Saturday, July 31, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 30 - Noir-o-rama coming in September

I usually only do the 30 films in 30 days thing for October, mostly as an excuse to catch up on cheesy horror films that I've been missing.  But my friends Brad and Matt have beed doing this for the past few months, with honorees ranging from Gene Hackman to Nicolas Cage to Ray Harryhausen.  Now, I'd love to get that specific, but for now I'm going to be general.   Not many actors have starred in 30 crime films.

So I deem the month of September Classic Noir Month.

And I've got no idea what to watch, hence the month advance notice.

So I'm looking for some suggestions.  There are always going to be the easy answers, the classic films, but I'm hoping to get a few rare gems.

My List of Possibilities So Far
The Maltese Falcon
Shadow of a Doubt
The Lost Weekend
Scarlett Street
The Big Sleep
The Dark Corner
The Killers
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Kiss of Death
Nightmare Alley
Out of the Past
Key Largo
Criss Cross
The Third Man
Strangers on a Train
The Big Heat
The Killing
and growing...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 30 - The Losers

I hate to start of the conversation with money, but almost everytime this film was brought up, so were the dollars and cents.  I'm hardly one to base success on the almighty bank account, but was DC really expecting much more from this movie finance-wise?  It did a respectable sum of  23.5 Million, and that wasn't much less than it's budget of $25.  Of course they wanted it to do big bucks, but even the similiarly themed and much more name recognized A-Team did $75, but that film had a budget of $110.  I think it will do just fine on DVD, hopefully allowing more people to see it.

And has any film with a large release come to video that quickly?  It was less than three months!

Now to the film.  I loved it.  My twelve year old son loved it.  (It's PG-13,  but come on, I want to be the cool Dad.)  The movie was fun, over-the-top, and rather conscious of it.  There were no pretenses of being something more than it was. 

Again, what it was, was fun.

A tale of double cross and revenge, centered upon the members of an elite U.S. Special Forces unit sent into the Bolivian jungle on a search and destroy mission. The team-Clay, Jensen, Roque, Pooch and Cougar -find themselves the target of a lethal betrayal instigated from inside by a powerful enemy known only as Max. Presumed dead, the group makes plans to even the score when they're joined by the mysterious Aisha, a beautiful operative with her own agenda. Working together, they must remain deep undercover while tracking the heavily-guarded Max, a ruthless man bent on embroiling the world in a new high-tech global war.

What made this movie so watchable was the cast.  Starring a Justice League of other Comic Book/Nerdgasm actors, we've got Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen's Comedian) as team Leader Clay.  He's the grisled, tough leader who also has a way with the ladies.  And one particular lady has a rocket launcher.  She is Zoe Saldana (Star Trek's Uhura and Avatar's Neytiri) as Aisha, the lady with a mysterious past who gives our heroes a second chance at revenge.  With all her seriousness, there needed to be comic relief.  Bring on the always reliable for a laugh, we have Chris Evans (Fantastic Four's Human Torch and the soon to be Captain America) as Jensen, the tech wizard.  And if there is a team leader, there must be at least one guy to challenge him, and that would be great second man Stringer Bell, I mean Idris Elba (The Wire and soon to be Heimdall in Thor).  Rounding out the team we have Columbus Short as Pooch, and Oscar Jenada as Cougar.  How these two got cast without any nerd/street cred is beyond me?  And of course, you need the villain, and in true mustache twirling mode we've got Lost Boy Jason Patrick as the evildoer Max.  He's never been a supervillain, but he's got the chops.  Go ahead, shave his head and call him Luthor.

So once we get beyond the cast, we've actually got a very good adaptation of the DC/Vertigo Comic.  The issues have been chopped down to fit the running time, but the film never feels like it was missing anything.  Thanks to that would probably go to the director, Sylvain White (who honestly hadn't made one film I've seen) and writers Peter Berg (always awesome) and James Vanderbilt (also reliable) who kept the film moving at incredibly quick pace.  And excellent use of Journey in the soundtrack.  Not many films can pull that off.

Room was made for a sequel, which in all likelihood, will never ever get made.  So for those of you wanting more, go pick up the graphic novels.  Well worth it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Long Con Week 30 - The Grifters

If it wasn't for One Crazy Summer or Better Off Dead, I never would have heard of Jim Thompson.  Have the films of Savage Steve Holland ever brought so much joy?

Allow me to make the connection.  I've always been a movie junkie and a night owl, and when you are 12 years old and have movie channels, that is pretty close to heaven.  And those two films of Savage Steve (who names themself that, he's like the 80's McG!) were always on.  Always.  And I loved them.

They also happened to star an early hero of mine, John Cusack.  He was the lovable, comedic everyman, who always had a strange cast of friends and usually a girl that was way out of his league.  In other words, exactly what I wanted to be.  Once I'd gotten a bit older and seen Say Anything, I knew I wanted to be Lloyd Dobler/Cusack, and the only way to do that would be to watch  every single movie he was in, or at least the ones available on HBO.

One of those was The Grifters.  Starring Mr. Cusack, Angelica Huston, and Annette Benning, and directed by Stephen Frears, it was a film unlike any I had seen John in.  Where was the fun-loving?  The nerdy friends?  At least he still got the girls.  But this was the first film I ever looked at Cusack and saw a grown up.  And for my then 14 year old mind, it was an awakening.  If Lloyd Dobler can be a con man, well, anyone can.  Perhaps this was the start of my cynicism?  Those of you who know me, place blame here.

I was so enchanted by the slick but messy life of Roy Dillan (Cusack) I needed to know more.  I discovered that Frears also directed Dangerous Liasons (oh yeah) but not much else that interested me.  (It would be years before I saw My Beautuiful Laundrette).  But the writers were people I could follow up on.

Donald Westlake?  Jim Thompson?

Never heard of them.

C'mon.  I came from a small town with a very tiny library.  So sadly, and this was pre-internet of course, I had to wait a few years before getting my hands on a novel by either of these fellows.  But when I did...I was amazed.

So again, thanks Savage Steve Holland.  I would be willing to be this is the first time, perhaps ever, that his name has been mentioned three times in a blog.  Perhaps he is like BeetleJuice or Candyman, and now that I've said his name he will appear and make a sequel to One Crazy Summer.

Anyway, I hadn't picked up a Thompson book in a while, and with the film version coming out, I was tempted to reread The Killer Inside Me, but instead, opted for the story that started it all, The Grifters.  I hadn't read it in a decade, nor seen the movie, but what do you know, I still cannot picture anyone other that John Cusack in the role.  And the book, still just as good. 

I saw online somewhere that there was some study, buy some people, who theorized that we most fondly remember the things we discover for ourselves at the age of Twelve.  I'm going to put The Grifters on my Netflix Queue, and I don't expect to argue with that point once I'm done.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 30 - Good News for Chew

Congrats to the team of John Layman and Rob Guillory, as their book Chew has been awarded the Eisner for Best New Series.  Rumor has it the book has also been optioned for a TV series.  I reviewed the first collection,Taster's Choice, back in February, and the second collection, International Flavor, arrived in my mailbox a few weeks ago.  Expect a review next week.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Short Con Week 30 - The Problem with Crime

This is it.  I give up on finding short crime fiction on the internet.  After two weeks of coasting along using the cool as hell BMW shorts, I got my hands dirty and dug through the MASSIVE PILE OF SHIT that is most of the stuff found on YouTube.  Seriously, I watched 2-6 minute videos for two hours straight, and only one didn't bore the piss out of me within 30 seconds.  How do you zone someone out that quickly?  Thanks to television, our brains are trained to take information in quick clips without thinking of a grocery list in between, but guess what, I couldn't stop thinking about everything else I could be doing instead of pointing and clicking and watching people who can't write, act, or point a camera properly.

Thankfully, at least this entertained me.  It sums up my feelings about the evening quite well.

Monday, July 26, 2010

45 Minutes Week 30 - White Collar

For the better part of three weeks, the majority of my energy has been going to the pre-press work on my upcoming Warrior27: The Collection.  Coupled along with my day job, it's meant a lot of sleepless nights and all too focused attention on tiny details.  Have you ever made sure 250 pages are all at 5" x 7.5", RGB color with the correct compression?  It's mundane as hell, and sadly, takes a ton of time.

Luckily, all the recent DVD releases of some great shows have been keeping me company, making the hours seem not so endless.  Just this past week I've knocked off Season 5 of The Closer and yesterday alone, I killed the entire Season One of White Collar.  While most of my contemporaries were outside, frolicking at the beach and drinking cheap beer, I was in my living room, fan blowing on my face, fingers glued to the keyboard, while my eyes watched the con games of grifter extraordinairre Neal Caffrey.

I'm always a fan of the con, so I expected to like White Collar.  I was surprised to love it.  All the pieces fit just right, and the show delievers, with solid acting and great stories for each episode.  But first, the players.

Tim Dekay is a fine actor, perhaps the best part of the excellent Carnivale, and he is completely believable as the straight-laced, but very smart FBI Agent Burke that manages to capture Caffrey, twice.  And Willie Garson was always entertaining on Sex and the City.  (Should I admit to watching every episode, but not the films, of that?)  Okay, I've always heard Garson was good on that show.  But on White Collar, he's very good, playing against type in the role that usually would go to some grizzled actor like Chris Christopherson.  He's the man that can get you anything, and the best friend of the series star, Matt Bomer.

Bomer is perfect as Caffrey.  He's unbelievably pretty, which for a con man, is a great quality to have.  Unlike most "faces," he's not a womanizer.  In fact, it was his love for his girlfriend that landed him in this predicament.  Three months away from the end of his sentence, she left him.  Unable to deal, he escaped and went looking for her.  Unfortunately, Burke catches up with him again.  In a twist that is probably far too common in the real world, the Agency offers Caffrey a job in exchange for his freedom.  Help catch other bad guys, and you will have some freedom on the outside world, mostly confined to two square miles thanks to his monitoring bracelet.

But he's got plans of his own. 

Besides the usual "case of the week," there are plenty of subplots, which I won't give away here, but they add plenty of extra motivation for our smooth criminal.  And I really didn't see the season finale coming.  It left the show in a great place for the start of Season Two, which luckily, just started.

I'm tempted to find time to watch it weekly, and not just catch the random episode during the summer.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 29 - Top 10 so far

Over at the always entertaining, and must read blog, The Rap Sheet,  J. Kingston Pierce has compiled his list of the Top 10 crime books that he's read so far this year.  It's a great list, with many titles on my to read list.  I'm going to post this over on his site as well, but I figured I'd throw them up here first.  I encourage everyone to check out this fantastic site, and hopefully, to post your own additions.

And while you are there, check out the Dagger Awards, his 5 picks for what best represents crime fiction, the forgotten books, as well as all manner of notes.

So here is my list, in no particular order.

1.  Gun Monkeys - Victor Gischler
2.  The Crime Writer - Gregg Hurwitz
3.  Little Girl Lost - Richard Aleas
4.  Heartsick - Chelsea Cain
5.  King Suckerman - George Pelecanos
6.  The Girl Who Played With Fire - Steig Larsson
7.  Redbreast - Jo Nesbo
8.  The Wheelman - Duane Swierczynski
9.  The Man Who Smiled - Henning Mankell
10.  Walking the Perfect Square - Reed Farrell Coleman

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 29 - Affleck-o-rama

I'm sure you chuckled just as much as I did when Ben Affleck decided he wanted to direct.  At the time, he was more well known for his tabloid fodder (JLo and Gigli) than his acting prowess.  He had started so strong, both writing and starring in Good Will Hunting, as well as good turns in buddy Kevin Smith's films Mallrats and Chasing Amy.  And once summer blockbuster Armageddon made truckloads of money, it seemed that Mr. Square Jaw could only go up.  Then came a whole lot of crap.  No other name to call it. 
Go, someone defend the triple feature of Gigli, Paycheck, and Jersey Girl.  As far as I was concerned, he was done for.

Then came Gone Baby Gone.  I wasn't expecting much.  I hadn't yet read the book, and he cast his little brother in the starring role.  There was no logic in this.  It was doomed.

Except I loved the film.  When I'm at a loss for something to watch, which isn't often, that's the movie that goes into the DVD player.  It's enjoyable everytime, with much of the credit going to Affleck for his casting choices.  Turns out little brother is a damn fine actor. 

So I started wondering, after a few more small, well received, roles, if this former Hollywood Leading Man would get behind the camera again?

Turns out he is, and it looks just as good.  Once again, he returns to the streets of Boston for The Town, a bank robbing caper that seems to have a bit of a love story mixed in.    But this time he throws himself onto the screen, perhaps because he was dying to work with another excellent cast of actors, including Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, and Chris Cooper.  Or maybe he just wanted to get close to Blake Lively. 

Either way, I'm happy he's doing another film.  Now I just have to make sure I read Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan, the book from which this film is based on.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Long Con Week 29 - It's A Bitter Little World

Charles Pappas’s book, It’s a Bitter Litter World, claims to have “the smartest, toughest, nastiest quotes from film noir.” After reading quite a bit of it, I’d have to agree.

This isn’t a book that should be read all at once, although I did just that.  But then I went back and read snippets when I could steal a minute or two.  Take the time to read each quote, think about them, and if you’ve happen to have seen the movie from which it’s taken, give yourself a few seconds to recollect the scene in particular. For me, that was the favorite part. Each quote was like a reminder card, sent from my DVD shelf.

“Hey! Remember me. You haven’t watched me in a while.”

And it was tough not to sit down and watch a handful of movies, but with each quote, a different list of movies would form. Should I watch Double Indemnity, or Kiss Me Deadly? Clay Pigeons or Best Laid Plans?

Clay Pigeons? Almost forgot about that little gem, starring Vince Vaughn and that Rapping Phoenix guy.

And that’s the strongest suit of this tiny piece of work. It’s easy to quote the classics, but Pappas gives a rather comprehensive collection, starting with 1941 and going all the way to 2005, when the book was published.

And it’s divided into smart sections:
Chapter One - The Dicks and the Desperate
Chapter Two - The Dames and the Mugs
Chapter Three - The Brutality and the Barbs
Chapter Four - The Money and the Grubbing
Chapter Five - The Life Lessons and the Death Wish

There are also handy dandy lists as well as a thorough Appendix in the back, everything a noir fan needs to plan a MONTH worth of viewing, perhaps for October.

Ace In the Hole (1951)
Lorriane Minosa: I’ve met a lot of hardboiled eggs in my time, but you - you’re twenty minutes.

You have to love it.  And the best part?  Bull Moose Music had a stack of these for $3.97 each.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 30 - Top Ten Comic Book Villains...

...who are not Lex Luthor and human (mostly).  And yes, I realize as soon as I publish this list, I'll think of 49 others who belong, so please, feel free to comment and make me feel like an idiot for forgetting so and so.

10. The Mist
She might have not had the most lucrative criminal career, not would she have been invited into the Legion of Doom, but she sure as hell mind fucked one of my favorite comic book characters, Jack Knight, otherwise known as Starman.  This might be the only instance of male rape by a female in comic book history. Oh yeah, and then she had his son.

9. Norman Osborn
Yeah, I know, he has augmented strength thanks to his recreational use of his Goblin formula, but he's the scariest when he's in a suit and tie.  He might have been overplayed over the past few years, thanks to Marvel's Dark Reign, but I liked the idea of him being trusted by the public.  He's as close to Lex Luthor as the Marvel Universe is going to get.

8.  The Joker
Another character that gets overused, but when he's written well, he's a force to be reckon with.  I dare anyone to read Morrison's Arkham Asylum and not be freaked out by the Clown Prince of Crime.

7. The Smiler
He's a politician.  Who never, ever stops smiling.  Enough said.

6. Destro
The only reason Cobra constantly failed in their plans for world domination is they trusted leadership to Cobra Commander and Serpentor.  Had Destro felt the need to wrestle control away, they might have actually won.  But what makes Destro that awesome is he didn't feel the need to be in charge.  He could have walked away whenever he wanted to if not for that damned Baroness.

5. The Kingpin
He's a self made man, and I like that.  And he's resilient.  No matter what Daredevil threw at him, he found a way to come back.  And nobody wrote him better than Frank Miller.

4. Captain Cold
I barely noticed him until Geoff Johns took over writing duties on The Flash.  He went from a guy with a Mr. Freeze gimmick, to the leader of the second most badass group of rouges in the DCU, and unlike Batman's villains, these blokes are organized.  And when six to ten bad guys can all agree on you as their leader, you must be made of strong stuff.

3.  Two Face
Surprised myself with this one.  Almost everyone's favorite Batman villain is Joker, but when written by Greg Rucka, Two Face took on a level of tradgedy that was impossible to look away from.  He is capable from going from hero to villain with the flip of a coin, and it's that lack of trust that I find so disturbing.

2.  The Trust
Technically, this is a group of villains, but in the real world of 100 Bullets, they are one.  What makes them frightening is not how easily they can ruin anyone's life, but how anonymously they can do it.  The average man wouldn't even know who to blame.

1. Herr Starr
He's been shot at, sodomized, cut open, had his genitals munched on by a dog, and had his leg devoured by cannibals, yet he still keeps coming for Jesse Custer.  He is the ugly black heart and face of determination in Preacher.  And there is no other like him in all of literature.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Short Con Week 29 - More BMW Shorts

I had so much fun viewing these for last weeks post that I decided to post a few more.  Hope you don't mind.

World Peace depends on...The Driver!  Yes, it is that melodramatic when you have the fate of the world in your lap.

And who can go more over the top?  Gary Oldman or James Brown? 


Monday, July 19, 2010

45 Minutes Week 29 - Summer DVD Season

Thank goodness for midseason television premiers and quick turnaround on DVD.  Those of us who wait to watch most of our television shows on disc wait until the glut of August/September, when 2-3 shows are released per week*

But the USA and TNT networks have come to the rescue until the Fall.  Recently released shos include Leverage Season Two, White Collar Season One, and the show I'm finishing off tomorrow, Saving Grace: The Final Season.

I've always enjoyed Saving Grace.  Holly Hunter is an absolute force as Grace Hanadarko.  She's intense, tough, not afraid to take her clothes off, and act like a complete and unlikable idiot at time.  The two Emmy nominations (only two?) are well earned, as Grace is one of the most complex, fucked up cops to ever see the light of day on television.

As an executive producer, along with fifteen or so others, Hunter has been smart to surround herself with a group of talented actors, capable of stealing any episode away from her.  Kenny Johnson (Lem from The Shield!), Bailey Chase, and Gregory Cruz form the group of detectives she spends her days, and nights, with.  Add in Laura San Giacomo as her best friend since childhood, and this collection is what makes the show enjoyable for me.  They tease, they drink, and they play practical jokes (Popcorn!) that Ashton Kutcher only wishes he could pull off.  Most importantly, they have fun and laugh their asses off, something you don't usually get to see on cop shows.

Now, this show does have some Highway to Heaven type moments.  Grace has a "last chance" angel named Earl, who is gloriously played against type by Leon Rippy.  He looks more like a fan having a beer at the Oklahoma football game instead of a messenger from God.  He rarely lectures, just lets Grace do things her way, and provides a friendship that is unique to this show.  But sometimes the "feely good" overwhelms the epidodes.

And that's where the show is slipping for me this year.  It's had it preachy moments in past seasons, but as it gears up for the series finale, the religion is really kicking in.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but it's hitting me over the head a bit too much.  The "Hero Angel Cop" and "wing tattoos" might be jumping the shark. 

Also, with only two discs left, the show hasn't relly felt like it's building to a conclusion.  Maybe fewer episodes would have benefitted this season?  Previous seasons were 13 and 14 episodes each, so the 19 this year might have been stretched.

We'll see.  I've been enjoying it nonetheless, and look forward to the conclusion.  Back to disc 4.

*For example, the week of September 7th sees the release of Chuck, Criminal Minds, The Office, Smallville and Supernatural.  Don't expect to see the sunlight that week.

For those of you wondering, I just finished the series.  This is all I have to say.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 28 - The (Other) Films of Christopher Nolan

The one Nolan film I haven't seen, but soon to be remedied thanks to my $6.97 purchase at Bull Moose Music.  For an unheard of film, it's got a nice suppliment of special features including Director's commentary, shooting script, and the ability to view the film chronilogically.

And speaking of chronological, Nolan's second film is rumored to have an Easter Egg on the disc where you can do just that.  This is the movie that got Nolan really noticed, and it was earned.  This is a tremendous film that just blew my mind the first time I watched it.  Clever script, great direction, and performances from Guy Pierce, Carrie Ann Moss and Joey Pants that are amoung their best.

Otherwise known by me as the last Al Pacino performance that was worth a damn.  Bonus points for having a great creepy turn from Robin Williams, One Hour Photo creepy, not Patch Adams creepy.  This was adapted from Insomnia, directed by Erik Skjoldbjærg, and starred Stellan Skarsgård, and is an equally great film.

Batman Begins
Nolan brought the Batman franchise back from the dead and made fanboys such as myself weep with its awesomeness.  After Schumaker, it needed to be a bit more realistic and grounded, and Nolan delivered.  Also, great casting with Michael Caine.  People forget that Alfred is a man of considerable talents and can kick ass if needed.

The Prestige
Ever wanted to see Wolverine fight Batman with the help of David Bowie?  Look no further than this adaptation of Christopher Priest's excellent novel.  Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are dueling magicians, each intent on 1-uping the other regardless of the consequences.  A terrific study of dedication to one's art.
And David Bowie as Tesla.  Awesome.

The Dark Knight
The film that, despite what they will say, made the Academy change the amount of Best Picture Nominees.  Which is good, because it was robbed of many nominations.  While it was well deserved that Heath Ledger won for his mind-destroying turn as The Joker, Nolan and a few others should have at least gotten a nom.  More than anything, this film reminds me of Michael Mann's Heat, but with costumes. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 28 - Inception

Can't talk much.  Today is Inception day.

Do I know what it's about?  Not really.

Is it even a crime film?  Not sure.

Is it going to be amazing?  Look at that cast!

Has Christopher Nolan ever made a bad film? No.

So will this be the film that turns the summer around for me?  Most likely.

The first few trailers didn't give too much away.  Example

This trailer gives a bit more away, so view at your own risk.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Long Con Week 28 - Branded Woman

International jewelry smuggling may be a man's business, but beautiful Cay Morgan can hold her own with the best.  Until the day a shadowy rival known only as The Trader has her abducted and scarred for life as a warning to stay out of his way.

Now Cay's on her way to Mazatlan, where one of The Trader's men has been spotted.  There's a big deal going down - but she's not there to make a score.

Just to settle one.

Branded Woman has a few things going for it.  The location is quite exotic, full of characters and places I'll never get to meet.  It's a way of life I'm ignorant of, and am always interested in learning more about.

Does that sound like a bullshit answer?  It is.  Though I usually don't follow the advice of talking Disney bunny rabbits, this might be the time.  If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

Well, The Trader was cool.  For most of the book he's just a name spoken only in whispers and threats, a Keyser Soze for Cay.


Okay, I'm just going to let it fly.  I had a real problem with this book.  Revenge thrillers are usually rife with Toughs with vendetta's, and in 1952, when this book was written, having a woman as the vengeance seeker was probably a brave choice.  The set up is there for her to kick ass and take names.

It could be I've just read so many better, more current books, that I can't put it in historical perspective.  Today, I can read about Lisbeth Salander, or watch The Bride, who are interesting and STRONG characters.

She did not look like a woman planning murder; no one seeing her now would suppose that she could hate so long and so hard.  She suppossed that she could love the same way if she were given a worthy opportunity.  Always her idol had been money, but she loved herself even more.  She had lived through many a reckless enterprise but she had seldom surrendered jurisdiction over her own sleek body.  Promises were cheap; she was not.

This character I could get behind.  However, in a mere 150 pages, when just about every man she encounters either falls in love with her or dies (but not by her hand), we get this...

"Thats what I want," she whispered passionately.  "An end to wandering.  Not that it would be wandering if it was with you.  Home is where the husband is."  She nuzzled her face into the hollow of his shoulder.  "Oh to be able to do this always."

And the guy she is saying that to?  She just met him a few pages ago where he, wait for it, rescued her.  Cay is rescued at least every ten pages by a man, because she is either to weak or soft or just plain stupid to get herself out of the situations she throws herself into.  She is a terrible character whose death I was hoping for before I hit the halfway mark.  She seems more interested in love than revenge, which would have been okay, if the "love" was handled with a bit more believability.  The book takes turns into Harlequin Romance territory far too often for my tastes. 

I want revenge.  That means blood.  Not cuddling.

This was the first Hard Case Crime book to completely disappoint me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Comics Wednesday Week 28 - Lex Luthor Is the Man

It’s often said that you can judge a hero based on his villain. Would Sherlock Holmes be as engaging without Moriarty? Omar without his Avon Barksdale? Batman without his Joker? Okay, maybe Batman is a bad example. Along with Spider-man, he’s got an absolutely amazing collection of villains, regardless of who his nemesis is. Put him up against, Two-Face, Riddler, Black Mask, it doesn’t matter. They all have quality stories.

One superhero, though, does not. He can leap tall buildings in a single bound, and see through walls as long as they are not coated with lead-based paint. Of course, I am talking about Superman. Despite being the most recognizable icon on the planet, I’ve never been the biggest fan of the big, blue, boyscout, and it’s mostly because not a soul on the planet can go toe-to-toe with him. He can knock planets of their orbits. Punch Gods, and Muhammed Ali. He can, debatably outrun the flash and charm your Mom. There isn’t anyone in the DCU who doesn’t look up to him, or fear him.

Except one man. And that man is the only reason I read Superman. He is Lex Luthor. Smarter than Batman, more cunning than the Joker, and often times, more popular than Superman. (He was elected President of the United States you know.) I love Luthor, and it doesn’t matter what medium. Michael Rosenbaum’s portrayal of him was often the only interesting thing about Smallville. Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey gave equally impressive turns as the wannabe land baron. And I cannot hear Clancy Brown talk without picturing his animated avatar.

He’s also gone through some significant changes in the comics as well. From the earliest appearances where he was a mad scientist, to John Byrne’s red-haired reboot, to the more recent businessman with political aspirations, he’s always been facinating.

He is the best reason to read any Superman book, and they suffer when he is not present.

Recent DC comics exclusive writer Paul Cornell has done something about that, with a little help from J. Michael Straczynski’s desire to have Superman all to himself. With issue 890 of Action Comics, he has made it all about Luthor, and hopefully that trend will continue for a few years to come.

Because it was awesome.

I’m not sure how well it will read for those not currently engrossed in current DC events. Shorthand, besides Green Lantern’s power ring, there are six others, each based on a color of the spectrum. During the Blackest Night, Luthor was granted use of the Orange Ring, which was powered by Avarice, something Lex is all too familiar with. But at the end of the event, the ring was taken away from him.

Luthor doesn’t like it when people take things away from him. Starting with this issue, he’s on a quest to get his hands on another power ring, and he doesn’t care who he will have to kill to get one. I cannot wait for the next issue.

Those of you not wishing to get the monthly issue, the trade is probably at least six months away. In the meantime, read these stories to get your fill of Lex-goodness.

All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo

Superman: Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Short Con Week 28 - BMW The Driver

Sure, theses short films are almost ten years old, but I'd almost completely forgotten about them until I started this short film search.  The talent involved in making what was mostly promotional pieces for BMW cars in undeniable.  They must have worked, because according to Wikipedia, BMW sales went up 12% from the previous year.  Here is a list of the films in order.

Season One
1. Ambush, directed by John Frankenheimer (Ronin, The Manchurian Candidate)
2. Chosen, directed by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
3. The Follow, directed by Wong Kar-Wai (Chungking Express, 2046)
4. Star, directed by Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, Snatch)
5. Powder Keg, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel)

Season Two
1.  Beat the Devil, directed by Tony Scott (True Romance, Man on Fire)
2. Hostage, directed by John Woo (Hard Boiled, The Killer)
3. Ticker, directed by Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smoking Aces)

If you've never seen any of them, you need to.  They were once released on DVD, although I never got one, but with most everything, they can be viewed on YouTube.  Here is the first episode, written by Andrew Kevin Walker (Seven) and starring, as he did in all of them, Clive Owen.

Monday, July 12, 2010

45 Minutes Week 28 - Covert Affairs

Could this be the show that fills the spy/adventure hole that has been empty since Alias ended?  It's got a solid team behind it (including Doug Liman) and a star as unlikely as Jennifer Garner once was.

New jobs are tough -- especially when your new employer is the CIA. Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) is fluent in six languages, has traveled the world and is besting her fellow CIA trainees in every test. But that doesn't explain why she's suddenly summoned by CIA headquarters to report for active duty as a field operative one month before her training is over. She doesn't know there may be something -- or someone -- from her past that her CIA bosses are really after.

Check out their website, , for an exhaustive amount of material.

Starts tomorrow, July 13 at 10pm Eastern. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 27 - TV Extra

Two more new shows to check out.  The Bridge completely flew under the radar, and it's nice to see another Battlestar Galactica alum in a new show.  And the Glades offers a rather unique setting.  Could be interesting.

The Bridge - tonight @ 8 CBSTHE BRIDGE is a drama about a tough and dedicated police officer who is voted to become the police union's dynamic leader. To serve the public as well as his 8,000 fellow officers, charismatic Frank Leo (Aaron Douglas) battles criminals on the street, corruption in the ranks and his own bosses. In his new position, Leo takes on the politically motivated department brass...and makes many powerful enemies in the process.

The Glades - tomorrow @ 10 A&E

A&E's dramatic series THE GLADES™ follows Jim Longworth, an attractive, brilliant, yet hard to get along with homicide detective from Chicago who gets shot by his captain after being wrongfully accused of sleeping with his wife. After being exiled from the department, Longworth relocates to the sleepy, middle of nowhere town of Palm Glade, Florida, where the sunshine and golf are plentiful and crime is seemingly at a minimum. Only this town outside the Florida Everglades isn’t quite as idyllic as he thought, as he finds people keep turning up murdered. Each case pulls Longworth off the golf course and reluctantly into his element as one of the sharpest homicide detectives to wear a badge.

Between practicing his short game, trying to get a date with Callie - a quick-witted, beautiful medical student with a 12 year-old son and a husband in prison - and trying to solve countless homicide cases, Longworth’s transition to his new surroundings is a bit more difficult than expected. He’s realizing the skies in this new town are always sunny...with a chance of homicide.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 27 - Dragon Tattoo Yet Again

I've reviewed one of the novels of the series, the film, so I might as well review the DVD as well.

And I'm disappointed. 

Not in the film itself.  The second viewing was just as enjoyable, if not more so.  Noomi Rapace continues to mesmerize in the role.  The subtleties of Michael Nyqvist performance shine through even more brightly.  Usually the second viewing of a good mystery rewards, and this film was no exception.

So why bother writing about it? 

Because the DVD sucks. 

I didn't expect much, as it's not labelled as a Special, or Ultimate, or even the now meaningless Unrated Edition.  But the special features are about as lackluster as they come, and remind me of the barebones discs that Warner Brothers first shoved out into the market place when DVD's were an oddity, and not the norm.

English language dub track?  It's a foreign film, so that's often standard, especially on movies that were very well reviewed.  I only listen to the dub track if I'm doing something else while watching the film, and often never hear them, but for review purposes I gave this one a listen.  The track was fine.   It's still strange to see the sound not match the mouth movements, but it's no Kung Fu Theater.

Interview with Noomi Rapace?  Okay, this was good.  She speaks fluent English, and surprisingly, doesn't look nearly as intense as her character.  Quite bubbly actually.  She's got some interesting things to say, (big fan of La Femme Nikita and True Romance!) but because it's mostly a fluff piece, it's not terribly revealing or in-depth.  Why couldn't this have been added alongside interviews with other actors?

Vanger Family Tree?  It's just a family tree on the screen.  I could do that by watching the film and having a pen, piece of paper, and tape handy.  That's not a Special Feature!

And lastly, a theatrical trailer for this film and The Girl Who Played With Fire.  Forgive me for cancelling the parade, but even home movies have a trailer nowadays.  But at least there was a trailer for an interesting looking spy film, 0SS 117 Lost in Rio, which had Nazis wearing Luchadore masks, and Mesrine, which I am dying to see, despite how creepy I find Vincent Cassell.

Where is the commentary track?  Niels Arden Oplev must have felt some trepidation adapting this film from the blockbuster novel.  Why didn't he direct the second film?  What about the producers, or the actors, or the cinematographer, or the writers.  You get my point.  Everyone wants to talk about this film, except on the disc.  No shorts, or documentaries.  Nothing.

There very least they could have done was a piece on the author, Steig Larsson.

This was a film that deserved more.  Perhaps there will be a double dip when the trilogy is complete, or the American version hits the screen.  By then I will have purchased all the films, so the odds are good. 

Or perhaps James Cameron will put it in 3D and add and extra 8 minutes.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Long Con Week 27 - Plunder of the Sun

There was a button in the wall near the head of the bed.  I stretched for it with my good hand, knowing how a surgeon feels when he reaches for the knife.  Only there wasn't any anesthetic for the job I intended to do.

A few things always remind me of summer.

1. The music of Van Halen.  Not entirely sure why, but perhaps because it was the favorite band of my friend Pete, and we spent lots of summers together.
2. Creamsicles.  Do you really need a reason.
3. Baseball.  It's what I did every day of every summer until I was 16.
4.  Treasure hunting.

I'm sure that last entry sticks out a little from the rest.  Most of those others, you can attribute to any boy growing up.  But treasure hunting?

Let me clear something up.  I've never really hunted treasure.  The closest I've ever come was when my grandparents brought back a jar of dirt from Alaska that had itty bitty flakes of what could have been gold inside.  But I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to be a treasure hunter. 

Just hand me a whip and fedora, and I'll hum you the theme song from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

But I could never be a treasure hunter, and books like David Dodge's Plunder of the Sun is the reason why.  I'm simply not that much of a double crosser.

Al Colby should never had agreed to smuggle the package from Chile to Peru.  Now one man's dead, two beautiful women have betrayed him, and a couple of gunman are hot on his trail.  All because of an ancient Quechua manuscript pointing to the hiding place of a priceless hoard of gold, lost for centuries.

So the race is on - by train, by plane, by motorboat and by mule - first to find the treasure and then to escape with it alive...

A perfect read on a hot summers day, sitting by the pool wishing you were in some impoverished South American country, hip deep in dirt.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New Comic Wednesday Week 27 - Area 10

Is it just me, or is the Vertigo Crime imprint getting better with each release? 

A killer known as "Henry the Eigth" leaves a trail of decapitated corpses.  There are no apparent clues, except that he keeps the severed heads to use for purposes unknown.

For NYPD Detective Adam Kamen, reeling from a personal tragedy and bitter divorce, cracking the "Henry" case offers a chance to get his life back on track - until a freak incident leaves him with a bizarre injury to the brain.

When he recovers, Adam's perceptions of time are altered.  He soon becomes convinced that his condition is tied to the "Henry" killings  and that the key may lie in the ancient art of "trepanation," the macabre, ritual practice of drilling holes in the skull to achieve enlightenment.  Adam must learn to use his strange symptons to his advantage, in order to stop Henry before he drills again.

This book was the perfect combination of an 70's thriller and an episode of the X-files, and all credit, storywise that is, goes to Law & Order :Special Victims Unit alum Christos Gage.  He characters are compelling and believable, as he gives them solid motivation behind action and inaction alike.  They also have secrets, something I'm always fond of.  The twists and turns are logical, yet still slightly surprising.  I completely guessed the few twists at the end, but I'll say thats because I have read too many damn books, and not because it was telegraphed.  

It was also an excellent lesson in trepanation, something I was familiar with, but hoping most people are not.  It's frightening, barbaric, yet seems ever so possible.  It's a great device to build a cult around.  Something to think about. 

And not enough can be said about Chris Samnee's art.  He's been kicking around the industry for a few years, gaining a solid reputation as an excellent artist.  It should come as no surprise to those familiar with his work that his character design is perfect.  Each character has their own look, and looks the part they are meant to play.  Not once did anyone look "miscast."  He was also able to properly convey the "visions" that Adam was experiencing in a very disorienting way.  It's no understatement to say that his dark and moody art was perfect for this book.

Area 10, from writer Christos Gage and artist Chris Samnee, might be my favorite so far.  I cannot recommend it enough. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Short Con Week 27 - Angel of Death

Angel of Death

Written by master comic book writer Ed Brubaker (Sleeper, Captain America, Criminal)
Starring super stunt woman Zoe Bell.

Here is the first taste.  I highly suggest you search out the DVD and purchase it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

45 Minutes Week 27 - Rizzoli & Isles

Tonight, after the Season 6 premiere of The Closer, starring Kyra Sedwick's molars, there is another new cop show.  For the record, I believe this to be the 867th new cop show this year, which either shows an immense amount of creativity being spent in a genre I love, or it is the death knell.  There is only so much viewing audience such as myself, and honestly, I'm not even going to try to watch half the shows that are being advertised.  Rookie Blue?  Maybe if you make it to a second season.

But I'll be watching The Closer at work tonight, so I might as well spend the next hour watching their newest addition to the genre, Rizzoli & Isles.

From TNT's Website
RIZZOLI & ISLES follows Boston detective Jane Rizzoli (Harmon) and medical examiner Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander), complete opposites and good friends who solve crimes and bust some of Boston’s most notorious criminals. Growing up at opposite ends of the economic spectrum, the two remain strikingly different from one another in many ways. Jane, the only female detective in Boston’s homicide division, is a tough and gutsy cop who doesn’t let her guard down (except with Maura), dodges her overprotective mother and is better at basketball than her brother. Maura, meanwhile, is usually more comfortable among the dead than the living. She is always impeccably dressed in designer duds with a steady, sometimes icy temperament. And she is working on curbing her tendency to diagnose the people she meets – including her first dates. Jane and Maura often find themselves working together as both use their brilliant minds and expertise to figure out the “who done it” as well as the “how done it” of Boston’s most complex cases.

Despite their many differences, Jane and Maura are best friends, with a quirky and supportive relationship. As Tamaro explains, “That Jane and Maura are so different and yet so effective as a team makes them unusual.… There’s something rare about their relationship that I see in the world but not enough on television: two smart, strong, competent women who instinctively drop the protective shield when they’re with each other.”

RIZZOLI & ISLES also stars Lorraine Bracco (The Sopranos) as Angela, Jane’s demanding and intrusive mother; Lee Thompson Young (FlashForward) as Det. Barry Frost, Jane’s somewhat green partner; Bruce McGill (Law Abiding Citizen) as Det. Vince Korsak, Jane’s seasoned former partner; and Jordan Bridges (Dawson’s Creek) as Jane’s brother, Frankie, a patrol cop who hopes one day to become a detective.

Also of note, these characters were created by Tess Gerritsen, in her series of novels.

It looks promising, and I'm happy it's got two female leads, something that's almost never seen in anything besides  situation comedies.  Has there been a female cop/buddy show (yes, I realize one of them is an M.E.) since the glory days of Cagney & Lacey

Rizzoli & Isles premiers tonight on TNT at 10pm Eastern

Saturday, July 3, 2010

To the Mattresses Week 26 - 2nd Quarter Awards

Has it really been six months?  Time again for the Quarterly awards.


A tough call, as The Girl Who Played With Fire was an amazing book, but I expected it to be.  I'll give extra points whenever something surprises me with how good it is.  For that reason alone, the winner is...

The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz


Another tough call, as Tom Hardy's performance in Bronson was enough to win this category, if not for one film.  While Hardy was great, he simply could not top John Hurt as Old Man Peanut in...

44 Inch Chest


Not much of what I've seen really killed me this quarter, but it was great to see Jason Lee back on television, even if it wasn't on My Name Is Earl.  He's just got that likeable charm, even without the fabulous mustache, and while the show does have a bit of work, it's this quarters winner...

Memphis Beat Premiere


Lots of good choices, but this has long been a favorite of mine.  It's simple, but amazing.  Love that cigarette smoke.

The Limey


The easiest choice of all, and if another trade comes out during the year, look for it to repeat.

Scalped Vol 6 The Gnawing

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Night at the Movies Week 26 - Summer musings

Feeling a little bummed out today because Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing is playing downtown, for free, and I’m going to be stuck working an overnight. I’m going to console myself with the Criterion edition of Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law, so don’t weep to hard for me. But there is something to be said about watching an old black and white masterpiece outside, and it makes me realize that we are missing two things.

First: Drive-In’s.

I went to a few as a kid. And while there was not stadium seating (that would be the back seat) or Dolby Digital Sound (that would be the side speaker box), or even edible popcorn, it was always a fantastic event. There is still at least one drive-in theater in Maine, Skowhegan Drive in Theater, but I haven’t made it down in years. The last films I saw at that locale was a double feature of Small Soldiers and Saving Private Ryan. Guess they were planning on the children falling asleep, because I’m pretty sure the Normandy landing would have put a few grizzly images in their young heads.

(Just looked it up, and there are actually FIVE in Maine!)

And while River City Cinema’s outdoor showings of heist films is going to scratch a certain itch, I still feel like something else is missing.

Second: Summer Blockbuster Crime Films

Why are crime films not more popular during the summer months? This summer certainly sees a few of them hitting the big screen, but their box office will always be dwarfed by some special effects juggernaut, a romantic comedy, and the latest children’s film. And while I can stomach Toy Story 3 outgrossing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, it pains me to know that The Last Airbender will likely make more money it’s opening day than THWTDT made it’s entire run.

We’ve heard the quality argument before. People go to the movies to be Wowed!, not to necessarily think, and crime films rarely get the adrenaline pumping the way 500 3D blue people attacking helicopters do. But I defy anyone to watch Heat, and not catch themselves holding their breath during the heist scenes.

What will it take to bring crime films to the overwhelming summer masses?

It can’t be star power. Michael Mann, he of the previously mentioned Heat, threw Captain Jack Sparrow and Batman into a gangster flick (Public Enemies), yet it hardly did gangbusters ($97 Million). It was respectable, but opened behind Transformers 2 and Ice Age, and therefore, got thumped. Ridley Scott put Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in American Gangster ($130 Million), but decided to open it during the Oscar bait season of late fall instead of testing the summer waters.

The only crime film to ever make ridiculous amounts of money was The Dark Knight, and I’d be willing to bet most movie watchers would catagorize it as a comic book movie despite it’s many similarities to Heat.

And I hate to be a box office watcher in this instance. Big grosses obviously does not equate to quality films, but in today’s market, a movie needs to make tons of money to be considered a success. Public Enemies made a respectable sum of money, but it’s budget was $100 Million. Studio executives aren’t going to be so quick to hand out cash money if they don’t see a solid return on their investment.

Which got me thinking again, what are the highest grossing crime films? Thanks to, that’s an easy question to answer. Keep in mind, this is their categorization of crime flicks, not mine.

1. The Departed $132 Million
2. American Gangster $130 Million
3. Pulp Fiction $ 107 Million
4. Collateral $ 101 Million
5. Public Enemies $ 97 Million
6. Mystic River $90 Million
7. Payback $ 81 Million
8. Gangs of NY $ 77 Million
9. Heat $67 Million
10. Godfather III $66 Million

Now that’s a great list of films, but to put it into a very sad perspective, Eclipse, the newest addition to the Twilight series, put about $70 Million into the registers on Wednesday alone. I realize tweeners are as likely to flock to the movies to see a bank heist as they are to wear Team Dillinger and Team Hoover shirts, but I’d like to see at least one crime film become a cultural phenomenon and make some serious money.

I going to make those shirts by the way. I call dibs.

So what will it take? Is someone, and I’m looking at you Tarantino and Scorcese, going to have to put DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Denzel, Russell Crowe, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt into a movie with Angelina Jolie and Sandra Bullock and have them all rob explosive banks in between high speed transforming car chases while Batman and Wolverine attempt to bring them to justice?

Because I would watch that tonight.  Instead, I'll be watching this.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Long Con Week 26 - 361

I’ve had some bad weeks. Days where it felt as if the world was raining asparagus-scented piss down on my uncovered head. Nothing was going right, nor would it ever. Absolute dress-yourself-all-in-black-because-you-will-never-be-loved-nor-understood-emo misery.

After reading Donald Westlake’s 361, I realize I, and the rest of your sad miserable lot, need to permanently shut the fuck up and wear our big boy pants. Not one of us has ever had a month worse than Ray Kelly.

How’s that you say?! Howabout you’ve been in Germany for a few years, enduring the military way of life. You get back, see your father for a few days, and while you’re driving home someone pulls up beside you and shoots him in the face, killing him instantly. And oh yeah, he was driving the car. So of course it crashes. That crash leaves you with two broken ankles and one less eye. Your brother comes to see you, and within a few days his wife is killed in a hit and run “accident.”

Could it get worse?

Let’s see. You and your brother decide to enact revenge. There was one clue, a name your father said before the bullet tore through his skull. During some research you discover your boring ass Dad was actually a mob lawyer during Prohibition. He left New York City under threat of death, which would explain why he was so nervous when he picked you up off the bus in...New York City. So there is a good opportunity for some survivor’s guilt right there.

But wait, there’s more.

He wasn’t really your Dad. Nope. Turns out your Mother, who is long dead by the way, was a bit of a trollop. And the man you have believed responsible, who you were planning to kill, and just got out of prison after a 25 year stay, is your dear old Dad. And he wants your help in taking over the criminal underworld. Which doesn’t sound like a great idea until...your brother is murdered.

What the hell is left for you to do?

Shed some blood, that’s what. Buckets worth.

I once read a book of stories by a man named Fredric Brown. In one of them he quotes the tale of the peasant walking through the haunted wood, saying to himself I am a good man and have done no wrong. If devils can harm me, than there isn’t any justice, and a voice behind him says, There isn’t.