover.  Kinda looks like a young Ian McShane.  You ever see an actor and wonder if maybe he's just a little "too good?"  That's this guy.  If I came across his mug shot reading the paper tomorrow, I wouldn't blink twice.  He's a scary man, and watching his eyes as he murders a so called friend, it's hard not to think he might have done this sort of thing before.

He is not the only actor, or actress, to draw attention immediately though.  I'd even be wary to call them the supporting cast at this point.  Honestly, within two episodes, you are introduced to so many characters, including a future serial killer, that the actor better make a damn good first impression, or risk being lost in the sea of people that I'm going to have to remember.

(Thankfully, there is some voice over narration to help me with all that.)

It wouldn't be fair of me to offer a full review of this series based on the 1.5 hours I've watched so far.  But it's grabbed my attention in way that hasn't been done since the first episode of The Shield.  In my mind, that's a very good thing.

Any of you out there still suffering from Sopranos withdrawal, do yourself a favor and check this show out.  If you're not convinced, I'm sure I'll be back to talk about it some more in the near future.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cover of the Week 6

Were you really expecting it to be anything else?  Of course it was going to highjack the entire weekend.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 5 - Streets of Fire Part 2

Continuing on with the Streets of Fire discussion.   Admit it, you were hoping for more.

Matt: Yeah, I love the sprawling, seemingly endless city, filled with different territories, and strange characters.

And the bar is fantastic. Ooze is right. That sweaty singer looks like he just ran a marathon before hopping up on stage. You know he doesn't smell good. The stripper, by the way, is played by Jennifer Beals' body double from Flashdance, Marine Jahan.

The club/bar/hangout is also the first place we see Dafoe in those terrifying rubber (?) pants.

It's also after the sequence at the bar where the movie takes a style change for a bit, and becomes a Warriors-like journey back across the city to Cody and crew's home turf. Along the way, they face off against crooked cops, meet up with a doo-wop band, and see all sorts of skeezy places.

*admit it, it's awesome, even in a foreign language.

Dan: I'm sure the rubber overalls come in handy for those all night poker games.

And the bus trip reminds me, oddly enough, of The Lord of the Rings. They pick up Dottie from Pee Wee's Big Adventure, the Doo Wop band with Robert Townsend, and basically form a fellowship. But instead of the Armies of Mordor, they fight a gang. 

But all of this pales in comparison to what comes next...

The Sledgehammer fight! Nothing ever committed to film is as cool as this fight. Not even the Roddy Piper/David Keith (or is it Keith David) brawl from They Live.

*my apologies.  I could only find clips of this fight in two parts.  Come on YouTube!

Matt: It really is a great fight. I mean, a gang of bikers on one side; a gang of rifle packing townsfolk on the other, and in the middle, two titans, facing each other the way the gods intended, with hammers. Fantastic.

Dan:  Jesus, maybe it's all symbolism? Is Michael Pare the mighty Thor? Willem Dafoe would most certainly qualify as Loki. I think we're on to something Matt. It's too bad my Norse mythology is completely learned from Marvel comics. You know your shit. Rain some God Talk down upon my mortal head.

Matt: I don't think I've got anything to add on the gods and monsters front. However, as a good closing...

The movie comes screaming out of the 80s with no apologies. It comes from a time when you could solve any problem if you could just rock hard enough. I gather that it was originally planned as the opening chapter of a trilogy, but like several other lost 80s classics (The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension immediately jumps to mind), it just never found its audience at the time. It's too bad, but we're left with a gem, made more precious because of its uniqueness. Guns, dames, rock & roll, motorcycles, hammers, and the commanding presence of Michael Pere (and his sweet suspenders). This movie delivers the goods.

Dan: It's an interesting thought that this might have been the opening shot of a trilogy. Perhaps now, with all this new found technology, maybe Walter Hill can get Lucas to do the trilogy for him, if it was "planned all along." I'm sure George can find some sidekick for Tom Cody that's all digital and borderline racist.

But no matter how much I try, I just can't see it as a trilogy. Where would it have gone? Pare's skipped town. Maybe there's some border town that needs cleaning up? Perhaps, but I'd rather leave it to my imagination.  His walking away, or more accurately, driving away,  was the perfect ending.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 5 - Streets of Fire Part 1

Streets of Fire
Directed by Walter Hill
Written by Larry Gross and Walter Hill
Starring Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Amy Madigan, Rick Moranis, Bill Paxton and Willem Dafoe

When it comes to discussing Streets of Fire, I realize it's something I can not, nor should not, do alone.  Within sentences, I'd be reduced to a drooling fanboy, reverting to nothing more than Chris Farley's character from Saturday Night Live.  And no, that would not be "awesome." 

So I've recruited my friend and fellow writer Matt Constantine.  His love for this movie might actually exceed my own.  At the very least, he can claim he owned the DVD first.  So quite possibly that gives him one up on me.

This conversation was conducted over Facebook, with each of us posting a comment, waiting for a reply, then going back and forth.  Perhaps not the easiest way to do this (phone call) but it should have given us each a chance to maintain our composure.  Didn't really work.  Enjoy, and please, comment.

Dan: Is there any better way to start a film? This is the Saving Private Ryan of Concerts. Big biker gang decends upon concert hall and kidnaps the headliner, all on the orders of Willem Dafoe. Where was the security on this place? I realize it's only Diane Lane, but they make her out to be a pretty big deal. I'd think there would be people bigger than Rick Moranis looking out for her.

Matt: Well, Bill Paxton, sporting a rockin' pompadour is in the crowd, so they probably thought they were set. What I enjoy the most is that Dafoe waits till she's done with the song before snatching her. I mean, as far as violent, biker gang kidnappings goes, that's pretty thoughtful.

And it is a great beginning. The music sets the tone of the film very well. A smoky, neon lit Jim Steinman tune lets you know you're in for some over the top 80s madness. And right off, you see the mix of eras, with Diane Lane's very 80s outfit backed up by a 50s looking band. It lets you know you're in for something a little bent.

This was one of the first times I ever saw Willem Dafoe (along with Wild at Heart), and he straight up terrified me. And his reveal, coming out of the shadows, is fantastic.

Dan: I still don't know when the film takes place!

I'm no expert on automobiles, but I'm sure those cars are from the 40's and 50's.

And I like that the film introduced the "villain" before the hero. We know what he's up against before he does. What kind of man can take down an entire biker gang?

Michael Pare, that's who.

His introduction is better than Dafoe's. Sure, he doesn't come skulking out of the shadows, but he makes himself known.  Watching him smack the hell out of the punks in the diner makes me smile every time. It would have been so easy to just punch the guy, but no, he bitch slaps him, many, many times.

Matt: I love the 'non-time' of the film. Much like Brazil, it's set somewhere in the 20th century, but no time in particular. There's even hints of some conflict or war, but which one? Who knows?

To me, the film has always felt like it has a cyberpunk vibe, even though there's no advanced technology or computers. But it captures the spirit, if that makes sense.

And yeah, Pere. The dude just Peres the hell out of ever scene. Smackin' around some two-bit hoods, stealing their car, and going for a joy ride. How awesome is that? "Yeah, I just made you look like a pack of feeps, but I'm gonna cap that off by taking your sweet ride." Nice.

*sorry for the overlap between the two clips. 

Dan: Interesting point about Brazil, as I never would have made that connection. And since I'm not much of a cyber-punk fan, I'd be hard pressed to make sense of that, but I'll take your word for it.

But the real achievement the film had, with me anyway, was making the city a character. From the diner, to the streets, to the industrial wasteland where the gang hangs out. I loved that. I half expected Henry from Eraserhead to step out of the shadows. Instead we get a very strange cameo from Ed Bagely Jr.

And again, the hangout. Loved every second of the scenes where Pere and Amy Madigan infiltrate like agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. From the band, to the, well I guess she was a stripper, to the upstairs card game, it just oozed, well,  ooze. As a kid, I wanted to be bad ass enough to hang out there. I once got my hands on a jar of Vaseline and slicked back my hair, attempting to do whatever the hell Dafoe was doing with his.

This conversation will be concluded tomorrow, as our Michael Pare ass kissing quota was filled for the day. I'll leave you with the thought of a 10 year old me slicking back and sculpting my hair with an entire jar of petroleum jelly.