Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 26 - Ray Dillon

Not crime rated today, but hopefully you readers realized the NEW AND IMPROVED LOGO at the top of the page.  It was created by Ray Dillon, an artist who, like myself, lives in Maine. 

From his bio:
I'm an illustrator and painter in comic books, gaming, film, and trading cards, and would like to paint for children's books. I also write novels and children's books.

In 2002, I co-founded the online entertainment arts studio and production company, Golden Goat Studios, Inc.

Recent project: Rogue Angel and Jennifer Love Hewitt's presents: Music Box for IDW Publishing, and Nightmare World for Image Comics.

I married comic artist, Renae De Liz, at San Diego Comic-con 2009! We have a 6 year old son and a new baby boy on the way in February.

Some of my past work includes: Marvel: Avengers sketch cards, Lord of the Rings: Masterpieces, Wizard of Oz sketch cards, Lord of the Rings: Evolution, Nightwing: Fundamentals, Noble Causes, Perhapanauts, Nothingface, Fear Agent, Venture, Dodge's Bullets, The Pact, Phantom Jack, Touch-of-Death, Awakenings, Ted Noodleman and Nightmare World.

I have a very full plate, but I am open to considering commissions and projects. Adjustable rates. Email or call.

Besides being a damn fine artist, he is also an incredibly nice guy.  Please go to his web pages and check him out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Short Con Week 26 - A Life of Crime

I figured I'd give a comedic short a chance, and it worked pretty well. Some funny stuff in this. Love the ski mask.

Monday, June 28, 2010

45 Minutes Week 26 -

Not sure how long this has been around, but I happened to catch a commercial for it the other day.  It's a fantastic idea, but looking over the movies and listings on the site, it's not terribly well executed. 

As for shows, NCIS and Law & Order SVU are easy to come across on basic cable at just about any time of day, and other than nostalgia, I have no reason to watch Macgyver. 

The movies offered are equally unimpressive.  Basic Instinct 2?  Hardwired?  The best films offered are Blood Diamond and Ladykilllers. 

Would anyone with access to Netflix online subscribe to this channel?  Perhaps with some money it could bring some interesting original programming to the table, but for now, I have to give it a pass.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 25 - River City Cinema's "Heist School Vaction"

Sometimes the town I live in can be incredibly cool.  I hate the name, but love the idea.  A different heist movie each Friday night for the next six weeks, outdoors and free!  I plan on catching a few of these.  Check out the schedule.

June 25- The Ladykillers (original)
July 2 - The Killing
July 9 - Ocean's 11 (original)
July 16 - The Italian Job (original)
July 23 - The Sting
July 30 - The Return of the Pink Panther

Now, I happen to know a guy on the committee, and I'd like to think he got this idea from me.  I know it not to be the case, but I can dream.  Anyway, should you find yourself in Bangor with nothing to do on a Friday night, you could do worse than to check out these excellent films.

Check out the website here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 25 - Shutter Island

In film, the twist ending is a tough wire to walk.  There is a balance at play, and to truly make it work, on must be careful no to sway too far in either direction.  Place too many clues, and the average viewer can spot the ending a mile away (The Village comes to mind.)  Leave too few, and the anarchic masses will cry foul.  Hit just the right combination of the two, and viewers might line up for a repeat viewing, bearing signs calling you a genius.

In a novel, that twist is even harder to pull off.  Readers, not subjected to the director and editors pace, can obsess over pages and details for as long as they wish.  At the cinema, try to make the projectionist pause the film or load the previous reel, and you'll most likely get your assed bounced faster than a gummi bear.  At the beach, flipping back and reviewing requires only a few muscles, most likely strengthened during other activities. 

So I'd like to think the novelist has a tougher job on this one.  But what about the poor sap who has to adapt the twist novel into a "shocking" film?

Vary rarely do I watch the movie before I've read the book.  If it's a film in interested in watching, my first stop is the bookstore, not the box office.  Many of my friends share this trait, which oddly enough, is the reason I'm viewing Shutter Island on DVD, and not at the multiplex.

I read the book a few years ago, after reading/watching Mystic River.  I admired the novel, quickly read every other Dennis Lehane offering, and soon learned that THE GREATEST LIVING DIRECTOR, otherwise know to us mortals as Martin Scorcese, would be directing the adaptation, reread the book.  The book was masterful when revealing the twist, which I will not name here.  I knew it was coming the second time around, (didn't pick up on it at all the first time), and loved the book just the same. 

But the movie could be different.  Screenwriters change stuff around all the time, and since I'd never heard of Laeta Kalogridis, I was skeptical. 

It's 1954, and up-and-coming U.S. marshal Teddy Daniels is assigned to investigate the disappearance of a patient from Boston's Shutter Island Ashecliffe Hospital. He's been pushing for an assignment on the island for personal reasons, but before long he wonders whether he hasn't been brought there as part of a twisted plot by hospital doctors whose radical treatments range from unethical to illegal to downright sinister. Teddy's shrewd investigating skills soon provide a promising lead, but the hospital refuses him access to records he suspects would break the case wide open. As a hurricane cuts off communication with the mainland, more dangerous criminals "escape" in the confusion, and the puzzling, improbable clues multiply, Teddy begins to doubt everything - his memory, his partner, even his own sanity. Written by alfiehitchie

I should have had more confidence.  Everything about the movie was awesome, even by Scorcese standards.  The man is an artist, and from a visual standpoint, this might be one of my favorites of his.  It was nothing short of beautiful, with menacing shadows, eye-popping colors, and hallucination/dream sequences that were mesmerizing.  It had the look and feel of a Hitchcock film, and it came as no surprise that Scorcese showed his cast Vertigo, as well as Out of the Past.  And while the film definately felt "period," it utilized modern special effects effectively.

The performances are also to be applauded.  I've come to expect good things from DiCaprio, and he delivered.  His accent, as it was in The Departed, was a bit weak, but his decent into madness was captivating; the perfect mixture of Tough Guy Bravado and Wounded Haunted Soldier.  He was matched with great turns from the always reliable, and creepy when they need to be, Ben Kingsley and Max von
Sydow as mysterious doctors.  Mark Ruffalo was spot on as DiCaprio's partner, and Ted Levine was memorable in his few scenes as the Warden.  And I'm quite sure that Jackie Earl Haley is the go-to guy when it comes to creeps.

Overall, it kills me that this film didn't get better reviews.  It deserved, at the least, a special edition DVD release.  I adored it, and it's official:

Dennis Lahane is the luckiest author when it comes to adaptations!

Three movies, all great.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Long Con Week 25 - Kiss Her Goodbye

When I started this blog six months ago, one of my first stated goals was to read each and every Hard Case Crime that had been printed to date, in order. I started out of the gate strong, putting four behind me in the month of January. With over fifty titles on my shelf, I would have to maintain that one-a-week pace to meet the challenge.

That didn’t happen.

As much as I love the HCC books, there were so many others out there. Authors I’d never heard of, books I’d always wanted to read. I’ve done a decent job of reading a book a week, but the HCC’s have been few and far between since then.

So is the goal still attainable?

Probably not. I would hardly consider it a failure if I don’t make it to the 50th book, but I really want to get through them. At an average of two hundred pages, they don’t take a long time to read. Is it far fetched to think I can read two of them a week while keeping up on other reading without burning myself out?

A little.

So I’m going to do the best I can. My shelf is still full with all these other titles I”m dying to read, including a bunch of nonfiction that is calling my name, so I’m going to consider the HCC books the desert at the end of the main course.

Starting with Kiss Her Goodbye by Allan Guthrie.

Ever read a book where every character was so deeply damaged that it's a wonder they are not collectively sitting in a bare room painting the walls with last nights food and feces? With each turn of the page I expected a complete mental breakdown of at least one character. My God! I've read books where the protagonist had a shitty childhood or a bad marriage, but in Kiss Her Goodbye, even the minor players have an undiagnosed psychosis. Is Scotland really that bad?

These people have serious issues.

But the book was exactly what I needed to get me back on track, violence, sex, and mayhem. Don’t be fooled by the cover and copy though. For What She Went Through, Somebody Had to Pay... I went in expecting this book to be her revenge fantasy. She was on the cover. She had a bad. She stood over an unconscious body while he leaned against a car. Not really the case.

When people in Edinburgh need to borrow money, they go to Cooper. When they don’t pay it back, they get a visit from Joe Hope.

But now Joe’s got troubles of his own. His teenage daughter’s found dead, an apparent suicide. Then the police arrest him for murder. But for once, Joe’s innocent- and with help from Scotland’s hardest men (and one of Scotland’s) hardest women) he sets out to find who’s framed him and deliver his own brutal brand of justice.

Spoiler Alert! His brand of justice isn’t that brutal. If I was going to have any complaints about the book, it would be that it wasn’t “hard” enough. Not that it was a travel brochure for Scotland, not sure I ever want to go, but I expected more of a bloodbath.

Oh well. Still a solid read with good dialogue.
“I’m in your world now, Mr. Hope. And I can assure you, I’m not guilty of anything.

Joe nodded. “Hate to disillusion you.” He drank the rest of the coffee.”But you’re just as guilty as the rest of us.”

“Oh yeah,” Brewer said. “What’s my crime?”

Joe crushed the plastic cup and tossed it onto the floor. “How the fuck should I know? You haven’t been caught yet.”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 25 - The Green Hornet

Wasn't planning on discussing this today, but with the trailer hitting the internet yesterday, I found that I just couldn't help myself. 

First of all, I have little or no previous knowledge of the Green Hornet.  I'm aware that Bruce Lee originally played the part of Kato, and that the Green Hornet himself is a Batman/Bruce Wayne type of character.  It always struck me as a cool premise, but I never got into it.  Is the show even available on DVD?

Then came word that Seth Rogan, a comedian I've always liked since Freaks & Geeks, was going to take over the role as star and writer with visual genius Michel Gondry directing.  Since I never really got that excited about the failed Kevin Smith project, I decided to hold off hope of this even materializing until I saw the first trailer.

And you know what, I'm excited.  This looks fun.

But for those of you saddened by the loss of the Kevin Smith vision, have no fear.  Dynamite Entertainment has released a comic version of his film script, and it can be found alongside seven or so other Green Hornet projects.  I read the first issue, and didn't really find myself enjoying it that much.  But Kevin Smith has written far too many stories I do enjoy, so I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and ordering  Kevin Smith's Green Hornet vol 1 : Sins of the Father Hardcover.  It's $24.99, but available from Discount Comic Book Service at 50% off.  I'm also planning of purchasing the Matt Wagner-written Green Hornet Year One when that is collected.

And as a bonus goodie, check out the Brian Michael Bendis interview of David Mamet, as they mostly talk about Mamet's new graphic novel, The Trials of Roderick Spode, "The Human Ant."  Yes, you read that correctly, Mamet has done a graphic novel.  So happy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Short Con Week 25 - Interview with a Crime Lord

Based on the title, I had such high hopes for this.  A sit down with the crime lord?  Imagine what someone like Frank Pembleton could do with such an opportunity.  He'd charm, twist words, and probably evoke some sort of explosion from the guy.  But this, this was weak.  Why would the "crime lord," who doesn't exactly have the presence of such, even sit down to talk with this guy?  And this was the plan of attack?  I'm certain in the real world, this fellow would find himself with some unwanted company in the near future.

Total letdown.

But it did get me primed for some real life mob action, and thanks to Tana, I was just made aware of this special airing on CNBC tomorrow.  And if I learned anything from watching The Wire, especially Lester Freeman, it's FOLLOW THE MONEY.

Monday, June 21, 2010

45 Minutes Week 25 - Memphis Beat

From TNT

Memphis Beat centers on Dwight Hendricks (Jason Lee), a quirky Memphis police detective with an intimate connection to the city, a passion for blues music and a close relationship with his mother. He is "the keeper of Memphis," a Southern gentleman who is protective of his fellow citizens, reverential of the city's history and deeply rooted in its blues music scene.

Despite his impeccable instincts as a detective, Dwight's loose, relaxed style of police work rubs his demanding new boss, Lt. Tanya Rice (Woodard), the wrong way. But Dwight may eventually win her over to a Memphis state of mind, especially when he takes the stage at his favorite hangout to perform a legendary song or two.

MEMPHIS BEAT co-stars DJ Qualls as Davey Sutton, a uniform cop who considers himself to be Dwight's protégé. Also starring are Celia Weston (Junebug) as Dwight's effervescent mother; Sam Hennings (Saving Grace) as Charlie White, aka Whitehead, Dwight's seasoned, hypertensive partner; Leonard Earl Howze (Barbershop) as Reginald Greenback, a fellow detective struggling to make ends meet with two teenage daughters; and Abraham Benrubi (ER) as Sgt. JC Lightfoot, an officer who uses Chickasaw tribal wisdom in his police work.

MEMPHIS BEAT was created by Liz W. Garcia (Cold Case) and Joshua Harto (The Dark Knight), who also wrote the first two episodes. Harto, who grew up in the South and has spent a lot of time with his country-musician grandfather, sees the show's setting as a chance to spotlight one of America's great cities. "Memphis has been largely forgotten in film and TV today," he says. "It's where the blues and Johnny Cash and Elvis came from. It's where Martin Luther King was assassinated and where Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin were born and raised. It's the perfect blend of drama and humor for our show."

Music is just as vital to MEMPHIS BEAT as its unique characters, drama and humor is the music. "Music is a huge part of this show," Garcia says. "It has to be. You can't live in Memphis and not have your life steeped in music. The city has a soundtrack."

To get that perfect Memphis feel, the production team approached noted blues singer/songwriter Keb' Mo'. He will provide original compositions and performances for the show to supplement classic Memphis tracks.

MEMPHIS BEAT is executive-produced by Clooney, Heslov, Garcia, Harto, John Fortenberry (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Scott Kaufer (Boston Legal). Sean Whitesell (House M.D.) and Smokehouse Pictures' Abby Wolf-Weiss are co-executive producers. The pilot was directed and executive-produced by Emmy® nominee Clark Johnson (The Shield). Harto and Garcia are a husband-and-wife team. Harto is also an actor

As I love both Jason Lee and Elvis impersonators, I am all over this show.  It premiers tomorrow, June 22nd, at 10pm Eastern.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 24 - New Season of Leverage!

One of my favorite new shows (okay, it's season 3, but I only discovered it on DVD last year)  returns tomorrow night for a two hour premier!  If you love capers as much as I do, you need to give this show a shot.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 24 - Romper Stomper

The lessons I'm learning this week are numerous.  First, taking a weeklong vacation, where I ignore any and all writing, is bound to catch up with me.  From times past I know that getting out of the groove is so much easier than getting back into it.  All week the keyboard and monitor have made eyes at me, deep, angry, hurtful eyes.  They know I've been slacking.  Secondly, the World Cup is so very distacting when I want to get work done.  I'm a morning writer, and part of me keeps saying "write tonight," this tourney only comes about every four years.  So far, that argument keeps winning.   Third, I've been reading nothing but crime for so long, part of me desperately needed to read something from another genre.  But did it have to be Justin Cronin's new, ABSOLUTELY AMAZING  book, The Passage?  I picked it up on the cheap at Bull Moose Music, content that I could read it concurrently with a few Hard Case Crime novels.  Wrong again.  Nothing else will do until I finish it's seemingly 10,000 pages.

But I did have time for a movie, and it's one I hadn't seen in about ten years. 

I initially ignored Romper Stomper years and years ago because it sounded to much like children's programming gone bad.  I'd never seen the case, or a poster, or anything else for that matter other than the silly name and a few strangers telling me I absolutely must see it.  Thankfully at the time, I worked at a video store and it was easy enough to get a copy in.

Imaging my surprise when I saw Russell Crowe on the cover.  By this time he had become familiar to me.  I'd barely noticed him in Virtuosity with Denzel, but his star making turn in L.A. Confidential had given me hope that this film would be more than neo-Nazi fucks running amuck throughout Australia.

He owned this film.  Every so often an actor just nails a part, particularly in crime films, where no matter how despicable his actions are, you just can't help but watch him.  Edward Norton in American History X,  Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood, etc etc etc.  This was one of those roles for Crowe, and it's easy to see why he became such a hot commodity in the States.  He has since gone on to numerous Academy Award nominations, but to me, this and Bud White are the roles I will always remember him for.

As for the film itself, it's pretty damn good as well.  It was interesting to see a culture I had no previous knowledge of.  (I always think of Neo-Nazis as backwood rednecks here in the states.)  Sadly, writer-director Geoffrey Wright hasn't gone on to do much else since this films release in 1992, other than wisely bail out of the sci-fi mega bomb Supernova.  So he can't be all that bad.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Long Con Week 24 - Dirty Harry: Death on the Docks

Usually if someone comments that "this book would make a great movie," it's meant as a compliment.  The reader was so enthralled with the characters and plot so much that he/she just can't wait to see it presented in an other medium.  I've been guilty of the same thoughts.  As soon as I put down The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I was "Google-ing" the movie, marking down the days until it's debut in the states.

The same can not be said with Dirty Harry: Death on the Docks.  Not that I was expecting much.  Until recently I wasn't even aware the book series existed.  And while the movies were popular, they were not exactly fantastic cinema.  As Clint aged and the series progressed, the movies became less and less interesting to me.

But this book would have made a good action movie.  Every twenty or so pages there was a gunfight or some other action scene.  On the big screen, it would have been thrilling.  In a 186 page book, it was dull.  I read for the characterisation, even with characters I've seen in a handful of movies.  This book didn't give me anything new in the life of Harry Callahan.  And I'm not saying it's the writer's fault.  In 1981, when this book was published, Dirty Harry was still a viable franchise, and nothing Earth shattering could possibly happen within it's pages.  I'm sure the producers of the movie had strict edicts on what could or could not happen.

So what exactly is the point? 

Well, I had hopes.  Harry is pitted against an interesting foe in Death on the Docks, a corrupt Union czar name Matt Braxton.  After Season Two of The Wire, I'm facinated by this way of life, and the thought of Dirty Harry clashing with them was an interesting one, in theory.  But when it's written like this...

Harry was tearing after the Galaxy and it's unwanted mate, no longer firing because it was senseless to do so until he came within range.  And having no time to reload, he did not wish to squander what remained of his ammunition, since it was abundantly clear he would have to save some for the occupants of the wounded Galaxy.'s hard to continue on.  Perhaps if the book had been written in the first person, we could have gotten a peak inside the mind of the usually stoic Mr. Callahan.  Personally, I don't believe he'd use words like squander and abundant. 

After reading this, I wasn't exactly cancelling plans to read the other five I picked up on Ebay.  I will eventually give them another chance.  Each one says it was written by "Dane Hartman," but according to Wikipedia, and always reliable source of information, the books were actually penned by Ric Meyers and Leslie Alan Horvitz. 

Perhaps the person guilty of putting pencil to paper on this one will not have written the next.  At least I have the pretty covers to look at.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 24 - Jason Aaron vs. David Lapham

It was a good shipment from DCBS  the other day, mostly because a new volume of SCALPED was included.  (Volume 6 - The Gnawing, to be exact)  I'm not even sure if I've mentioned it previous to this, but Scalped is my favorite crime comic, and possibly overall comic, right now.  Jason Aaron is knocking it out of the park, with each issue and storyline topping the previous.  It's got everything you could possibly want in a story; sex, drugs, gangsters, guns, more sex, and Dash Bad Horse, one of the most intriguing new protagonists I've seen.

One of these days, perhaps in the near future, I'll get around to doing a Scalped month.  It's that good.

But until then, I found this goodie over at the Jason Aaron forum.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Short Con Week 24 - The Crime Complex

In my quest to read an apparent never ending supply of short crime fiction (thanks to those handy anthologies), I've been forgetting an important medium, film.  So for the next few weeks I'm going to troll YouTube and other such places and highlight some short crime films that I happen to find.

The first film, The Crime Complex, was literally the second hit I got on YouTube.  I know nothing about anyone involved, other than what was listed on the credits.  And while the constant cuts in the beginning drove me a bit nuts, there were some good shots, and the actors held their own.  I'm still a little unsure about the ending, but I could think of worse ways to spend less than ten minutes.  Enjoyable film.

Monday, June 14, 2010

45 Minutes Week 24 - Was High School Really This Lame?

I'm sitting at home on a Sunday night, watching the Boston Celtics take on the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA championship.  At the same time, I'm watching the Chicago Cubs somehow turn eight innings of no-hit ball into a heart attack of a ninth inning, and reading the latest issue of Batman.  At 34, I've somehow managed to turn back the clock to 1987, and am only one verse of "Fight for Your Right to Party" away from believing that I've somehow found the fountain of youth in a grudgingly drank can of Moxie.

Fuck it, when this is all over, I'm going to watch an episode of 21 Jump Street.

To set the mood...

Flashback to spring, 1987.  I'm 11 years old, dressed in ill fitting jeans, a Cubs away jersey, and some sweet Reeboks, enjoying the tail end of grade number five.  At Milo Elementary, that meant I was one of the head crackers in charge.  We, and by we I mean mostly 5th grade boys, ran the playground.  The kickball teams were picked by us, not always by talent, but popularity.  You wanted the swings?  Better make sure we weren't on them first.  For the first time in our life, it was okay to feel a little badass. Even some of my friends were trying tobacco for the first time.  Not smoking, as that would be way to easy of a target for our eagle eyed teachers, but chewing tobacco.  Myself, I never understood the appeal, even when it would have been a way to rebel against something.  But I was a content 5th grader, and never saw the need to rage against the elementary machine.  Besides, I had my sights set on something bigger.

Middle school.

In my hometown, that meant a mile or so trip down the road to the big(ger) building on the hill.  It was there that both the middle and  high school sat, connected like conjoined twins born three years apart.  I had no older siblings, so it's mysteries were unknown to me.  A friends older brother would frighten us with horror stories of one eyed janitors (which wasn't that frightening because our janitor only had two fingers on one hand), bullies the size of linebackers, tests that lasted all day, and the horrors of horrors, the gym showers.  It was something I couldn't wait to experience, minus the showers, regardless of how bad the stories of 6th grader hazing sounded.

Then I watched 21 Jump Street.

The summer between elementary and middle school, my family and I visited my Aunt and Uncle who lived in Southern Maine.  That meant the technology leapt ahead light years, with amazing sights and sounds such as cable television, VCR's, and stoplights.  It also meant the FOX network, which up until then, I had no idea existed.  I grew up on FOUR stations, so don't cry to me when your cable goes out.

For those of you who don't know, 21 Jump Street was the show that kickstarted the career of Johnny Depp.  He played Officer Tom Hanson, the straight-laced and baby-faced odd man out on the force.  It seemed his youthful good looks often got him in trouble with the criminal element.  Who could possibly take an arresting officer who barely looked old enough to shave seriously?  So he was assigned, rather unwillingly to Jump Street, where other young looking cops went to make a difference.  They would go undercover to high schools and solve the problems of the wayward youth.  And because it was the 80's, there was often a moral to the story.

All of which had me wanting nothing to do with high school.  When I got off the bus the first day of 6th grade, I expected to see undercover cops and shady characters playing craps against the Shop Class brick wall.  Honestly.  My brain, even then, loved a good conspiracy.  As the bus would amble past the high school, I keep my eyes trained on the high schoolers hanging around, guessing at which one was really 21.  (And in Milo, a senior around the age of 20 wasn't actually that uncommon.)

Eventually I got over it, as more important issues like making sure I wasn't thrown into lockers, the girls bathroom, the showers, or the girls bathroom showers took up more of my thoughts.  Who could think of undercover officers when escape routes were more important?

So Jump Street went away.  Eventually, when our two street town strung up some extra wires between tin cans, we got cable, but not Fox.  It would be years before I'd catch another episode during late night reruns, and by that point I couldn't bother watching past the first commercial break. 

It was more out of curiosity that I picked up the first season on DVD from Amazon a few weeks ago.  The price ($6) was right, and boy that Johnny sure is dreamy!  Two episodes in, and I'm sure this show is awful.  Mr. Depp, even then, had something special, and Holly Robinson sure is cute, but I'll be surprised if I make it to the second disc.  I might punish myself and give the second season a try, because it couldn't possibly be any worse.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 23 - Natural Born Killers

Still a bit burned out from the Tennessee trip, so here are a few scenes from an oldie but goodie.  Man, I need to rewatch this soon.

If you haven't seen it, here are a few good reasons to seek it out. 

#1 Rodney Dangerfield.  Having grown up on his comedies, especially Back to School, it was an unbelievable mindfuck to see him this disturbing.

#2 Woody Harrelson.  This was the first role of his that really put some distance between himself and his Cheers character.  After this, he wasn't always expected to be goofy, leading to some very good, Academy Award nominated roles.

#3 Robert Downey Jr.  I'm sure he was still in his drug phase, but his Geraldo-esqu Wayne Gale was unbelievably entertaining.

#4 Quentin Tarantino.  I'm not really sure how much of his original script survived, but his fingerprints are over this movie just as much as Oliver Stone's.  Given the chance, it would have been interesting to see how he would have directed it.

#5 The Music.  Leonard Cohen, L7, Cowboy Junkies, Nine Inch Nails, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan, etc.  Great stuff.

And if you ever want to read an interesting book about this film, check out producer Jane Hamsher's Killer Instinct.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Long Con Week 23 - The Mugger

I don't have this cover, but by God I wish I did.

The Mugger is the first Ed McBain book I've ever read, therefore, it's also the first 87th Precinct book I've read as well.  It's a concept that intrigued me.  Instead of using the old stand-by cities of New York or L.A., McBain created his own.  Sure, many authors do the same thing, but how many create an entire police precinct to go along with it.   Okay, I admit, of course it's based on New York, but I enjoy the idea of a brand new city to explore.

As a tourist though, I'm not sure I'd start my exploration with this precinct.  It's tough as nails, and one of the cops describes it as the worst precinct in the city.  And as the title suggests, there is a mugger on the loose. 

I didn't pick this book because of the title, or the story synopsis.  Frankly, as a title, The Mugger is a little boring.  I've never been mugged, and while I'm sure it's frightening, it just doesn't strike terror like say, a murderer.  I chose this book because it was the second Precinct book that McBain wrote.  Had I been able to get my hands on a copy of Cop Hater, I would have started with that.  I like to start series near the beginning so I don't lose out on back story.  And since McBain wrote over 50 Precinct novels, it seems like there is a lot of history to them.

But back to The Mugger.  While I might not have been overwhelmed by the plot of the story, I can state that I loved the prose.   This is language that doesn't pretty itself up for a big date.  It comes as it is.  No adornments, no sparkling baubles to catch your eye.  These words get straight to the point, and are as sharp as a razor. 

He stood in the shadows of the alley, wearing the night like a cloak.  He could hear his own shallow breathing and beyond that the vast murmur of the city, the murmur of a big bellied woman in sleep.  There were lights in some of the apartments, solitary sentinals piercing the blackness with unblinking yellow.  It was dark where he stood, though, and the darkness was a friend to him, and they stood shoulder to shoulder. Only his eyes glowed in the darkness, watching, waiting.

All this lends itself to a very quick, enjoyable read.  180 pages might not give you plenty of room to explore, but it's a solid introduction.  You may not find yourself contemplating the 87th Precinct when you've turned that final page, but you might end up reaching for another in the series.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 23 - The Losers: Ante Up

So the movie, which didn't make boatloads of money, wasn't considered a success.  People started claiming that the sky was falling on comic book movies.  Run to safety children!  Your superheroes are done.  But what people always fail to mention, is that The Losers is not the typical comic book flick.  Hell, it wasn't even a typical comic book.
Written by Brit Andy Diggle, a former editor for 2000AD, and drawn by Jock, The Losers was something new for Vertigo Comics back in 2003.  Diggle and Jock reinterpretted an old Jack Kirby World War II comic for the modern world.  G.I. soldiers are replaced by disgraced, and presumed dead, spooks.  There are no spandex clad flag waving heroes in this book.  Even the good guys have a little bit, okay a lot, of darkness to them.

The company thought that it had taken care of the Losers.  After they saw a little too much at the wrong place and time, their chopper went down in flames with no survivors and plently of deniability- and the Losers went down in the records as just another team of black ops foot soldiers tragically lost to one of the C.I.A.'s shadow wars.

But the Losers were just playing dead- and now that they've seen what the Company is really up to, they're through with games.  Now it's time to take the fight back to its source.

That source, by the way, is a man named Max.  Or he might not be a man at all.  One unfortunate soul who gets in their crosshairs explains that Max isn't real.  He's the C.I.A.'s version of the boogyman.  Are they chasing a phantom in their quest for revenge?

The Losers does a fantastic job of not spelling out everything for the reader.  In this first volume, more questions are raised than answered, and even after 150 pages, you'll still be wondering what it is they saw that made them switch.  Does that mean the book is an unsatisfying read?

Not if you like action.

No other book comes to mind when I think of all the action that is packed into what was originally six issues.  You want an armored car heist?  How about we throw in a helicopter?  Not enough for you yet?  Okay.  Add in a little corporate espionage with computer hacking, snipers, heroin, tons of money and for good measure how about a rocket launcher?  And don't get too comfortable with the team because at least one of them is a traitor.

And while the action is a definate high point of the book, the characters are no slouch.  Diggle does a great job of giving them personalities without exposition.  Couger, the cowboy hat wearing sniper, barely says more than ten words the entire book.  Aisha, the mystery woman who plans to help them, also doesn't speak that much, but when she does, it's stuff like this.

"I was born in a desert place.  War was my only mother.  As a child, I moved through the battlefields and slit the throat of screaming Russian boys.  I firebombed my first tank when I was twelve years old and machine gunned the crew as they fled, burning.  And yet perhaps you expect me to be afraid of you."

Yeah.  She's that scary.  Rounding out the team are the motor-mouthed Jensen, the laid back Pooch,  the icey Roque, and Clay, the leader.

I can't ignore the art either.  Usually, when an artist goes by one name, I raise my eyebrow.  Sure, there could be the genius of Prince, but more likely it's another McG.  Jock didn't let me down though.  His art is all angles and grit, reminding me of another favorite of mine, Sean Phillips.  He doesn't waste a line with unnecessary detail, using his art to tell the story.  It's not always flashy, but much like the people he portrays, it's confident and exact.  He is equally adept at facial expressions as he is two page splashes.  When The Losers finished, Jock was a well sought after commodity, and now he can sell a book on his own.

Ante Up was, as the title suggests, just the opening bet in their quest to get revenge.  It's a fantastic read which will hopefully hook you into the rest of the series.  I was sold on the first issue alone, and bought the original five trades without having read them.  (I prefer to read Vertigo series, for the most part, in large chunks.)  I guess now is as good as any time to finish off the series.  Should you want to read them, many of the original trades are out of print. DC remedied that problem in time for the movie, by publishing to larger volumes, creatively tittled Volume 1 and Volume 2.  I believe you can find all 32 issues in those pages.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Short Con Week 23 - Lucy Had a List

Lucy Had a List
by John Sandford
originally appeared in Murder in the Rough

Golf was invented to frustrate me.  I'd find myself on the fairway or the green, sweat beading on my brow, anger rising, as I'd alternate between amazing shots and shanks into the woods.  More woods than fairway.  Oddly enough, I never found myself buried in the sandtrap.

Which is more than I can say for Stevie.  For him it's not a hazard, it's a final resting place.  But before his untimely demise, he dated Lucy's mother.

Lucy is a grammar obsessed golf instructor in what I assume is a small Minnesota town.  She has some skill with the club, enough to shoot a 68, and she also has a list.  It's very important to her to stick to that list.

And speaking of lists, it seems the suspect list is long.  Good ol' Stevie just couldn't keep his putter in his pants.  His latest conquest was Mary, otherwise known as "Satin Shorts."  That might not have sat well with another companion of hers, Willis Franklin, or as Lucy knows him, the man who killed her Daddy and got away with it.

And just what is on her list?

If only golf was really this interesting.

Monday, June 7, 2010

45 Minutes Week 23 - Persons Unknown plus a Fox Fall Preview


Lonestar Mondays @ 9pm

Seems a bit soapy, but con-men are always interesting.

Not much else of interest that is new, but Fox does have a strong line up this year.  When mid-season replacements roll along, I will be very excited for Ride-Along, from The Shield creator Shawn Ryan, and starring Jennifer Beals and Delroy Lindo.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 22 - The Man in Black

I'm in Tennessee this weekend, and when I think of Nashville and Memphis, I can't help but think of Johnny Cash. 

This is from a Johnny Cash special called "Behind Prison Walls". The location is Tennessee State Penitentiary staged in the gymnasium with inmates making up the audience.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 22 - Bronson

For those of you in your mid-thirties, like myself, you might remember watching Rocky III for the first time.  I know, it's an odd film to bring up on a crime blog, but stay with me.  Remember Mr. T's Clubber Lang in that film?  Did he scare the hell out of you as well?  At the time I saw the movie I was only eight years old or so, possibly a bit younger, so I hadn't exactly developed a sense of bravery yet.  To me, Luke Skywalker taking on Darth Vader was brave, but I also knew it to be a complete fantasy.  There were no Sith Lords in real life.  Mr. T was real, and the thought of him delivering another beating to Rocky Balboa made my pulse race.  One look at that mohawk and gold chains, and I knew he was capable of killing him.

Watching the film Bronson, I got that same feeling again.

From his opening monologue, with his shaved head, thousand yard stare, There Will Be Blood mustache and hell-raising smirk, to him prowling a cage with fists flying and cock swinging,  I knew I was in for something dangerous. Watching him take on numerous armed and armored Hacks, naked and covered in filth, was like watching a lion.  Fuck Daredevil, this is the man without fear. 

And that laugh...

I've heard comparisons to Clockwork Orange in other reviews of this film, and while I can definitely see the parallels with the violence and narration, it stops there.  There is no story of possible redemption with Bronson.  He lives for the violence.  And thats all.

The film isn't much for the story, as it's mostly scenes in his life.  And while they are presented in a narrative order, there isn't an endgame in mind.  There will be no life affirming choices, no forks in the road, just more violence.  I'm okay with that.   Charlie is telling his side of the story, and his side alone.  Because of that, there will be some unreliable narration.  He doesn't exactly paint a pretty picture of himself, but he must certainly omit some things.  But Charlie is a natural showman, which is presently nicely with some asides on a stage, him covering his menacing dome with equally frightening face paint.  He makes it clear from the beginning that he wants to be a star, wants to be famous.  Without much else to offer, he decides to become famous by being the most dangerous prisoner in the British prison system.

It's easy to see how he earned that reputation.  From stops in an underground piss soaked fight club, to a stay in a mental hospital (complete with dance parties) he is always reading and willing for a brawl.  Numbers don't matter.  He'll fight one guy, two guys, even dogs if necessary.  In prison, the guards live in fear of him, knowing he could snap at any moment and broken noses will follow.  Hell, even they know they are just bit, nameless players in his story.

And without the amazing acting of Tom Hardy it wouldn't be a story worth watching.   He is flat out brilliant.  I would never have believed that this frighteningly believable beast of a man is the same ponce from Star Trek: Nemesis.  This film is his version of DeNiro's Raging Bull.  He didn't act the part, he became the part.  Watch the DVD's special features and see the five week training period he had to endure to physically change in Bronon.  Or better yet, listen to the included Bronson monologues to see how well he mimicked the speech of Bronson.

In conclusion, as a film, it doesn't necessarily work.  Without the main performance, there wouldn't be any reason to watch.  But the director, Nicolas Winding Refn was smart enough to focus on Hardy and forget the rest.  Easily one of the best performances last year, and it goes to show just how foolish the Academy Awards were not to include him as a nominee.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Long Con Week 22 - Fistfull of Rain

I first met Greg Rucka about ten years ago at a comic convention in Chicago.  I had no idea who he was, but this being my first convention, I was anxious to meet any professional.  He was sitting at the back of the Dark Horse booth, promoting a Grendel novel that he had just written.  I hadn't read any Grendel either, so my chances of talking shop were looking pretty slim.  Luckily, my friend Gibran had some familiarity with him and Grendel, and is a much better bullshitter than I ever will be.  The man could strike up a conversation with a deaf mute and make it work.  So he got Rucka talking.

And the man can talk.  He went into detail about his works, which at the time mostly consisted of Whiteout, and future projects he wanted to line up.  At the time, he described only having an image of Wonder Woman's boot on Batman's head, but knew there was a story there.  A few years later, that was the cover of an OGN, Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia.  I told myself I needed to get reading this man's stuff.

Over the next few years I got into all his comic work.  He wrote great runs on Detective Comics, twice, introducing Sasha Bordeaux, a bodyguard to Bruce Wayne who would eventually go on to play a major role in his run on Checkmate, and Kathy Kane, the new Batwoman who would cause many a media ripples with her sexuality.  He, along with Ed Brubaker, introduced us to the Gotham City Police Department in Gotham Central.  In that title he was allowed to explore the character of Renee Montoya more than any other writer previously had, laying the groundwork for her to eventually become the new Question during the series 52, which he also had a hand in.  His fingerprints have been all over the DCU for the past ten years, and the characters are better for it.  But he also did some time over at Marvel, getting the chance to write Wolverine, Elektra, and Black Widow.

But besides all the comic work, Mr. Rucka has also made a splash with his novels. The Queen & Country series has gotten two, with a third on the way.  And his character Atticus Kodiak has quite the track record as well, going from professional bodyguard to perhaps the most dangerous man alive over the span of a few novels.  Yet each book he writes is littered with his usual tricks, strong characterization and lightning quick plots.

Greg Rucka is excellent at two things, putting a character through what should be the worst day(s) of their life, and writing strong female characters. Nobody does self-destruction and strength like he does.

From Renee Montoya in 52, to Carrie Stetko in Whiteout, to Tara Chace in Queen & Country, these are all woman who can just as easily kick your ass or put down a bottle of Jack. Their flaws are many, their strengths, possibly more. Did I mention he also wrote the best Wonder Woman of the past two decades?

Miriam of A Fistfull of Rain is no different.  She's an absolute fucking mess, the kind of girl you find incredibly hot, but then notice just how drunk she is.  The animal part of you wants to hit on her, but the rational side is screaming to keep away.  To make it even harder to decide, she's a rock and roll queen, the brains behind her band.  And while her small body might not have the martial arts capabilities of Wonder Woman, she has strength in different ways.  She's determined and stubborn, possibly even a little stupid brave.  But she sure as hell isn't good at making decisions. 

But what she is, is interesting, and when you tell a story from the first person narrative, that's a quality more important that any plot twist.  I had stayed away from this book mostly because it wasn't part of the Atticus Kodiak series.  I adore those books, and while I have always wanted to read this particular title, it always took a back seat.  I picked it up on the cheap a month ago and figured now was as good as a time as any.  And I'm glad I did.

The photos are invasive, obscene, and all over the internet for anyone to see.  How they got there, where and when they were shot, and by whom, Mim has no idea.  and before the investigation into the matter even begins, a brutal murder makes it clear that whatever Mim thinks her life has been up to now, she's about to learn it's all a lie.

The kind of lie that will kill.

A Fistfull of Rain was written with everything I admire about Rucka, so much that I wouldn't mind if did a few other "one off" novels with new characters.  Hell, if he can make a video game tie in novel interesting (Perfect Dark), he can write just about anything. 

And if you happen to find yourself at a comic convention, take the time to attend any and all panels he might be on.  I'll guarantee you'll be entertained and will learn valuable lessons on writing.   He taught me that every character has a secret they want no one to learn, and it's something I always keep in mind, not just when writing, but reading.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

New Comics Wednesdays Week 22 - Acts of Violence

Remember a few weeks ago, when I noted what a great name Random Acts of Violence would have been for an anthology?  Well, I wasn't far off.  Acts of Violence in "an anthology of crime comics" published by, hold on here, Caper Away Productions, Caruso Comics, Critical Hit Comics and New Reliable Press.  I managed to get my hands on a copy a month or so ago, hey, writing this blog has some advantages, and as I type this out, it should be available at conventions and other distribution means.

Now on with the review.

Three Princes
written by Chad Boudreau
art by Manoel Magalhaes

The art was capable, but nothing to make you stop and admire it. The best feature of this story was the dialogue, particularly the excellent use of period language.  Terms such as bulls, wolf whistles and bubs are sprinkled throughout.  And while the story was good, it's execution was rushed.  Characters and situations were introduced and quickly discarded or glossed over.  It felt like watching Once Upon a Time in America in fast forward.  It removed any chance for that emotional guy punch the ending could have delievered if I'd had more time to get to know the characters.  It's not often I say this, but the story would have been better suited as an OGN.

Six O'Clock Noose
written by Dino Caruso
art by Marvin (mp) Mann

A  little revenge tale that tugs at my small town, we take care of our own, heart.  A solid script that knows when not to talk too much.  It allows the art to tell most of the story.  I've seen Mann's art before, and I hate to say it, but I prefer it in color.  The first page especially was very thin, and certainly would have benefitted from color.  However, each following page uses more grey tones and ink, and it improves them considerably.

written by Todd Ireland & Kevin Leeson
art by Toren Atkinson

Once you get past the terrible name, it's a very good story, that shows how far junkies are willing to go when in need of their next fix.  The protagonist, Reggie, is a terrible human being, and as much as he tries, he just cannot better his situation.  It's nice to see that his choices, not fate, keep him circling the drain.  The art is a great compliment to the story, using thick, heavy lines and lots of black to almost make the page feel dirty.

The Orchard
written by Ed Brisson
art by Damian Couceiro

A very quick story about a cop and his partner who takes vengence a little too far, and what he will do to help cover it up.  Add in a little twist about why he's so willing to help his buddy, and the best art in the anthology, and you've got a solid final act to the book.  My only complaint is that it ended too quickly.  I would have enjoyed seeing where the story went past it's conclusion.

A good mix of stories and art styles, each one offering something different.  A solid anthology that will hopefully spawn a sequel.  A great price point ($9.95) which merits taking a risk on something new and unknown.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Short Con Week 22 - Take the Man's Pay

Take the Man's Pay
by Robert Knightly
originally appeared in Manhattan Noir

In Japan, in Kyoto, he would already have done what is expected of anyone arrested for a crime.  He would have confessed, then formally apologized for upsetting the harmony of Japanese society.   That is what you did when you were taken into custody: you accepted your unworthiness, took it upon yourself, the consequences falling across your shoulders like a yoke.

But he is not at home, he reminds himself for the second time, and there are decisions to make, and make soon.

A prostitute is found dead, having plummeted from a hotel room many floors up.  The rooms only occupant is Taiku, a japanese businessman, who admits to having sex with the woman, but had no part in her death.

What follows his arrest can only be described as fun.  He's taken in to the station house, and from there, he's just a pawn in the NYPD's confession game.  They throw all kinds of tricks at him, some of which I'd never heard of, hoping to get his confession by 1pm.  At only eleven pages, it offers an intriguing culture comparison, especially when it comes to crime, guilt, and punishment.

Search this story out, in either Manhatten Noir or The Best American Mystery Stories 2007 Edition.