Monday, May 31, 2010

45 Minutes Week 22 - Fall Schedule ABC and CBS Previews

Detroit 1-8-7 Tuesdays @ 9pm

The narration is terrible, but the scene on the bridge hooked me.  And it's always good to see Michael Imperioli gettting work besides Tequila commercials.

ABC, you aren't exactly winning me over this season.  Seriously, so far this is the only new show of yours I might watch.

Hawaii 5-0 Mondays @10pm

I cannot picture this doing well, but I'm strangely looking forward to it.  Probably just because Daniel Dae Kim might help with my post-Lost depression.

Blue Bloods Friday @10pm

Tom Selleck.  Hell yeah.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

In Memoriam - Dennis Hopper

May 17, 1936 – May 29, 2010

To The Mattresses Week 21 - Spotlight on Guy Ritchie

Guy Ritchie is perhaps the most influential filmmaker to come out of Britain in the past 10 years.  He's got a style that's borrows heavily, yet is all his own, and was responsible for bringing us Jason Statham and Vinny Jones.  While his first two films, Lock Stock and Snatch were two of my favorite films (I fucking hate Pikies!) when they were released, he made a bit of a misstep with the Madonna film, Swept Away.  I'm not sure if he was trying to flex some unused muscles or win the heart of his future wife, but it's considered by most to be unwatchable.  He soon returned to Jason Statham and made the film Revolver, which was also panned.  (I didn't think it was so bad.)  He rebounded with new star Gerard Butler in the film RocknRolla before going on to make the incredibly fun Sherlock Holmes.  It was his most successfull film to date, and he should begin work on a sequel soon.

In 2000, Ritchie won an Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.

Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels



Rock N Rolla

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 21 - Mona Lisa

Directed by Neil Jordan
Written by Neil Jordan and David Leland.

George (Bob Hoskins) is a petty criminal without much of a life to return to when he gets out of jail after a seven year stretch.  He's got his book loving best friend, Thomas (Robbie Coltrane), and not much else.  He goes to his old employers and is thrown a bone; he will be the driver for a young, beautiful call girl, Simone (Cathy Tyson).

It's not a job he particulary enjoys.  At first they hate each other.  She sees him as cheap, low class, and out of place.  He dismisses her as a "tall tart" who is a bit uppity for a whore.  So you know as the movie progresses they will like each other quite a lot.  In a nice bit of role reversal, she gives him the Pretty Woman treatment.

It's necessary.  She caters to the high class, and she can't have him waiting around in hotel lobbies in a Hawaiian shirt and gold medallion.  When not meeting the wealthy and influential, she has him drive through the streets of Kings Cross, starring at the menagerie of flesh, hoping to catch a glimpse of a girl she once knew and left behind.

During one drive, a street girl and her pimp recognize Simone.  The pimp attempts, well who knows what he was going to do, because George kicks the hell out of him.  They leave hastily, and soon Simone is sharing her story.  It's this girl, Cathy, that drives the narrative from this point forward.  They need to find her, and rescue her from Simone's old pimp, Anderson (Clarke Peters).  He agrees.

Soon he's patronizing Peep Shows and Strip Clubs, searching for the Little Lost Girl.  But the more he searches, the more he comes across his boss, Denny Mortwell (Michael Caine).  All the warning signs are there for him to stop, but as George even says, he's not good at seeing what's in front of his face.  It's no surprise when situations start turning violent and bloody.

Bob Hoskins was nominated for an Academy Award for this performance, and it's not a shock.  He plays George as a wounded man, just looking for his place in the world.  While he is often tender and understanding, he is quite capable of anger and violence.  But his is not the only good performance.  Coltrane is a rock as his best friend, trying to offer advice whenever he can.  Cathy Tyson is alluring as Simone, and she certainly keeps her secrets behind a smile.  And as always, Michael Caine is excellent.

It's odd that I've never heard this film compared to Taxi Driver, as many of the themes and scenes are similar. But while that film was filthy and street level, Mona Lisa presents itself, much like Simone, as something else, something classy, despite the seedy underbelly.  Discovering the sordid secrets is what makes this movie first class.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Long Con Week 21 - The Redbreast

Like many of you out there, with the last episode of Lost airing, it was easy for me to feel like a significant part of my life was over.  I wasn't directly involved in the show, so literally, nothing was over except the experience of watching a new episode every so often.  Not Earth shattering, but still, I felt a little hollow once I knew it was over.  The show taught me more about narrative than anything else I've ever read or watched.  Flashbacks, flashforwards, flashsideways, all tools which gave us deeper understanding of character motivation and in most cases, propelled the "current" storyline forward.  Far too often flashbacks are used as a crutch, something to prop up motivations, or rationalize behavior.  Because of Lost, every story which uses a flashback better be doing it for the right reasons, and do it well, or I'm going to be extra hard on it.

It's quite by accident, or is it?, that the book I just put down, The Redbreast, starts in 1999 then almost immediately goes back to 1944.  Can I escape flashbacks, or is it all a part of Jacob's plan to make me a better reader? 

Detective Harry Hole embarrassed the force, and for his sins he's been reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks.  But while monitoring neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, Hole is inadvertently drawn into a mystery with deep roots in Norway's dark past -- when members of the nation's government willingly collaborated with Nazi Germany.  More than sixty years later, this black mark won't wash away, and disgraced old soldiers who once survived a brutal Russian winter are being murdered, one by one.  Now, with only a stained and guilty conscience to guide him, an angry, alcoholic, error-prone policeman must make his way safely past the traps and mirrors of a twisted criminal mind.  For a hideous conspiracy is rapidly taking shape around Hole -- and Norway's darkest hour may still be to come.

The Redbreast starts off slowly, allowing the story to unwind at a meticulous place.  I use that particular term because as the story progresses, it's easy to see that everything placed in earlier, especially flashback chapters, was placed there for a reason.  Characters are introduced, and it takes many many pages to see how or why they might be eventually important to the "present day" story.  There are lots of secrets to be discovered, and connections between the characters that even they are unaware exist.  Once the story kicks into gear, with the surprising death of an important character, most of the flashbacks disappear, and we are thrust into a mystery that needs immediate solving, before more people end up on the coronor's table.

As a mystery, its top notch.  A history lesson in post-war Norway, excellent.  As a study in revenge, its brilliant. Should I ever stop this crusade of trying to read a new damn book every week, The Redbreast will be at the top of my re-read pile.  But before that, I'll probably read Nesbo's newest Harry Hole (and it's hard to get past that name!) novel, Nemesis.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 21 - Kickback

One of the highlights of the 2009 New York City Comicon was getting to meet the man who co-created V for Vendetta, David Lloyd.  Sadly, while lines for other, and I'm sorry, less talented creators, snaked endlessly around isles, Mr. Lloyd had but a few devoted people waiting for a chance to touch his incredibly talented hand.    I was one of those people, and thank goodness for others being idiots, because I had the time to chat with him as he sketched V for me. 
At the time, he had asked me if I'd read Kickback, which I had.  He actually thanked me for taking the time to read it, and urged me to spread the word.  Now, most of my friends that read comics have incredible taste, and this graphic novel was already on their radar.  So I'm sorry Mr. Lloyd, but up until today I've failed you.

So listen up everyone!  Have I got your attention?  Read Kickback.  What more encouragement do you need?  This is the co-creator of one of the best comic stories ever told.  And guess what, his art has just gotten better.

When you're a cop on the take in Franklin City, the only question you need to ask yourself is "How much can I make."

But that's only if you can bury the feelings of guilt that claw their way into your skull as you keep bowing your head to the crime lords.

And only if you can stand by and watch your buddies get cut down in the streets as the bond between gangs and gangbusters frays and splits and falls into bloody shreds all around you.

And only if you can ignore the recurring nightmares of powerlessness and terror that haunt your sleep.

If you can't do all that, then you might find yourself asking, "How much can I stand?"

Canelli is a good cop.  Sure, he's on the take, just like everyone else, but he actually gives a damn.  When a local drug lord, one who usually keeps his nose clean, ends up dead at a buy, Canelli asks the questions that his superiors don't want him to ask.  It's another dead drug kingpin.  Just be happy.

But Canelli is a haunted man.  His dreams don't let him sleep, and more importantly, don't let him remember a tragedy that befell him as a child.  As readers, Lloyd clues us in bit by bit, with strange drawings, and the constant mention of "airships" by his grandfather.  It's enough to never give anything away, but plenty to keep you interested.

We all know him to be a fantastic artist, and he certainly outdoes himself.  Each page is well drawn, and who knew the man could color?  The choice of tones is absolutely perfect for the story.  But back to the writing.   Lloyd's story is top notch.  While, it's certainly not an original premise, crooked cops have been around as long as men have pinned badges to their chest, but with Canelli, Lloyd makes the story rather personal.  He's driven by demons, and determined to bring the whole system down.  And though the "cop on a crusade" certainly propels the story, it's his acceptance of personal tragedy that makes the story so engaging.

I cannot recommend this book enough, and at only $12.95 for a dense 96 page hardcover, you have no reason not to listen to me.  Come on, I owe it to David Lloyd. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Short Con Week 21 - Boogie Down Inferno

With a title like that, do I really need to say anything about the story?  I could review it, as I usually do, but it's posted, in it's entirety, on Michael's blog.  Give his introduction a read, and if you are not sold enough to click on the link, then you need some help. 

Anybody who lived through New York City's crack-era in the mid-1980s, knows it was a bizarre time; like living in some kind of alternative universe where seemingly overnight friends, family and familiar strangers were stricken by a plague.

In my Washington Heights neighborhood, I remember some drug hawker standing in front of the subway station on 145th and St. Nick trying to sell me something called "crack" in 1985 and six months later my lower-middle class neighborhood suddenly became a haven for spaced-out zombies, random robberies, middle of the day shoot-outs, countless prostitutes and other illicit activity.

Later, it would be revealed that the local police precinct, which would later be known in the press as, "the dirty 30," was taking bribes and wasn't really trying to protect the law-abiding citizens in the first place.This disturbing short story "boogie down inferno" was inspired by my vivid memories of those wild years when uptown was a combination Sodom and Gomorrah meets the wild wild west.

While editing this piece, I listened to Tricky's disturbing Pre-Millennium Tension, whose, "hallucinatory soundscape, where the rhythms, samples, and guitars intertwine into a crawling procession of menacing sounds and disembodied lyrical threats," seemed to be the perfect soundtrack for a tale about my beloved metropolis during those very dark days.

For the rest of this story, go to:

Brooklyn-based Michael A. Gonzales writes for Wax Poetics, New York magazine, Stop Smiling and the Village Voice. His fiction has appeared in Brown Sugar 2 edited by Carol Taylor, The Darker Mask edited by Gary Phillips & Christopher Chambers and Bronx Biannual edited by Miles Marshall Lewis. His essay on Chester Himes appears in Best African-American Essays 2010 edited by Gerald Early.

Monday, May 24, 2010

45 Minutes Week 21 - Fall Schedules NBC Previews

CHASE -Mondays @10pm

Not much excites me about this rather run of the mill looking show.  Plus it's got that annoying guy from Desperate Housewifes.  Look for it to be gone by midseason.

Undercovers - Wednesdays @8pm

JJ Abrams and sexpionage will at least get me watching the first episode.  The actors seem likeable, and hey, that's Major Dad!

Law & Order Los Angeles Wednesdays @10pm

Another new L&A, but at the expense of the 20 years of the original.

In case you were wondering why we don't have a trailer for "Law & Order: Los Angeles," it's because the pilot script is not complete. NBC President of Entertainment Angela Bromstad told the press on Sunday that she has yet to see a final script, but that the network was charging ahead with the project.

It has been scheduled to air on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. after "Law & Order: SVU." The mothership, "Law & Order" was canceled Friday.
-- Maria Elena Fernandez

Fills me with confidence.

The Cape

I bailed on Heroes after Season 2, but I cannot imagine NBC feels this will be better.  Just looks terrible.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 20 - Movie Extra - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I'm a card carrying member of the comic book nerd nation, so when most people were asking me which spring/summer film I was most looking forward to, they expected me to say Iron Man 2.  And I can't lie, I was excited for it, but it's not what I planned a rare day off from work around.  I knew IM2 would be playing at every cinema nearby (all two) on at least two screens.  Seeing it would only be a matter of having a spare two hours in my day.

So I was anxious to see it, but not "dying" for it.  In my circles, that's tantamount to treason, punishable by a member of the Geek Gestapo knocking on my door and folding back the corners on my comics.  So perhaps a blog wasn't the best place to admit this.  Is that S.H.I.E.L.D. gathering outside my door?

No, the film that I drove 45 minutes to see, at the ONE arthouse cinema in central Maine (how sad is that?) is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  Thankfully, Railroad Square Cinema has been showing it for the past few weeks, and this week I finally had the time to go see it.  And it didn't' disappoint.

For those of you who haven't read the book yet...
Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, ruthless computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from almost forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vanger's are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.  Written by Music Box Films

Let me start by saying, this might have been one of the best adaptations of a novel I've seen in recent memory.  The book is quite dense, with many characters and multiple points of view.  I was expecting certain omissions, of which there were a few, but didn't find myself missing them at all.  They were removed skillfully, and as I was told, didn't detract from the story.  In actuality, it was the few things added that were most interesting.  I won't go into great detail, but the film does show a young Lisbeth in a few scenes.

I'm a nut for directors, and it pains me to never having seen any of Niels Arden Oplev's work.  I'm not too hard on myself, as he has yet to direct anything I've heard of previous to this.  That will change.  His direction was solid, and he was unflinching when it came to showing the audience a few scenes we could be uncomfortable with.  He wasn't exploitive in a "torture porn" kind of way, but he knew where to point his camera and how long to keep it there.  I find it quite unfortunate that he will not be directing the sequel.

Thankfully, the actors will return, and it is because of them that I would rate this movie very high.  Michael Nyqvist is excellent as Mikael Blomkvist.  It's a role that could have been easily overplayed, but Nyqvist was solemn in the role.  His Blomkvist never got overly excited or terribly down.  Hell, I make him sound boring as hell, but he was the glue that definitely held the film together.  He was believable, and that's the best thing I can say about him.

But the true breakout star of the film was Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander.  Honestly, they should shelf the remake right now because I can't think of a single American actress who can compete with this performance.  She WAS the character, and managed to pull off a tremendous amount of characterization without always speaking.  Her eyes were always "thinking," if that makes any sense.  Her scenes with her tormentor, the lawyer Nils Bjurman, were hypnotic.  Just look at the poster above.  Those eyes!

Okay, I might as well talk about the elephant in the review.  This is going to be remade for American audiences, which is a shame because so few who see it might be bothered to seek out the original.  And the remake could be good, hell it could be great.  David Fincher is one of the best directors working today, and he has yet to make a film that isn't at the very least, damn good.   Over at IMDB, they list not only Brad Pitt, but Johnny Depp and George Clooney as rumors for Blomkvist role.  It has the makings of a major hit, but it's also listed as 2012 for a release date. 

The sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire is due out, in Europe anyway, in September, which will probably mean a March-ish release date for the US.  Those of you within walking distance to Canada can see it at Christmastime.  The third part, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, is due in Europe in November.  There is a good chance the entire Millenium Trilogy, as it is called in Sweden, will be available for viewing before the opening credits of the remake roll in an American cinema. 

The Region One DVD is scheduled for release on July 6th.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 20 - Layer Cake

"Life is so good I can taste it in my spit."  Mr. X

Before he was Bond, James Bond, Daniel Craig was only known to me as Paul Newman's creepy son in Road to Perdition and the unnamed lead in a little film called Layer Cake.  Directed by Guy Ritchie Producer, Matthew Vaughn, this movie went on to make stars of them both.

Craig plays Mr. X, a hard working, rule abiding cocaine dealer.  He's worked hard, he's worked smart, and now he's ready to get out of the game.  As a favor, his boss, Jimmy Price, asks him to complete two final jobs, neither of which he feels particularly comfortable with.  The first involves locating Charlie, the daughter of a friend.  She's disappeared into the underworld, and ironically enough, seems to be a coke fiend.  The other job involves purchasing a million hits of ecstacy from a low level hood named Duke.  Before he really manages to make any headway with either job, he manages to piss off Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon), Charlie's father, and Duke, who quickly finds himself dead.  Seems Duke ripped the drugs off a Serbian war criminal named Dragon.  Now Dragon wants a piece of Mr. X, and to make matters worse, it's quite apparent that Jimmy has set Mr. X up for a fall.  And while Mr. X has never fancied himself a "gangster," he might have to act like one to survive.

Some words about Craig's performance.  He's absolutely fantastic, and it's easy to see why MGM handed him the license to kill.  His facade is nearly unbreakable, holding on with those steely blue eyes.  Even when faced with outrageous situations, he manages to express complete control, even when he's not.   As a gangster, he is completely believable. 

Besides Craig, some supporting characters do nice work. Tabloid fodder Sienna Miller shows some actual talent as the requisite femme fatale, Tammy. I know, its not the greatest name for a seductress, but it's the only thing about her that doesn't work. Just kidding. She doesn't do a damn thing but look good in underpants.  But Colm Meany holds his own as Jimmy's Right Hand Man, Gene.  He's got that weary soldier vibe going on, and doing it well.  George Harris, as Mr. X's associate Morty, delivers one of the best on screen beat downs I've ever seen. It was vicious, brutal, oddly humorous, and completely deserved.

But the true star of the film is Michael Gambon, particularly his voice. So measured, so pregnant with reason. It's difficult not to accept every word that flows like lava from his lips as gospel. You know he's a villain, yet each syllable is hypnotic. As Dumbledore in the Harry Potter franchise, that particular orating skill is comforting. Each student at Hogwarts knows they are protected, and in good hands. But in Layer Cake, each time Gambon speaks, my balls shrivel up the tiniest bit. It's a voice to be frightened of, and obeyed.

The script by JJ Connolly was adapted from his own novel, and while it is undeniably British, it's nice not to need a slang dictionary to decipher every phrase for us Yanks. While not as quotable as, say, 44 Inch Chest, it's rock solid, and full of believable twists, turns, double crosses and characterization.He has yet to follow it up with another screenplay.

Its hard to believe this was Matthew Vaughn's rookie output.  The film has excellent visual flair, without going over the top, as a certain friend of his has the tendency to do.  There is plenty of great camera work, with interesting, but not derivative, angles, nice cuts, flashy montages, and solid storytelling with an excellent choice of color palette.   And if he had anything to do with the music selection, than he might actually be certified as a genius. The Cult's She sells Sanctuary, Duran Duran's Ordinary World, and crime film staple, Gimme Shelter by the Stones all make well timed appearances.  Throw in some Kylie Minogue and Sciccor Sisters, and you can call the soundtrack down right eclectic.

Mr. Vaughn has only gone on to direct two more films since; the underrated, but fantastic Neil Gaiman adaptation Stardust and the recently released insanely fun Kick-Ass!  He's just signed on to direct the next X-Men sequel, and after the mediocre Wolverine and X Men 3, I'm sure he's going to turn that franchise around.  Hopefully sometime after that, he can get around to directing another crime film. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Long Con Week 20 - The Man Who Smiled

The Man Who Smiled was the perfect choice of a follow up to The Laughing Policeman.  It too, takes place in Sweeden, and in my opinion, would be a better option for any tourism bureau.  While TLP made Sweeden feel absolutely miserable, as was needed for the story, TMWS features an actual castle!  You hear that tourists?  Sure, the weather might be terribly cold but there are magical castles.  Okay, the castles aren't magic, but they still sound better than endles rain and misery.
Not to say that all is happy in this novel.  The main character, and series regular, Kurt Wallander, can be just as disheartened as Matin Beck.  At the start of the story he's at the tail end of a year of self-imposed exile.  He's been thinking it over and feels that quitting the police force is the best option for him.  At the last minute, a visit from an old friend, and that friends death changes his mind.  From that point on, we still see the self-loathing detective, but also flashes of brilliance and confidence, which for this reader, makes the perfect protagonist.  I want my detectives on the verge of a breakdown or breaking the case. 

And what a case it is.  From Wallander's own words...

Once upon a time there was an old lawyer who paid a visit to a rich man in his castle.  On the way back home somebody killed him and tried to make us believe it had been a car accident.  Soon afterward his son was shot dead in his office.  he had begun to suspect it hadn't been a car accident after all, and so he went to see me to ask for help.  He had made a secret trip to Denmark although, his secretary was told he had gone to Finland.  She also received a postcard from there. A few days later somebody planted a mine in the garden of the secretary.  A wide-awake officer from Ystad noticed that I was being followed by a car as we drove to Helsingborg.  The lawyers had received threatening letteres from an accountant working for a county council.  The accountant later committed suicide by hanging himself in a tree near Malmo, although the probability is that he, too, was murdered.  Just as with the car accident, the suicide was contrived.  All these incidents are linked, but there is no obvious thread.  Nothing has been stoled and there is no sign of passions such as hatred or jealousy running high.  All that was left behind was a strange plastic container.  And now we start over again.  Once upon a time, there was an old lawyer who paid a visit to a rich man in his castle.

While the book does have some contrivances and conveniences, I found it to be a very satisfying mystery, especially since the identity of the criminal mastermind is given to us in the opening chapter.  The rest of the book rolls along with Wallander figuring out the link rather early, but then spending the rest of the story desperately searching for the much needed proof. 

I should also note this book was perhaps the fourth in the Wallander series.  I've hopped into series midstream before, and am usually annoyed by the constant recapping of previous books that seems to occur so often.  That didn't really happen in The Man Who Smiled.  Most past events are referred to only in passing, and I feel that nothing has been spoiled for future readings once I go back and start at the first book.

Now on to the Wallander BBC series.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Comic Wednesday Week 20 - Doors

To celebrate* the availability of Warrior Twenty-Seven issues at, I am posting one of the stories found in the 08 issue.  Of course, it's crime related, and should you find yourselves enjoying it, be overjoyed with the knowledge that both myself and artist Geoff Mosse have completed a graphic novel with the same character.

*and by celebrate, I mean convince you to purchase.

And once again, that link...

So, without further salesmanship, I give you...Doors.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Short Con Week 20 - Where Will You Go When Your Skin Cannot Contain You

I mean this in the most flattering way, but this guy can flat out write like a meth head.  The narrative rambles.  The sentences can often repeat themselves and/or not finish.  Most of the time I didn't know what the hell I was reading.  I was confused, irritated, and constantly trying to figure out what exactly was going on.

You ever talk to someone on Meth?  It's like trying to read this story.  At least with the printed word, you can reread the last paragraph or page.  With the junkie, they just keep on going, oblivious to the fact that you might not even be following their train wreck on consciousness.

But really, for this story, it's a good thing.

William Gay's prose is strong and effective.  It brings you into the mindset of the main character, The Jeepster, and doesn't let you out.  For fourteen pages, you are stuck with him, through the bits of lucidity and the majority of incoherence.

The plot, which threads I can make out during the first reading, mostly involve his dead girlfriend and his attempts to hold on to a part of her.

They wouldn't let me in out there, they won't even let me in to see her body.  I went and look at her car.  Her blood's all in the seat.  On the windshield.  It's all there is of her left in the world I can see or touch.  I aim to have it.

Had this been a full length novel instead of a short, I would have never finished it.  The story wrestled with me enough, and chapter upon chapter of its fractured narrative would have forced me to throw in the towel.  Where Will You Go When Your Skin Cannot Contain You is a difficult read, but well worth your time.

This story originally appeared in the "All Apologies" issue of Tin House Magazine, 2006

Brief Interruption

Forgive the temporary moment of self-pimping, but as of today, back isssues of Warrior Twenty-Seven The Comics Anthology, which myself, Chris Beckett and others have been producing for the past few years, are now available for digital download at MDC.  Each issue, ranging from 20 pages to 48, is an anthology of  stories, covering genres from sci-fi to western to CRIME to horror, etc.  You get the point.  It's all work I'm very proud of,  and am very excited to offer each issue for just $0.99.  As Sally Struthers would say, for less than a cup of coffee, you can help starving artists and delusional writers.  Check it out.



Monday, May 17, 2010

45 Minutes Week 20 - The Good Guys

This show has three things going for it, two of which are spotlighted in promo.  First, you've got Bradley Whitford, an always watchable actor, as Stark, a cop who looks like he wandered in from a public stage performance of old Starsky & Hutch episode.  And why does he have that vibe?  Reason number two, that sweet sweet mustache and monochromatic brown attire.  Fox was wise in highlighting his upper lip.  Cops need mustaches.  Reason number three, the series is created by Burn Notice mastermind Matt Nix.  So while it does appear to be a bit goofy, I'm sure it will be good.  Oh yeah, and apparently that Hanks kid has some kind of acting pedigre.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

To The Mattresses Week 19 - Scandanavian Crime

I'll be the first to admit, when I first started this month, I didn't know much about Scandinavian crime fiction.  I'd heard the names, but barely read the books.  I knew Henning Mankell wrote a series, but was unaware of the BBC show with Kenneth Branagh based on his characters.  Or that Mankell was married to Eva Bergman, Ingmar Bergman's daughter.

I could have spent hours and hours on the internet, or just hours and hours on one site.

That site is Scandinavian Crime Fiction.

Consider it your encyclopedia for everything you need to know. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 19 - Get Carter(s)

So last week I had a movie where people couldn't stop talking.  This week, nobody says a damn word.  And that's fine with me.  Carter (Michael Caine) isn't a man who chit chats.  He's a man of action.

Carter brother is dead.  The cops say it was drunken driving, but Carter knows better.  And he's going to find the truth.  Jack Carter is no private investigator.  He's a vindictive, hard case killer.  The law is not his concern, as those responsible will not answer to order, they answer to him.  And he will kill anyone and everyone that gets in his way.

This film is considered a classic, and for good reasons.  Michael Caine is always excellent, and he brings Carter to life without lots of big talk.  For a hired killer, he's a man of subtlety...and shotguns.  The real suprise of the film is how willing he is to kill everyone he sees fit to.  And if he's not killing people, he's having sex with them.  I'm sure the joke has been made before, but the titlel could have easily been Get Some, Carter.

The subject matter is also rather dark.  I was clued in from the beginning, when there is a bunch of guys sitting around watching stag films.  I'm sure it's not that unusual for guys to do in the 70's, but something told me it would be the last we'd see of sex films.  Sure enough, Carter's own family has ties to it's dirty world.

However, the direction was lacking in my opinion.  Scenes seemed awkwardly staged, and the fight scenes, especially when Carter slaps the hell out of that guy, were poorly cut.  There was room for improvement.

Was that improvement the 2000 remake with Sylvester Stallone? 

Surprisingly, it wasn't as bad as I had expected.  Sure, Stallone is a one note actor, but in movies such as this he plays that sound well.  Who watches Sly for soliloquies?  I watch him to kick ass.  Leave the heavy acting to the rest of the cast, which is rounded out by solid character actors like Miranda Richardson, Alan Cumming, and John C. McGinley.  Even Michael Caine showed back up, and improved every scene he was in.  And remember Rachael Leigh Cook?  What happened to her?

The film certainly tries.  Mickey Rourke, looking like Mickey Rourke used to look like began his career resurgence with this movie.  He's a hell of a lot of fun as an amateur porn mogul.  And the film looked good.  It was slick, sharpe, and surprisingly dark, which suited the subject matter just fine.  The fight scenes were also better.

But it lacked the charm and punch of the original, especially the ending, which still catches me by surprise today.  The remake chickens out a bit, which robs the films conclusion.  Noble effort.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Long Con Week 19 - The Laughing Policeman

Have you ever had reading block?  It's an unfortunate condition, much like writers block, but instead of starring endlesssly at a blank page, you are overly focused on numerous words, none of which sink in.  No matter how many times you read the page, by the end you have forgotten what you just read.

It's a rare (outside of school), terrible malady, and I fought it tooth and nail throughout this book.

The novel, The Laughing Policeman, could not be to blame.  Could it? 

On a cold and rainy Stockholm night, nine bus riders are gunned down by a mysterious assassin.  The press portrays it as a freak attack and dubs the killer a madman.  But Superintendent Martin Beck thinks otherwise--one of his most ambitious young detectives was among those killed--and he suspects it was more than coincidence.  Working on a hunch, Beck seeks out the girlfriend of the murdered detective, and with her help Beck reconstructs the steps that led to his murder.  The police comb the country for the killer, only to find that this attack may be connected to a case that has been unsolved for years.

Sounds exciting doesn't it?  Well, it's not, and I'm sure that was the intention of the authors, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.  Their story takes place, not in the darkest corners of society, but in the everyday, mundane world that we all walk through.  Sure, the weather might be worse, which based on the wonderful descriptions, it certainly is, but this is a city, and a situation, that we all could encounter.  And it would make us miserable.

Martin Beck certainly is. He rarely laughs, even when his children give him the record The Laughing Policeman for Christmas.  While they bust a gut at the songs, he sits, stonefaced.  He's got a sour disposition, and thanks to his love of coffee, a sour stomach.  Not much in this world is going to make him smile, at least until the final page.

If you want careening car chases, furious fisticuffs, and intimidating interrogations, again, read another book.  The murder is solved through thorough solid police work, not death defying feats.  There's plenty of report reading, and witness questioning, and even some second guessing just to mix things up.  It's the story of frustrated men doing frustrating work.

Does it sound like I'm describing misery on paper?  Perhaps that's why it took me a week to read it's 211 pages.  Could it's miserly attitude rubbed off on me? 

It might have, but I assure you, it was still a book worth reading.  I've got a feeling it might have been one of the most accurate representations of a policeman's life that I have ever read.  Now I understand why they are always so cross when they pull me over.

Now it's time to go watch the Walter Matthau film based on book.  If anyone can nail the despair so present in the novel, it's him.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 19 - Desolation Jones:Made in England

Everyone should have a Chandler-esque Los Angeles story, even cranky, Red Bull fueled Brits like Warren Ellis.  Having been a fan of his long running Vertigo series, Transmetropolitan, I knew he'd bring something special to the table.  And indeed he did.

A former field agent for M16, Michael Jones was the first surviving victim of the Desolation Test, a radically dangerous prcedure cooked up by the British government.  Jones was intravenously kept alive while being force-fed a steady diet of horrific data and images non-stop as stimulants were continuously pumped into his body--keeping him conscious and alert for a solid year.

Now retired from the agency, Jones lives in Los Angeles, acting as a private investigator to the secret underground community of ex-spooks who have come in from the cold, and who have no one else to turn to.

As a reader, I'm hooked already.  It sounds like a wonderful cross between an insane James Bond movie and a gritty 70's film.  With porn.  Lot's and lots of porn.  And did mention the porn was Hitler porn? Turns out that's the big case for Jones, locating stolen Hitler film, and along the way he's going to meet Ellis's usual brand of everyday characters.  Dark, partially insane ex-Spooks, tough girl porn stars, and other assorted characters who make you feel really dirty.  And if they don't have you reaching for the sponge, the locations will.  I'm assuming these places exist in the City of Angels, but they are not in the brochures.

This is the Warren Ellis I enjoy.  Dripping with sleaze and wit.

And none of this revulsion would be possible without the ever amazing art of J.H. Williams.  I make this statement loud and proud, HE HAS NO ARTISTIC EQUAL IN THE WORLD OF COMICS.  None.  He is the best.   By this point, he had already shown the world what he could do in Promethea, but his Desolation Jones work took it in another direction.  Promethea was beautiful, but so were the images he spent most of his time drawing.   She was a goddess.  Drawing a man getting his eye gouged out, or his balls stomped, and having that being beautiful to look at is pure skill.

Sadly, the Ellis/Williams combination only lasted six issues, collected in handy trade format.  After Williams departure, Danijel Zezelj was brought on for an arc.  I'd love to rave about that story as well, but it was aborted two issues in.  If memory serves me correctly, which it might not, Ellis had a computer meltdown which caused him to lose scripts, and eventually abandon the series. 

Too bad.  It had the promise of something unique.  Warren Ellis eventually wrote a novel, Crooked Little Vein, which thematically is as close as you are going to get.  Read that when you finish with this.  And pester DC to put out an oversized Absolute Format Desolation Jones.  For less than $100.  With sketches.  And scripts.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Short Con Week 19 - Going Going Gone

by Peter Blauner
Originally appeared in Hard Boiled Brooklyn.

This man knows how to hook me in.  I've got a son, and I know the difficulties of connection when, let's be honest, you're a part time Dad.  Those weekend visits are exceptionally special, and you hope and pray they are fun and remembered in the future.  No one wants to be the boring parent, at least until the offspring are teenagers, when all hope of being cool is lost.

Like Sussman, the main character, I too have hosted Star Wars Marathons for my boy.  I've also had Lord of the Rings, Matrix, Batman, and Spiderman Marathons as well.  If you want to raise your child right, start him/her on the geek path as soon as possible.  I made my son memorize the Green Lantern Oath before he could dress up as one for Halloween. 

However, the one things I've never done, thankfully, is lost my child.  Not even for a minute.  I worked at a toy store, and saw far too many children "dropped" off by their parents.  Even in a toy store, a 6 year old is going to panic after ten minutes alone.

But reading Going, Going, Gone, I got a real sense of what the feeling of losing your child must be like.  Peter Blauner describes perfectly the fear of being overwhelmed; the confusion, the racing heartbeat, the panic, and finally the stupid choices that people can make when stressed to their limit.

All that in eight pages, and to a satisfying conclusion.  Well done.

Going, Going, Gone appeared in the 2007 Edition of The Best American Mystery Stories.

Monday, May 10, 2010

45 Minutes Week 19 - Netflix, my Wii, and Me.

Although I've had the capability on my XBox for some time, I never bothered getting Netflix streamed to my television through it.  Mostly because my XBox didn't have wireless, and I really didn't feel like stringing a bright yellow wire across my living room floor.  I'm clumsy, and most likely would trip, sending both myself and my video game unit flying across the room.  If I was lucky, only one of us would break.

However,  the Wii just made itself compatible with Netflix.  And, hooray, it's wireless!

That means whenever I want, I can view episodes of Law & Order without the need for buying cable or satellite. 

The selection isn't great yet, but I can't complain when I have the opportunity to go from Special Victim's Unit, to The Shield, to Carl Sagan's Cosmos, to Mario Kart without getting off my couch.

Here's some titles from my Instant Queue:
The Vanishing
The Crimson River
Elevators to the Gallows
Gangster No. 1
The Lady from Shanghai

Technology is wonderful

Saturday, May 8, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 18 - Trailer Park

We all know films big like Iron Man 2, Robin Hood, Shrek 4 plus the latest Tom Cruise and Angelia Jolie movie will be coming out this summer.  Without much promotion, these films would still make a silly sum of money.   But some films need the awareness that even a passing sentence in Entertainment Weekly can bring.  With that being said, here are a few of those films that you might not be aware of. 

*The one exception might be Inception, the new Christopher Nolan film with Leonardo DiCaprio.  Odds are, you will see endless television spots.  But for some reason, Nolans non-Batman films, such as Memento, Insomnia, and The Prestige, don't get the recognition for the brilliant films they are. 


Harry Brown

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Perrier's Bounty

The Killer Inside Me

The Killer Inside Me Trailer - Funny home videos are a click away




Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 18 - 44 Inch Chest

You do not have sex with Ray Winstone's wife.  That should be obvious. - Rule to Live By

When you go out to the bar with your "mates," do yourself a favor and ask "Would these guys barge into a restaurant and kidnap the man who cuckholded my woman?  Would they drag him to the middle of nowhere, toss him in a wardrobe, and stand guard while I made up my my on whether to kill him or not?"  If the answer is "no," well you've probably got some stable, but boring friends.

Me?  Yeah.  I've got a friend or two who might do that, but only because they are big fans of mayhem and guns, not my honor.  But Colin Diamond (Ray Winstone), he's got a group of friends ready to do just that, and more.  And as much as I love my gang, I'd exchange them for this batch in a second.  Sorry guys, but Meredith (Ian McShane), Archie (Tom Wilkinson), Mal (Stephen Dillane) and Old Man Peanut! (John Hurt) are just the brothers in arms I want in an emergency.   (Has a badder group of brits ever been collected on screen?  Seriously, all they are missing is Michael Gambon, Bob Hoskins and Michael Caine.)

Let's be honest.  If my friends found me on the floor, in the middle of a trashed apartment, glassy-eyed, weepy, and listening to Harry Nilsson's "I Can't Live, If Living Is Without You" on endless repeat, they'd just make fun of me.  Hell, it's what I'd do, and maybe thats exactly why I have the friends I have.  But why oh why can't just one of them be Old Man Peanut?

"You break every other fucking engagement.  Every other fucking engagement.  This takes top priority above everything.  Everything.  Everything!  Til this is done and dusted, put to bed, laid to rest, nobody does fucking nothing but this.  This is where we are.  Here. Now. This."

Once more into the breach for the modern man.

!Warning!  This movie isn't for the faint of ears.  The dreaded C word is dropped more than "and" or "the."

And with the dazzling, virtuosic use of foul language it's easy to lose sight of the incredible acting that's taking place in this film.  Each character, of which there are only a few, absolutely nails his/her character. 

So you might think you're in for a fantastic gangster/revenge film.  You'd be dead wrong.  Yes, the boyfriend is locked, bound and blindfolded in a wardrobe for half the film, but the point isn't Ray getting revenge on the man who is sleeping with his wife.  As much as I wanted to see an asswhipping, which I really did, it was more fascinating to watch Colin come to terms with the fact that his wife doesn't love him anymore.

It's no coincidence that each of Colin's friends represents a side of him, which he has neglected.  Archie is the supportive, nuturing, mild friend who whould be there in a moment for you.  Meredith is the self-confident, suave, and mostly selfish friend who is great to hang out with.  Mal is tough, borderline psychotic, and always up for a fight.  Then there is the scene stealer, Old Man Peanut.  John Hurt plays this unlikeable fellow like the father figure from hell, but damn is he watchable.  Give me a film of him ranting and I'll be there!

You've got it ladies and gentlemen, a film that is nothing but swearing and male posturing is actually a self-reflecting love story.  The story of a man who loves to much. 

This was a fantastic film.  The script by Louis Mellis and David Scinto (Sexy Beast) was incredible.  This mostly one room movie was propelled by their dialogue and characters.  And director Malcolm Venville made the most out of that one room, allowing the actors to do their thing, and skillfully interrupting with an occasional, but necessary flashback, when needed.  The man was not afraid to keep the camera on the actor's face.

If you've already seen the film, pick up the DVD.  While it's not some super deluxe edition, it does have a few worthwhile extras, including a featurette, an interview with Venville, a commentary, and epilogues.  Surprise surprise, the best one is Old Man Peanut's.

And if you haven't seen Sexy Beast, for fuck's sake go watch it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Long Con Week 18 - The Girl Who Played With Fire

Some authors can write interesting, believable characters that live a similar life to ours. They eat similar foods, drink similar wine, maybe even sleep with the sleep with similar people. But somehow their lives are infinitely more interesting, and while unbelievable events may transpire, we are with them every step of the way because they feel real to us.

Other writers have mastered dialogue. They can have their characters rattle off sentences like machine gun fire. But regardless of how witty the banter, or how acute the observation, the same rules of characterization apply. The words spilling from John or Jane Badass’s mouth must “sound” right to our inner ear in order for us to believe.

And in the crime/thriller genre, one other facet of storytelling is of utmost importance, the plot. If the story is too mundane, your charismatic characters will job in place, become stagnant, or worse yet, boring. No one reads a thriller to be bored. But if you go to far in the opposite direction, and don’t reign yourself in, the plot can become too twisted, too tangled, so that even the most observant, engaged, perhaps even note taking reader can become lost.

Some authors, the rarest of breed, can do all three and make it seem so easy.

Steig Larsson was one of those authors.

I was late to the party. At the time of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s release, I was working sporadically in a chain bookstore. The book had received tons of praise, and even the most taste deficient/Dan Brown worshiping customers had sung it’s praises. Still, fearing it was just another Da Vinci Code scam, I held off on purchasing it.

I know.

Fast forward a few months, and I found myself at a used bookstore on a break from work. As usual, when I find myself surrounded by books, money has a way of jumping out of my pocket. That wrinkled Lincoln all but yanked the book from the shelf and carried it to the register on it’s own monetary power. When cash is that anxious to be spent, it’s wise to let it.

Smart move on my part.

I didn’t put the book down for days. I found myself walking to work, just so I could read instead of driving. And if you live in Maine, walking while reading is taking your life into your own hands. It’s not a pedestrian friendly state.

But I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t putting the book down. Not for work, for friends and loved ones, not even for an organ transplant. (Not that I was in line for one, but if I had needed a kidney, I would have held off until the book was finished.) And the strangest part of my absolute need to keep reading, I couldn’t tell you why. Sweedish libel cases. Who cares? Disgraced journalists and Goth/punk/chic girls. Sounds like the Washington Post covering Hot Topic.

The hard drinking, harder fighting PI that I love so much was nowhere to be seen. He was replaced with a middle aged journalist, who, at the very least, was a womanizer. I guess not everything has to change.  But the book pulled off the rare feet of absolutely mesmerizing me. It was honestly one of the best books I’d ever read.

So now I had a choice.

The Girl Who Played With Fire had just come out in hardcover. I wanted desperately to read it as soon as I closed the cover on its predecessor, but knowing the third and concluding book in the series was at least a year away left me a bit timid to start. If TGWPWF was the equal of TGWTDT, it would be the literary equivalent of waiting for Return of the Jedi.

So now I had a tough choice.

I waited. Until now.

With the release of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest a mere month away, I figured it was safe to start the middle novel. But to be on the safe side, I did pre-order TGWKTHN. Knowing it would be on my doorstep within thirty days, pushed me to stop making excuses and hurry up and read.

It was so very, very good. It’s safe to say, had I read this book back in September, I would have taught myself Sweedish, purchased a foreign edition from

Right from the beginning, we’ve got Lisbeth Salander, the titular character, and one of the most amazing modern literary creations, vacationing away in the tropics. She’s been living off the funds she ingeniously procured for herself at the end of the first novel. She’s living the life, but still doing the quirky, personally invasive things that she does best, until an unusual hurricane/tornado (foreshadowing!) sends her back home.

Once back in Sweeden, we catch up with Blomkvist, the formerly disgraced journalist, who is now the talk of the town. He’s steering his magazine Millenium, through some prosperity. They are on the verge of publishing a special issue, as well as a book by Dag Svennson. The hard hitting book, much like Blomkvists, threatens to expose a prospering sex trade in Europe.

This is more like it. While the premise of Tattoo had to win me over, Fire had me at “sex trade.” I cannot tell you why this subject interests me so much, and I’m not sure if I could afford the therapy that might give me the answer. But books like Greg Rucka’s Walking Dead, Garth Ennis’s Punisher story The Slavers, and even the movie Taken have left me fascinated with such a horrific part of today’s world.

As one would think, a book where politicians, judges, the police, and even various underworld figures, would be exposed and named, leaves many people unhappy. I was not shocked when Svennson and his girlfriend Mia Johonson, herself deeply involved in the cause, are found murdered. However, my jaw did need to be picked off the floor when Salander was the chief suspect.

And in a book with many shifting narratives, it was brave as hell to stop following Lisbeth around for over a hundred pages. Her point of view had been so prevalent to this point, that excluding her made her guilt seem reasonable. While unflattering, the portraits painted of her by psychologists and law enforcement were accurate, and when her tormentor from the previous novel, Nils Bjurman, ends up dead in an eerily similar manner, her guilt is a real possibility.

That’s as far as I’m going to go. Seriously, I want nothing more than to spoil this book for you. I can talk about all the great new characters that pop up. We’ve got the task force that is assigned to catch Lisbeth; Jan Bublanski, Officer Bubbles; his second in command Sonja Modig, a complete douchebag in Faste, and honest to goodness, a guy named Jerker Holmberg. And opposite the cops, you’ve got an unnamed Giant, a biker gang, and the most mysterious criminal mastermind this side of Keyser Soze, the once named "Zala".
Who he is might be the best reveal I've read in ages.
Remember when I made that Star Wars comparison? It was apt. This book was the equivalent, in mood, tension, and possibly despair, of The Empire Strikes Back. That’s high praise in the nerd circles I run in.  You invoke the Holy Trilogy, you better mean it.

 And even though I only have a few weeks to wait until Hornets Nest, it is far too long.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 18 - Random Acts of Violence

I like horror movies.  I like crime.  I like Jimmy Palmiotti.  Not sure how this book escaped my gaze when it was solicited in Previews a few months ago, but it did.  Had I not been following Mr. Palmiotti's appropriately titled blog, Listen To Jimmy, I would have missed it completely.  But I've been following along, catching the few preview pages here and there, and each time it was mentioned, I had to ask myself if I was going to plop down the requisite coin on the counter in order to make it mine.

So let me say from the almost start, Image comics made a fantastic decision in pricing this book at only $6.99.    Had it been more expensive, it would have been a tough choice.  But less than $7 for a full color 70ish page Prestige Format? Sold.

Random Acts of Violence is the blood soaked graphic novel where life imitates art as we follow the process involved with creating the ultimate horror comic book character.  Ezra and Todd, two comic book creators and best of friends, pool their money together to self publish their first creator owned comic, featuring their murderous creation, Slasherman.

The thin line between fact and fiction is shattered as they travel cross-country promoting their work and start running into seemingly unrelated car crashes and crime scenes.  Things quickly turn from bad to worse as they learn their work has inspired these horrific crime scenes...and that one of their biggest fans has their eyes on the boys themselves.

Now for some nitpicks. 

First, Random Acts of Violence is great title for an anthology of crime stories.  So good, that's what I was expecting, and now that I've heard it, want nothing more than to steal it.  Had I read the back cover, it would have been apparent this was not the case, but the $6.99 price blinded me.  So I was disappointed when I saw this was just one story.

Secondly, Slasherman?  That could be the worst title for a comic ever.  Sure, you know what your getting, but it sounds so 70's low-budget.  But supposedly, it's a great book.  At least that's what all the characters keep telling me.  And make no mistake, the opening six pages, which are "the book within the book" are good.  Good enough to get a printer to rush to a second printing, not so sure. 

Okay, done with the complaints now.

The meat of the story is enough to chew on.  It's interesting to watch two creators, both with distinct personalities, respond to the demands of their new found fame.  And never having been on a signing tour, I can only hope it's exactly as depicted.  I'm a fan of road trips, and who wouldn't love visiting multiple comic stores over a few days?  And that Mark Waid fanboy story must be passed around like herpes because I've heard it from at least three different creators, and yet it's still interesting each time.

The copycat killer, while not original at all, was given an interesting spin.  What was suppossed to be a "story pitch" turned into a massive typographical error/ reason to kill, and it really illustrates just how important a good editor can be.  If I ever have a contest on this site, you can be damn sure I'm going to triple check every word.

But the absolute best part of the book was the art by Giancarlo Caracuzzo and Paul Mounts. 

Caracuzzo, who has previously done work for Palmiotti and Gray on Jonah Hex and The Last Resort, channels a bit of Guy Davis, and absolutely nails each crime scene.  Mounts colors perfectly set the tone, with each setting receiving it's own atmospheric hues.   The only page that disappointed was actually one panel, where there was an obvious screen capture from Newsarama.

Random Acts of Violence earns a solid B, mostly because I love Grindhouse, and this would fit right in on a Saturday morning double feature.  Just keep Eli Roth away far from it.