Posts Tagged ‘Movie Reviews’

The November Man

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
The November Man

You should probably see THE NOVEMBER MAN, the new Pierce Brosnan espionage thriller. I attach the “probably” because for all its merits, Brosnan’s return to Bond territory is less than great. It’s a movie easy to damn with faint praise – “pretty good,” “not bad” – but for anyone who’s a fan of the Bond films, this is required viewing.

It’s a typically convoluted spy thriller, with Bourne-ish element and even Le Carre aspects, with strong if not mind-blowing action scenes. But what it mostly has to offer is Brosnan thumbing his nose at the Bond producers who let him go prematurely. Brosnan was excellent in his four Bond films, and not at all to blame for the unfortunate excesses of DIE ANOTHER DAY, which proved to be his final outing.

Here he demonstrates both charisma and toughness, and a streak of brutality not seen in Bond since the Fleming books themselves. Thematically, the film has him as a legendary secret agent who retired ten years ago and now is getting yanked back into the game. He’s up against Luke Bracey’s younger agent – read: Daniel Craig (there’s an even more direct reference early on, when Brosnan’s shown photos of agents who were recent victims of a Russian assassin, and the final dead agent is identified glumly by Brosnan as “Craig”). Fleming’s famous “blunt instrument” description of a good secret agent is invoked, and the female lead, quite good, is “Bond Girl” Olga Kurylenko (QUANTUM OF SOLACE). We’re not meant to think that Brosnan’s character might really be Bond – as was the case with Sean Connery in THE ROCK – but these references add up to a sort of kiss-his-ass valentine to the Bond films. My favorite moment might be Brosnan yanking a guy off a motorcycle but not climbing on and riding off – just stepping over the thing on his shark-like way.

The budget doesn’t allow Bourne or Bond level stunts and set pieces, and the script is uneven. The usually first-rate Bill Smitrovich (Lt. Cramer in TV’s NERO WOLFE and a co-star of THE LAST LULLABY) is given some bad dialogue and responds by chewing the scenery like a starving billygoat. But it’s worth seeing for anyone with an affection for Brosnan as Bond.

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Here’s a nice article that gives Terry Beatty and me some credit for the re-birth of crime comics via MS. TREE.

Vanity Fair online, of all places, has this positive look at novelizations, with quotes from me and my pal Lee Goldberg.

Here’s a nice discussion of Mickey Spillane and Mike Hammer, with an emphasis on the radio version and mentions of my completions of unfinished work from Mickey’s files.

Finally, this link to an early ‘60s ALLEY OPP comic book includes a nice boost for my documentary, CAVEMAN: V.T. HAMLIN & ALLEY OOP.

The San Diego Comic-Con International site posted a photo of author Jonathan Maberry and me at the 2014 IAMTW tie-in panel.

M.A.C.

Davenport Events & Phantom Release

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

This has been such a busy writing year so far, Barb and I did not set up a signing tour. We figured between San Diego Con this summer and Bouchercon in Long Beach this fall, a good number of fans would have access to us. But this coming weekend, we are doing two events in our home area.

First, Barb, Matt Clemens and I will be signing on Saturday, August 9, at Books-a-Million in Davenport, Iowa, 4000 East 53rd Street, from 1 pm till 2:30 (approximately). We’ll be signing SUPREME JUSTICE, ANTIQUES CON and KING OF THE WEEDS. That particular BAM! has a deep shelf of Collins (and Barbara Allan) books going beyond the new releases. Barb, Matt and I have done very few of these joint signings.

Second, the very next day – Sunday, August 10 at 2 pm – I’ll be speaking and then signing at Barnes & Noble in Davenport, 320 W. Kimberly Road. Barnes and Noble has been doing a salute to comics and pop culture over the last few weeks, and my talk will touch on ROAD TO PERDITION going from book to film. Barb will be there. Not sure yet about Matt – it will depend on whether this B & B was able to get copies of SUPREME JUSTICE in (the chain has a policy against stocking Amazon-published titles).

Also, on Paula Sands Live (KWQC TV, Channel 6, 3 PM) this coming Wednesday, August 6, Barb and I will be appearing in support of these events. Some of you outside the Channel 6 viewing area may recall Paula Sands from MOMMY 2: MOMMY’S DAY, where she appeared as herself very good-naturedly kidding her own show. I realize this appearance only means something to our section of the Midwest, but Paula has the highest-rated local show in the region.

Though we’re not doing a tour by any means, Barb and I will also be appearing this coming September 14 at Centuries & Sleuths in Chicago (actually, Forest Park). We have cut way back on book signings, for lots of reasons, but C & S is one of our favorite bookstores. It’s devoted to history and mystery and couldn’t be a better fit for us. Owner/manager Augie Alesky is one great guy – fun, funny and knowledgeable…even if he doesn’t believe in author’s discounts. (More about this signing later).

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Phantom of the Paradise Blu-Ray

The terrific Shout! Factory has released a wonderful blu-ray of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, which regular readers of these updates may recall is one of my favorite movies. Here’s what I said about it here a few years ago:

How ironic that that steaming piece of cheese, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, is so popular, and the great rock ‘n’ roll PHANTOM remains a cult item. Paul Williams delivers a fantastic performance and a score equal to it, parodying various rock styles and prescient about several fads to come (a Kiss-style group pre-dates Kiss here). Jessica Harper is charismatic and sings hauntingly well, and William Finley is the perfect sad, crippled, demented Phantom. For a long time Brian De Palma was my favorite contemporary director. He’s had some bad stumbles over the years, but at his best he’s hard to beat. This is the only time, however, that he perfectly merged his comic and melodramatic impulses.

Some day I may write about PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE in more depth, as I think it’s a masterpiece and one of the best films of the ‘70s – certainly my favorite film of the ‘70s. The Shout! Factory release is superior to the foreign blu-rays previously snatched up by PHANTOM phans like me, with a great transfer and wonderful special features stretched out over the blu-ray and the DVD version that’s also included. A new Paul Williams interview is particularly good, making me realize that the film is so special in the careers of Williams and De Palma because the two collaborated on this (and only this) film. Williams is revealed as virtually co-director/writer, when you realize how thoroughly he controlled the songs and their presentation. There’s a minor but annoying glitch in the commentary, where Gerrit Graham and Jessica Harper recordings overlap, but Shout! Factory (rating the only “boo” related to this release) is just shrugging that off as minor, not offering replacement discs. Get it anyway.

If you think you don’t like Paul Williams because you consider “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainbow Connection” and so on to be easy-listening fluff, well…two things. First, you’re wrong – he’s always been a great songwriter; his Three Dog Night material alone proves that (“Out in the Country,” “Family of Man,” “Old-Fashioned Love Song”). Second, the genre-hopping/slicing songs in PHANTOM are his greatest, most sophisticated work, and many of them genuinely rock. If you have avoided this film because it’s a musical (I’m talking to you, Matt Clemens), it isn’t, not in the Broadway sense. All songs here are either performed for an audience (the “Paradise” theater of the title) or on the soundtrack.

Williams, having had post-PHANTOM substance problems, cleaned up in a major way and is having a nice third act in a unique career. He is on the very short list of celebrities I’d love to meet. There’s an interesting recent documentary about him (STILL ALIVE).

By the way, I once said here that I’ve never seen a movie more times than I have KISS ME DEADLY. It’s possible I’ve watched PHANTOM more often. Back in the day, Terry Beatty and I (often accompanied by Barb) saw PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE in various movie theaters every chance we got. I’m guessing a dozen times, easy. And I’ve owned it on Beta, VHS, laserdisc and three different blu-rays.

If you’ve never seen it, get real, get with it, and you are such a lucky bastard.

A few other quick movie notes: don’t miss LUCY, the best thing Luc Besson (admittedly a wildly uneven filmmaker) has ever done. It’s a cross between a Hong Kong action movie and 2001. Very few of the critics have been smart enough to get this one. Once again, the rule pertains: if you have exposition to deliver, hire Morgan Freeman.

Don’t go near SEX TAPE. I am a Jason Segel fan going back to FREAKS AND GEEKS, but every laugh in this wretchedly written film is in the trailer…and work better in the trailer.

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SUPREME JUSTICE continues to ride the Kindle bestseller charts, and has racked up (as of this writing) a dizzying 1938 reviews and an averaged four-star rating.

Here’s a very favorable SUPREME JUSTICE review from Bookgasm.

Here’s another from Bob’s on Books.

And one from Coastal Breeze News.

And this from Kingdom Books, though you have to dig a little.

For a change of pace, here’s a WRONG QUARRY review from the aptly named Point Blank.

The articles about non-superhero comic-book movies continue, with ROAD TO PERDITION scoring well.

Finally, here at my pal Lee Goldberg’s site is the full list of Scribe winners. We’re sending out the UK trophies today!

M.A.C.

Trimming the Weeds & a Reprehensible Ranger

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

I have completed KING OF THE WEEDS, the final novel created from the six substantial Mike Hammer manuscripts in Mickey Spillane’s files.

This does not mean my collaborations with Mickey are at an end – I hope to fashion three more novels from shorter but still significant manuscripts. There are also short Hammer fragments (five or six pages) that I will continue to flesh out into short stories with an eventual collection the goal. In addition, considerably more non-Hammer material awaits in Mickey’s files, including three unproduced screenplays that I hope to turn into novels. Plus, there are short but significant non-Hammer fragments ranging from a chapter to two or three chapters, sometimes with notes, that could possibly be converted into Hammers. In addition, several outlines for Hammer novels remain (like the one I used as the basis for the audio play ENCORE FOR MURDER).

Mickey wrote and published thirteen Mike Hammer novels. I think it would be very cool if I could add another six novels (to the six I’ve completed) plus a short story collection and double that list. On the other hand, I have reached my first and most important goal – to complete the manuscripts on which Mickey had done considerable work. In several cases – like COMPLEX 90 and the Morgan the Raider novel THE CONSUMMATA – the books had even been announced in the publishing trades. I think Mickey truly intended to go back and finish most of these.

As I’ve mentioned, I will be talking with the folks at Titan at San Diego Con about continuing Hammer. I will report when I get back.

Now, while I say I have “completed” KING OF THE WEEDS, I still have work left to do. I have finished the book in the sense that I have reached the end of it. I revise as I go, a minimum of three passes per chapter and often more, with Barb editing along the way – she seeks out inconsistencies, word repetition, missing words, and makes suggestions. I always enter her corrections and deal with any revisions growing out of her edit before I move on.

Today I start the process of reading and revising. I work with red pen on a hard copy, and Barb enters the corrections and revisions as we go. How long this process takes varies book to book – a Quarry novel may take a day or two, whereas a Heller could take a whole week. This Hammer novel, which has a very complicated plot, will take two days minimum. If I hit something that strikes me as problematic, all bets are off – I will go back to the machine and start re-writing any troubled section. This happens seldom, though.

This was a tough one. I think it turned out well, and my fears have lessened that the older Mike Hammer might not please new readers who know only the wild and woolly private eye of THE BIG BANG, KISS HER GOODBYE, LADY, GO DIE! and COMPLEX 90. But the final chapters are as wild a ride as you’ll find in any of those. And I think the older Mike Hammer, with his career winding down — KING OF THE WEEDS was conceived by Mickey as the last Mike Hammer novel, after all – is very interesting.

Next week, we will be going to the San Diego Comic Con. By “we” I mean Nate, Abby, Barb and me. We will post our schedule (including two panels Nate is on) here next week. Then we will probably post brief daily updates from the con.

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The Fourth of July weekend was a lot of fun with very beautiful weather. The Crusin’ gig at the Brew in Muscatine went extremely well, and lots of locals who hadn’t seen us in a while got to see the current strong line-up – earning us many great comments.

We also spent a good deal of time with my old high school buddy Ron Parker and his very cool wife Vickie, visiting from Florida where they retired after careers in the military. Ron is very smart and funny, but don’t tell him I said so. He is one of the last surviving members of our group of poker-playing pals who went through school together. How far back does this go? Well, we began playing poker together when MAVERICK was airing first-run episodes. Ron and I reminisced about Jon McRae, the basis for the John character in NO CURE FOR DEATH, and our late friend Jan McRoberts, whose mysterious death I fictionally explored in A SHROUD FOR AQUARIUS. Jim Hoffmann, who produced the MOMMY movies, was also part of that group, is also gone. Alive and well of the poker players are Mike Bloom, Nee Leau, John Leuck and David Gilfoyle – the latter the funniest of a very witty bunch of guys. Dave was nicknamed “Wheaty,” and you will meet him in my previously unpublished 1974 novel SHOOT THE MOON, if you buy the Perfect Crime collection EARLY CRIMES coming out late this summer.

The Lone Ranger

With Ron and Vickie, Barb and I went to THE LONE RANGER. I don’t like to write negative reviews, but I found the film reprehensible – misguided, misjudged, misbegotten. If we hadn’t have been with friends, we would have walked out. Disney is a company built on family entertainment, and THE LONE RANGER of radio and TV was the most wholesome of western heroes – he used silver bullets so that would not shoot his gun carelessly, and (like Superman) never killed. This LONE RANGER is an unpleasant western filled with stupid violence put together by a gifted director who wanted to pay tribute to ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and not the actual source material. The new film’s Lone Ranger is a clumsy goofus and Tonto a nasty lunatic. The tone is uneven to say the least – forced unfunny humor is interspersed with bloody violence. And it’s as slow and long as you’ve heard. Oddly, much of the 2013 LONE RANGER seems culled from the previous disastrous take on this material, the notorious 1981 flop THE LEGEND OF THE LONE RANGER, which did not make a star out of Klinton Spilsbury. Remember that one? The producer alienated every baby boomer on the planet by suing the ‘50s TV Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, to keep him from doing personal appearances in his mask. LEGEND is a hard film to see – my widescreen copy is from overseas – but it’s actually better than this new RANGER film (faint praise), which lifts from LEGEND such elements as making John Reid (think Clark Kent) a virtuous attorney, turning Butch Cavendish a madman, setting an action set piece on a moving train, mounting a Gatling gun massacre, and showing the Ranger and Tonto dynamiting a bunch of stuff (a bridge in the new picture, a dam in the other).

The 2013 movie actually ends with the Lone Ranger finally uttering his signature line, “Hiyo Silver, away,” and Tonto telling him never to say that again. The Ranger apologizes, of course. The final line of the movie is a reminder that “tonto” means “stupid” in Spanish. These filmmakers are embarrassed by the material they were hired to re-boot, and should be ashamed of themselves. When would Barb and I have walked out had we not been with Ron and Vickie? How about when Tonto, for a cruel gag, drags a barely conscious, wounded Lone Ranger through horse dung? Or maybe when the grand steed Silver drinks beer and belches. RULE NUMBER ONE IN ADAPTING FAMOUS MATERIAL: Do not have contempt for it.

M.A.C.

Quarry Pilot Casting News

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The producers of the HBO/Cinemax pilot QUARRY have added two more cast members to an already impressive roster:

Nikki Amuka-Bird of the top-notch British series LUTHER and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whose many credits include the wonderful SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD.

I got a fun e-mail from reader Lee Grant relating to the QUARRY pilot, and I’d like to share it with you:

My introduction to your work came back in the 1980s with The Baby Blue Rip Off and Kill Your Darlings. I graduated to the Nathan Heller novels and rediscovered comics again with Ms. Tree. The Nate Heller and disaster novels remain my favorites, though your treatment of Mike Hammer is right up there with the Mick. Now, if you could only do some Travis McGee or Nero Wolfe novels that would be the icing on the cake. Anyway, my wife and I are at home in Bartlett, TN last night when we receive a call from a woman who is doing advance location work for a movie to be set in an old house in Mississippi. She is interested in using my wife’s old family farm house in it – one that looks like it may have been used by Machine Gun Kelly (BTW) who did spend some time in this area. I don’t think much of the conversation other than it is interesting. I ask what the film is and my wife, Jayme, says the advance scout didn’t remember the title but that it was a mystery. So, Jayme goes to visit the scout today at the house in Independence, Mississppi and when she comes out she literally stuns me saying it is for a film based on a mystery by Max Allan Collins. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She tells me, “Yeah, it is about some hit man. I think his name is Quarry.” As my teenage daughter would say, “OMG.” I don’t say that myself, I would be more like Nate Heller, but I try to avoid that can of language in emails. The sad news is that the farm house, though no one has lived in it for 25 years, may be too nice to use according to the scout. So it probably won’t be in the film, but to think that it was considered for a Max Allan Collins’ film made my day. Anyway, good luck with the film. If you ever visit the set and need someone to show you some undiscovered BBQ places, or need a driver to Graceland, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll be happy to act as a guide. It would be my way of saying thank you for all of the hours of great reading you’ve given me these past 30+ years.

Any other readers out there who have a close encounter of the QUARRY kind are urged to let me know.

A few comments on recent movies and TV, just briefly….

MAN OF STEEL is well-cast, with both Superman (Henry Cavill) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) quite wonderful; like Glenn Ford in the first Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN, Kevin Costner gives the Smallville sections a nice homespun weight. But the last act is borderline dreadful, with oh-so-serious co-writer Christopher Nolan meeting up with the excesses of director Zack Snyder in a perfect storm of missteps – i.e., relentlessly idiotic and uninteresting TRANSFORMERS-style destruction of downtown Metropolis, topped off by Superman actually taking a life. And some of the screenwriting is truly abysmal – the movie opens with a lengthy, detailed study of Krypton’s final days, somewhat ponderous but not bad. Then when Russell Crowe as Marlon Brando, I mean Jo-El (Superman’s father), shows up as a ghost or something, he spends five minutes telling Kal-El (Superman) what happened in the first half hour of the movie! Wow. Exposition at its most clumsy, and pointless.

THIS IS THE END, on the other hand, is a truly great comedy, with star/writer Seth Rogen assembling James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and many other comic stars of his generation to play themselves in an Apocalyptic horror flick that is largely about these talents pimping themselves out. One of the best movies of the summer, maybe the year.

Barb and I binged on two American remakes/revamps of great foreign TV mini-series – HOUSE OF CARDS with Kevin Spacey standing in for the late Ian Richardson in an excellent U.S. take on the acid British political dark comedy. Not quite as good as the original, which is one of the greatest of all UK television mini-series, but damn good in its own right. Think of it as a very dark take on THE WEST WING.

THE KILLING begins as a faithful remake of the excellent Danish series of the same name (well, the UK name, anyway – the Danish name is Forbrydelsen, “The Crime”), but expands upon it and goes its own way, and ultimately rivals and perhaps exceeds the original. The show got a bad rap and rep because it didn’t solve the central murder by the end of the first season (it never pretended it was going to), but viewing the two seasons binge-style is a hypnotic, rewarding experience. And it’s back for a third season and a new central crime. Mireille Enos and Joel Kinnaman are the very strong leads, two damaged detectives who combine to make an unlikely and even reluctant team.

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A very nice review of SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT in the Cedar Rapids Gazette has been picked up around the Net.

Here’s a review of TWO FOR THE MONEY, the Hard Case crime collection of the first two NOLAN novels, BAIT MONEY and BLOOD MONEY.

Here’s a little preview of THE WRONG QUARRY with a nice uncluttered look at the cover art.

Finally, take a look at this terrific review of TRUE CRIME. I’m so pleased Heller is getting a whole new round of readers thanks to the Amazon reprints.

M.A.C.