Posts Tagged ‘Movie Reviews’

Chicago Comic Expo Starring Me

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Well, maybe not starring…

But I will be appearing at C2E2 on this coming Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be doing one panel each day (details below) and a signing will follow each. I am told copies of the hardcover Killing Town will be available, almost two weeks ahead of the official on sale date.

The Comic & Entertainment Expo is a 3-day exhibition and conference of comic and pop culture with exhibits, talks and cosplay competitions.
Dates: Apr 6, 2018 – Apr 8, 2018
Location: McCormick Place – South Building, Chicago, IL

Here are the panels:

Horror in Fiction and Non-Fiction
April 07, 2018, 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Room S403
Whether it’s a haunting, a monster, or a mobster, horror is just one of those genres that crosses borders, from fiction to non-fiction. What does it take to make a story “horrific,” and why do we love it so much? Join authors Max Allan Collins (Scarface and the Untouchable), and James S. Murray (Awakened) as they discuss their love of things that go bump in the night and real-life scary stories.

Windy City Crime: Stories About The Chicago Gangland
April 08, 2018, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Room S405a
The Chicago gangland of the 1920’s and 30’s remains legendary to this day, romanticized in films, tv shows, and popular songs. The true original gangsters are larger than life figures, icons of both history and popular culture. Join Max Allan Collins (Scarface and the Untouchable), David Carlson and Landis Blair (The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry) for a discussion of one of some of Chicago’s most notorious gangsters.

There will be a later Chicago signing, for Scarface and the Untouchable, with both (A.) Brad Schwartz and (The) Max Allan Collins Sunday August 19 2 PM at Centuries and Sleuths. Okay, Mike Doran?

* * *

This will be a somewhat short update because I am up to my eyeballs (see photo) with the galley proofs of Scarface and the Untouchable. All 700-some pages of it. I have never had to spend this much time on a read-through, tweak-session before.

But because you are loyal enough (or bored enough or foolish enough) to read these updates every week, I will speak about some TV shows and a movie that Barb and I liked – no negative, walk-out stuff today.

The Death of Stalin is a very funny, very dark sort of satire with an amazing cast including Steve Buscemi (as Nikita Khrushchev!) and Jeffrey Tambor (thankfully not recast and digitally replaced or something). Everybody else is a top-flight British actor, and one of the delights is that nobody does a Russian accent – it’s all very unabashed bloody British, which makes it both funnier and, oddly, more real.

Though its history is compressed, the film is fairly faithful to the events, which had they been portrayed without an overtly Monty Python-esque quality (Michael Palin has a key role, wonderful) and even a Mel Brooks-ian feel, might have been too harrowing and grim to be tolerated.

The Death of Stalin is proof that worthwhile movies are still out there; but TV seems a more reliable place to find something, well, good.

Barb and I recently binged on the first two seasons of Stranger Things – what an excellent series. Millie Bobbie Brown’s amazing performance as Eleven, a psychic child who breaks free from the lab of her CIA-type captors, is one of those immediately iconic performances/characters that rank with Mr. Spock and the Mulder/Scully combo. This is in a cast that includes many standouts, notably Winona Ryder and David Harbour, as well as the quartet of friends into Dungeon and Dragons and video games, circa 1983-1984: Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Noah Schnapp. The Duffer Brothers are the creators and main writers as well as occasional directors. Shawn Levy also directs episodes, and very well.

There’s a lot of talk about the ‘80s references in Stranger Things, almost too much. I have an affection for those years, despite (not because of) Ronald Reagan, and mostly for New Wave music. But I don’t have a nostalgia for the ‘80s because I hadn’t been growing up then, as I had been in the ‘50s, ‘60s and early ‘70s. To me John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg and Stephen King are just contemporary talents, not touchstones of my youth.

The good news is that Stranger Things is not just a wallow in references. The most overt reference is an interesting one – Stephen King’s It. Why? Because the Duffer Brothers (think the Coens if they had been Monster Kids) went after the job of scripting the 2017 It film and got turned down. Stranger Things (which co-stars one of It’s young players, Finn Wolfhard) is essentially their variation on the job they were denied.

It’s also decidedly better than It.

If you haven’t checked the series out, you should. Stranger Things is on our list with Fargo as top-tier current (or anytime) TV.

Also on the list is season five of Endeavour, the Morse prequel which has been good from the start but really shines in this latest go-round. It hasn’t aired on American PBS yet, but presumably it will. (We watched it on PAL DVD from the UK.) Each ninety-minute episode of this fine mystery series is better than most theatrical movies.

* * *

Finally an objective view of me – turns out I’m a legend! Check this out.

And here’s a short but sweet piece on Mickey.

M.A.C.

A Movie We Didn’t Walk Out On

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

The truth of it is, Barb and I rarely walk out of movies. But when we do, I usually post a rant about it here at the weekly update.

This week we saw Tomb Raider somewhat accidentally – I was trying to drag Barb along to see Pacific Rim: Uprising, having really liked the first movie, but we were there to see it in 3-D, as the Internet had assured us this screening would be.

It wasn’t.

So Barb and I went to Tomb Raider in 3-D instead.

We entered about a minute late, because of the Pacific Rim screw-up. This is rare, as I hate not seeing a movie from the very beginning. But we had made a trip to Quad Cities to see a movie in 3-D and I will not be denied, at least not with such important matters.

Anyway, we had seen the preview of Tomb Raider, thought it looked like a passable Saturday or Sunday afternoon matinee. We were wrong. Surprise: it’s more than that. It is a very good, rip-roaring, occasionally amusing, sometimes exciting and even scary Indiana Jones-type adventure, a sort of haunted house of a movie wherein the ghosts are 1940s serials.

Is it a great movie? No. But it delivers on what it promises – imagine that! Yes, it’s a movie based on a video game, and those underpinnings are there, and typically silly. But if you take the ride, assuming such a ride sounds like fun to you, you will be pleased. This reboot is superior to the earlier Tomb Raider movies starring Angelina Jolie (the second of those being particularly dire). Alicia Vikander is intelligent and charismatic as Lara Croft, and the villain is played by the great Walton Goggins of Justified and Vice Principals. A number of fine British actors pop up here and there, too. Oh, and a tomb is raided.

By the way, among the many things that make going to movies in theaters less and less appealing is the general stupidity of the audiences. I refer not to what they seem to put up with (we were surrounded by people in Red Sparrow who seemed to like it, apparently sadomasochists) but actual sheep-like, lemming-like stupidity.

When Barb and I entered Tomb Raider a minute or two late, it was clear we were not in a 3-D screening. Since we were only here because the film we came for was not in 3-D, as advertised, that this one wasn’t in 3-D was…an irritant. Everyone had their 3-D glasses on. No 3-D was happening. No one seemed to notice or care, though everyone had paid extra for the 3-D experience.

We went out to the lobby, reported the lack of 3-D and the mistake was rectified. The movie was in 3-D now. But if Barb and I hadn’t gone out to the lobby, Tomb Raider would have played flat, much like the graph line of mental activity in the brains of the rest of the attendees.

This is not the first weird thing that has happened to me at the movies lately, not hardly.

On my birthday (my 70th, goddamnit and get off my lawn), Barb and I were visiting our son Nathan, his bride Abby and our hilarious genius grandson, Sam. Nate and I left the rest of the brood home and went to a movie, driving some distance to see Annihilation, a s-f film about which more later. I bought my popcorn and Coke Zero and we were soon seated in the theater. About two minutes into the film, someone came in.

This someone was stomping on the floor and laughing manically. Not an exaggeration – if the Joker had been there, he’d have said, “Who’s the lunatic?” The somewhat late arrival stomped slowly up the steps and took a seat in back, making this weird, loud sort of laugh as he went.

I immediately turned to Nate and said, “Let’s go.”

He understood and nodded. We exited quickly and quietly.

Here’s the thing. We were in St. Louis, a big city. For the first time in my life, during which I have seen hundreds, maybe thousands of movies in theaters, I have never thought I might be in danger. But my response now was instant: this person may be here to kill us.

I’m not going to go into a rant about gun control and mental health and school shootings and movie house mayhem. I am going to let you conjure all that yourself. But it says a lot that I did not hesitate to leave at once in the circumstances described above. Nate and I both wondered if we were overreacting. But neither of us wanted to sit through a movie with someone loudly making noise in the back row (which I figured was a good spot for a shooter, but never mind) even if our lives weren’t in potential danger.

We scouted for another movie on another screen and were spotted by someone with the theater, wondering what we were up to. We reported the incident (if that’s what it was) and, eventually, were given a refund. We drove quite a while to another theater where we indeed saw Annihilation, which is interesting but pretentious, and needlessly unpleasant…or was I not for some reason in the mood for a violent movie?

* * *

I have completed Girl Most Likely. I am setting it aside for much of the rest of the week, to dig into the Scarface and the Untouchable galley proofs…all 700 pages. When I’m done, I will return to Girl with some distance and will do the final read-through, tweaking, chasing down typos and fixing errors and inconsistencies. Should be shipping it in about a week.

Right now I feel very pleased. I think I’ve done something different enough to attract some new readers and not so different as to alienate the rest of you.

Meanwhile, Barb is doing very well on her draft of the new Antiques novel. Her steady development as a writer is impressive and a little scary.

* * *

Here is an absolutely splendid Cinema Retro review of The Last Stand, dealing both with the title story and “A Bullet for Satisfaction,” which I co-wrote.

The Mystery Site has posted a smart review of The First Quarry.

The Criminal Element has chosen The Last Stand as one of the five new books you should read.

And, finally, the indefatigable Jeff Pierce provides several links pertaining to Mickey Spillane and me.

M.A.C.

After Party

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

The Spillane birthday was truly a phenomenon. So much appeared on line and in newspapers and magazines that I am encouraged knowing the world remembers, and I believe will continue to remember, one of the greatest mystery writers of all time, and who is on the very short list of great private eye writers.

And the celebration will continue all year and into next. Right now we’re discussing a follow-up Mike Hammer radio-style play in Clearwater, Florida, next February or so, as the official closing event. Gary Sandy will likely be back as Hammer.

Killing Town will be out in April, and the Mike Hammer graphic novel from Titan will appear through the summer and fall, and probably be collected before year’s end.

* * *

I am working on Girl Most Likely, a new thriller with a mystery aspect. I hope to be almost finished with it by next update. Though it was conceived as a one-shot, it’s showing signs of wanting to become a series. In an odd way, it’s like a non-overtly-humorous version of the Barbara Allan books – the main characters are a retired police detective father (recently widowed) and his small-town chief-of-police daughter. The thriller aspect is represented by a scary and violent murderer, and the mystery involves the father-and-daughter duo finding out who that killer is, and stopping him or her.

To some degree this flows from my desire to do something American that recalls/invokes the Nordic crime thrillers best represented by The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in its various forms and such TV series as the assorted Wallander adaptations and the three versions of The Bridge. I like the social commentary aspect of those works and the way a character-driven, not overly hardboiled detective or detectives deal with really frightening, violent adversaries.

I did my Dragon Tattoo variation for Thomas & Mercer a few years ago – What Doesn’t Kill Her – developed with my frequent collaborator, Matt Clemens. This time I’m on my own, though I’ve leaned on Matt for some on-the-fly police procedure stuff and on Barb to keep me honest with the female protagonist (both the daughter and father have equal weight in the narrative, alternating chapters, occasionally interrupted by chapters from the killer’s POV).

I will share more as we draw closer to publication, which won’t be incredibly soon because it’s not finished yet.

Ahead for me are the galley proofs of Scarface and the Untouchable – the thing is massive. Very proud of this, and I have a hunch it’s going to make some noise. My co-author, A. Brad Schwartz, and I are exploring ways to promote the book, which I frankly don’t think will be hard – Capone and Ness are iconic figures in our popular culture. I feel we’ve done them justice and told their story in a new, compelling, ground-breakingly accurate way.

* * *

Barb and I left an area movie theater after about an hour of Red Sparrow.

Now, for a long time I didn’t write negative things about movies. When I started making movies, in my modest way, I got a crash course in how effing hard it is to do. Because of this, I resigned from my Mystery Scene role as film critic, and when I wrote a review column for the late, much-missed Asian Cult Cinema, I wrote almost exclusively about movies I liked.

But, as regular readers of this update know, I have weakened, battered by too many terrible films, until I’m beyond the ability to feel compassion for their makers. Red Sparrow is a good example of why – it is horrid. It makes me wonder if I was wrong to walk out of Atomic Blonde, because Sparrow is so similar and so very much worse.

I am not easily offended. When I am offended, it’s usually something a politician did, not a writer or filmmaker or stand-up comic. But stupidity offends me. Red Sparrow is incredibly stupid, its plot inane. Do I exaggerate? Consider. The female star of the Bolshoi Ballet (which you may be forgiven as thinking of as the Bullshit Ballet in regard to this film) suffers a broken leg that ends her brilliant career. So the KGB (or whatever they’re calling themselves now) recruit her to be a spy…and send her undercover.

World-famous ballet stars being ideal choices for undercover espionage.

Jennifer Lawrence is fine, and very beautiful, and that I would walk out of a film knowing that more of her nude scenes lie ahead speaks volumes in and of itself. For her training in spycraft, she goes to sex-and-sadism school and learns how to give blow jobs to men she doesn’t like (Lawrence’s character herself calls this “whore school”). Her trainer is Charlotte Rampling, apparently cast because she was in the famous sadomasochistic Night Porter decades ago, though what she brings to mind here is Natasha in Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Guess what the plot is about? There’s a mole in the KGB that Lawrence is supposed to expose! Yes, the same as Atomic Blonde. Someone who liked this film said on Facebook (when Terry Beatty wondered if Red Sparrow was worth seeing) that it reminded him of John le Carré. Yes, if you were to read Fifty Shades of Grey and say, “Wow – this is just like Lolita!”

* * *

Here’s a nice Spillane-oriented interview of me by Mike Barson at Crimespree.

I’m somewhat weirded out by reviews of my early work, but this one – of Bait Money and Blood Money in their Hard Case Crime iteration, Two for the Money – isn’t bad.

J. Kingston Pierce provides my chronology of the Mike Hammer novels, which shows where the Spillane/Collins collaborations fit.

Here’s a preview of the final issue of Quarry’s War.

And I am pleased to see Road to Perdition singled out as one of the ten most stylish movies of the century thus far. Most of the writer’s other choices are good ones, though he includes two movies by Darren Aronofsky, one of my least favorite directors, and his top choice, Blade Runner 2049, Barb and I walked out of. A bad movie that looks great is still a bad movie. The play is the thing says I.

M.A.C.

Mike Hammer Comics First Time Ever (sort of)

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

Titan and its Hard Case Crime line of noir comics has officially announced the Mike Hammer comic book – actually, a graphic novel that will first be serialized as a four-issue comic book series – and word about it is all over the Net.

We even made the Hollywood Reportersee for yourself.

One of the most exciting aspects of all this is having the great Robert McGinnis provide a cover for a comic book – isn’t that a first? As I kid I dreamed of having a book of mine appear with a McGinnis cover – now I’ve had five!

The other covers are great, too, and you can see some of them here.

A lot of the Net write-ups take the angle that this is the first time Mike Hammer has appeared in a comic book. Well…kind of. Hammer was originally conceived by Mickey Spillane as a comics character, first materializing as Mike Lancer in Green Hornet Comics #10, December 1942. Mickey probably wrote this right before going into the Army Air Corps. Mickey re-named Lancer as Mike Danger, with the same artist, Harry Sahle, and tried to market it after the war. The lack of success of the comics version led Mickey into doing a prose version of the character, re-named (do I have to tell you?), Mike Hammer. Hammer’s first appearance in print was in 1947’s I, the Jury.

Two of Mickey’s unsold Mike Danger comic book stories appeared in Crime Detector #3 and #4 in 1954. Mickey didn’t know about this till years later – somebody pulled them from a drawer and sold them…the unsigned artist maybe? Not Sahle, who did not draw the two stories that were published; but Mickey apparently put together an entire issue, so one or two other stories remain lost.

Hammer himself hit the comics in ‘53 – not funny books, but in newspapers as a daily and Sunday strip, written by Mickey and sometimes by Joe Gill and the strip’s terrific artist, Ed Robbins. It ran for about a year and was collected, and edited with an intro by me in a fifty-buck book from Hermes Press. But you can get it here (in digital form) for under $15.

Here’s where we get into technically murky waters in claims that my comic book series is a first for Mike Hammer. I have two issues of an Australian Mike Hammer comic book from the ‘50s doing reprints of strips. Not original material, however….

Remember Mike Danger? Well, some of you know that Mickey and I revived the original character for Big Entertainment. The differences between Danger and Hammer are slight, but the comic book stories we did from 1995 – 1997 were science-fiction-oriented. For most of the run, Danger was thrust up into a politically correct future. Toward the end we returned him to the 1950s for X-Files type s-f. The first cover was by Frank Miller, a longtime Spillane enthusiast, and my pal Terry Beatty worked on the book for the last year or so, inking several other artists. I would love to see these collected.

You can read about Mike Danger’s torturous history in even more detail here, at Kevin Burton Smith’s fine Thrilling Detective web site.

Does this take anything away from the upcoming Mike Hammer four-issue comic book series? Not at all. It’s just that he and Mickey Spillane – who once wrote comic books for Timely and other Golden Age outfits – are not strangers to the medium. And it will be a great, significant part of the Mike Hammer centenary celebration.

My graphic novel, “The Night I Died,” has a basis in an unproduced Spillane screenplay from the early ‘50s, although I have set it in the vague 1960s, around the time of the Darren McGavin TV version. The art by Marcelo Salaza and Marcio Freire has a lot of flair, and I am glad to be part of bringing Mike Hammer more officially to the world of comic books…back again for the first time ever!

* * *

Two quick notes on movies….

Do not come to our house with torches, but Barb and I did not like Black Panther. In fact, we walked out after about an hour. We are not racists (although most people who say they aren’t are), but found it dumb and convoluted and pandering, with a torturously slow set-up. Speaking of racist, I found the central notion of an African country developing advanced technology but hiding it from the world by pretending to be backward tribesman, well, racist as hell. Now ours is obviously a minority (you should pardon the expression) opinion. We are probably wrong. But we don’t sit through anything we don’t like anymore. We have better things to do, and to watch.

Speaking of which, Game Night with Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, both wonderful, is one of the best comedies of recent years. Reminiscent of Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, it’s a crime story and wild comedy about a group of couples going after a shared goal; along the way it pays surprising attention to character. Mostly, though, it’s just very funny. Kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemons of the great TV series Friday Night Lights are among the stars, and both are hilarious. One imagines every time “Cut” was shouted at the end of a Plemons take, everybody on set fell apart laughing. This had two directors, apparently collaborating (as opposed to one of them getting fired and replaced), one of whom is John Francis Daley who was the main geek on the great Freaks and Geeks TV series. Good for him!

M.A.C.