Posts Tagged ‘Reviews’

2016 Movie Wrap-Up

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

As regular readers here know, Barb and I go to a lot of movies – generally one a week. That doesn’t mean we see everything, of course, so view these lists in that context. No particular order within categories.

Here we go:

BEST MOVIES

Hail, Caesar!
The Nice Guys
Star Trek Beyond
Hell or High Water
Doctor Strange

MOVIES WE WALKED OUT ON

The Boss
Bad Moms
Ben-Hur
The Magnificent Seven
Keeping Up with the Joneses

MOVIES WE WALKED OUT ON & MAYBE SHOULDN’T HAVE

Captain America: Civil War
Kubo & the Two Strings

MOVIES WE SHOULD HAVE WALKED OUT ON
Girl on the Train
Conjuring 2
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

BEST MOVIE WITH BRENT SPINER

Independence Day: Resurgence

WORST MOVIE WITH BRENT SPINER

Independence Day: Resurgence

MOVIES THAT WERE BETTER THAN THEY HAD ANY RIGHT TO BE

Zootopia
Gods of Egypt
Legend of Tarzan
Deadpool
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

MOVIES THAT WERE WORSE THAN THEY HAD ANY RIGHT TO BE

Finest Hours
Ghostbusters

MOVIES WE ENJOYED BUT BARELY REMEMBER

Keanu
X-Men: Apocalypse
Central Intelligence

MOVIES THAT DID THE JOB

The Infiltrator
Masterminds
Rules Don’t Apply
Allied

BEST MOVIE WITH THE GROWN-UP KID FROM PERDITION

Everybody Wants Some!!

MOVIES THAT WE DIDN’T SEE BUT HATE ANYWAY

13 Hours
Dirty Grandpa
The Divergent Series: Allegiant
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Alice Through the Looking Glass
Office Christmas Party

PRETENTIOUS TWADDLE

Arrival
The Witch
Nocturnal Animals

A few comments, since I didn’t review all of these films here over the year.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR just wore us down. We left with half an hour to go, generally ready to swear off super-hero movies. DOCTOR STRANGE, then, was an intelligent surprise. So was DEADPOOL, and I understand why anyone might not like its over-the-top nilhistic approach, but we both liked the kick to the seat of the pants it gave to super-hero movies.

ARRIVAL is slow and full of itself, and I found its big surprise obvious. THE WITCH was an unpleasant ride to nowhere. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is misogynistic and generally unpleasant, with only the story-within-the-story having any merit, most of that coming from the always interesting Michael Shannon. RULES DON’T APPLY is an interesting and quirky return to film by star/director/writer Warren Beatty, a loving though occasionally acid valentine to Hollywood and a disguised autobiography. GODS OF EGYPT we watched at home in 3-D and had fun – no apologies forthcoming.

* * *

Our local weekly paper, Voice of Muscatine, did this nice write-up on the Grand Master award.

Here’s a good review of The London Blitz Murders.

J. Kingston Pierce gives a nice mention to the complete version of Road to Perdition published by Brash Books. Order that yet?

Nice words about the Quarry TV series as one of the year’s best literary adaptations.

And here the Quarry show makes another “best of” list.

Finally, be sure to check out the Quarry Facebook page.

M.A.C.

* * *

And this just in!

QUARRY: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
Available February 14, 2017 on Blu-ray™ & DVD

New York, N.Y., December 12, 2016 – Season 1 of the “wildly entertaining” (TV Guide) Cinemax® series Quarry, loosely based on the novels of Max Allan Collins set in and around Memphis, is set to make its home entertainment debut on February 14, 2017. Starring Logan Marshall-Green as Mac Conway, this “impressively flawless” (Washington Post) series follows two soldiers’ return home from a second tour of duty in Vietnam. Quarry: The Complete First Season will be available to own on Blu-rayTM ($34.98) and DVD ($24.98), packed with bonus content including more than two dozen deleted scenes and new footage of interviews where Mac and his comrades testify to the events that led up to their discharge from the Marines. DVD and Blu-rayTM will also include a Digital Download copy.

Set in and around Memphis during the early 1970s, Quarry is a thrilling action drama that centers on the character of Mac Conway, a Marine who returns home from a second tour of duty in Vietnam. With his relationship with his wife Joni growing tenuous, Mac finds himself tempted by a lucrative offer from The Broker, a shady criminal involved in a network of killing and corruption that spans the length of the Mississippi River. After a series of events, Mac – whom The Broker codenames “Quarry” – finds himself conscripted against his better judgment into The Broker’s crew, a turn of events that has dire consequences for both himself and Joni. Gripping and “startlingly good” (Yahoo! TV), with action packed storytelling, the first season of Quarry promises to not disappoint.

Bonus Features include:

  • Deleted Scenes – A fascinating selection of more than two dozen deleted scenes from Season 1.
  • “Inside Quarry” – Get an inside look at each episode of Quarry with the cast and crew of the acclaimed series.
  • “Quan Thang Inquiry Scenes” – Check out declassified interview footage in which Mac (Logan Marshall-Green) and other soldiers testify to the events of the Quan Thang tragedy.
  • “About Quarry” – Delve inside the setting, characters and storylines of Quarry with the cast and crew.
  • “Music of Memphis” – Join the cast and crew for an inside look at the classic R&B soundtrack and live music seen in the show.
  • “Recreating 1972” – The cast and crew of Quarry reveal how they turned back the clock to recreate the sets and styles of Memphis in 1972.
  • “Love Letters” – Hear the recorded correspondence between Mac and Joni while he served in Vietnam.
  • “Car Chase Picture in Picture” – Join Quarry star Logan Marshall-Green for this action-packed look at the staging of a rough-and-tumble car chase from the series.
  • Music Videos – Watch a collection of music videos featuring some of the blistering tracks from the series.

Other cast members include: Nikki Amuka-Bird (“Luther”) as Ruth, a hardworking mother who is Joni’s close friend; Damon Herriman (“Justified”) as Buddy; Edoardo Ballerini as Karl, and Mustafa Shakir as Moses, three of The Broker’s most capable and ruthless henchmen; Jamie Hector as Arthur, Ruth’s husband and Mac’s best friend, who is also a Vietnam vet; Ann Dowd as Naomi, Buddy’s doting but unconventional mother; Skipp Sudduth as Lloyd, Mac’s father; Josh Randall as Detective Tommy Olsen, a dedicated member of the Memphis Police Department; and Kurt Yaeger as Suggs, who has fallen within The Broker’s sights.

Quarry: The Complete First Season
Blu-rayTM & DVD

Street Date: February 14, 2017
Order Date: January 10, 2017
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: Approx. 480 minutes (excluding bonus materials)

* * *

This Just In…

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Not much to say at the moment other than I am thrilled and flabbergasted.

Mystery Writers of America Announces 2017 Grand Masters
Max Allan Collins and Ellen Hart
Plus 2017 Raven and Ellery Queen Award Winners

November 29, 2016 – New York, NY – Max Allan Collins and Ellen Hart have been chosen as the 2017 Grand Masters by Mystery Writers of America (MWA). MWA's Grand Master Award represents the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing and was established to acknowledge important contributions to this genre, as well as for a body of work that is both significant and of consistent high quality. Mr. Collins and Ms. Hart will receive their awards at the 71st Annual Edgar Awards Banquet, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City on Thursday, April 27, 2017.

When told of being named a Grand Master, Collins said, “To be in the company of Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Mickey Spillane is both thrilling and humbling.  This is an honor second to none in the art of mystery and suspense fiction.”

Max Allan Collins sold his first two novels in 1972 while a student at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop.  More than one hundred novels have followed, including his award-winning and groundbreaking Nathan Heller historical series, starting with True Detective (1983). His graphic novel Road to Perdition (1998) is the basis of the Academy Award-winning 2002 film starring Tom Hanks.  His other comics credits include the syndicated strip "Dick Tracy"; his own "Ms. Tree"; and "Batman.”  For the hit TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, he wrote ten novels selling millions of copies worldwide, and his movie novels include Saving Private Ryan, Air Force One, and American Gangster.

Upon learning that she was named a Grand Master, Hart said. “A writer's stock-in-trade is imagination.  I’ve always felt mine was pretty good, but never in a million years did I ever think winning the MWA Grand Master award was a possibility.  I’m stunned, grateful, and profoundly honored.”

Ellen Hart is the author of thirty-two crime novels.  She is the six-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery, the four-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Best Popular Fiction, and the three-time winner of the Golden Crown Literary Award for mystery.  Ellen has taught crime writing for seventeen years through the Loft Literary Center, the largest independent writing community in the nation.

Previous Grand Masters include Walter Mosley, Lois Duncan, James Ellroy, Robert Crais, Carolyn Hart, Ken Follett, Margaret Maron, Martha Grimes, Sara Paretsky, James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton, Bill Pronzini, Stephen King, Marcia Muller, Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, P.D. James, Ellery Queen, Daphne du Maurier, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and Agatha Christie.

The Raven Award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. Dru Ann Love will receive the 2017 Raven Award.

Dru Ann Love is owner/editor of dru’s book musings (https://drusbookmusing.com/), a blog where characters give a glimpse into a day in their life, as well as her musings. Her musings also appear in Crimespree Magazine. She is also a guest blogger at the Stiletto Gang. Dru Ann is an avid reader, writes poetry, quilts, and loves attending reader/fan conventions. Dru Ann’s blog was nominated for a 2015 Anthony Award for Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work. She also serves on the Bouchercon standing committee.

When told that she would receive the Raven Award, Love said, “I’m so thrilled and honored to be awarded the Raven. The mystery community is like a big family and I’m so proud that they have embraced me with open arms. Thanks to the nominating committee for selecting me and a big thanks to the authors—without them, this would not be possible.”

Previous Raven winners include Sisters in Crime, Margaret Kinsman, Kathryn Kennison, Jon and Ruth Jordan, Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Oline Cogdill, Molly Weston, The Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore in Chicago, Once Upon a Crime Bookstore in Minneapolis, Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA, and The Poe House in Baltimore, MD.

The Ellery Queen Award was established in 1983 to honor “outstanding writing teams and outstanding people in the mystery-publishing industry”. This year the Board chose to honor Neil Nyren.

On learning he would receive the Ellery Queen Award, Nyren said, “I’ve spent most of my life with crime and suspense fiction, both as a fan and a professional, but I never imagined this. It’s an enormous honor even being mentioned in the same breath as such legendary previous Ellery Queen Award winners as Joan Kahn, Ed Gorman, Jacques Barzun, Otto Penzler, and Eleanor Sullivan (just to name a few!).”

Neil Nyren is the Executive VP, associate publisher and editor in chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Random House. He has been at Putnam for over 32 years, and before that, at E.P. Dutton, Little Brown, Random House, Arbor House, and Atheneum.

Among his current authors of crime and suspense are Clive Cussler, Ken Follett, C.J. Box, John Sandford, Robert Crais, Jack Higgins, W.E.B. Griffin, Frederick Forsyth, Randy Wayne White, Alex Berenson, Ace Atkins, Alex Grecian, Carol O’Connell, Owen Laukkanen, Michael Sears, and Todd Moss. He has also worked with such writers as Tom Clancy, Patricia Cornwell, Daniel Silva, Martha Grimes, Ed McBain, Thomas H. Cook, and Thomas Perry, and he was the first to publish books by Carl Hiaasen, Jonathan Kellerman, Gerald Seymour, Garrison Keillor, and Ian McEwan.

Among his nonfiction authors: A. Scott Berg, Maureen Dowd, James A. Baker III, Dave Barry, Joe McGinniss, Charles Kuralt, Andy Rooney, Jeff Greenfield, Senator Harry Reid, General Tony Zinni, Abba Eban, John McEnroe, Pat Riley, Bobby Orr, and Wayne Gretzky.

Previous Ellery Queen Award winners include Janet Rudolph, Charles Ardai, Joe Meyers, Barbara Peters and Robert Rosenwald, Brian Skupin and Kate Stine, Carolyn Marino, Ed Gorman, Janet Hutchings, Cathleen Jordan, Douglas G. Greene, Susanne Kirk, Sara Ann Freed, Hiroshi Hayakawa, Jacques Barzun, Martin Greenburg, Otto Penzler, Richard Levinson, William Link, Ruth Cavin, and Emma Lathen.

The Edgar Awards, or "Edgars," as they are commonly known, are named after MWA's patron saint Edgar Allan Poe and are presented to authors of distinguished work in various categories. MWA is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime-writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. The organization encompasses some 3,000 members including authors of fiction and non-fiction books, screen and television writers, as well as publishers, editors, and literary agents. For more information on Mystery Writers of America, please visit the website: www.mysterywriters.org

* * *

When I was discussing the up’s and down’s of 2016 last time, I neglected two major “up’s.”

Among the blessings for me in the vale of tears that was 2016 was having a Quarry TV series…and a good one, at that. Considering I created Quarry in 1971 at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, this blessing took a while to pay off…but pay off it did. Many of you have had nice things to say about show. A few wish it were more like the books, and I’ve discussed that here. But for me it was a major blessing.

Soon I will be starting a new novel, Quarry’s Climax, and beginning work on a graphic novel, Quarry’s War, which will be serialized as comic books by Titan’s new Hard Case Crime comics.

The other major blessing, overlooked last time, was being able to play some band jobs this year. In 2015, I had to cancel all but one gig for Crusin’ because of my heart condition – I don’t remember ever cancelling a gig before in the five decades I’ve been playing, and I hated doing so. I’m strictly a show-must-go-on kind of guy. This year we were able to do half a dozen gigs, and I hope more will follow in 2017. My guitar player, the incredible Jim Van Winkle, and I have been together for over a decade. Drummer Steve Kundel has been with the band, off and on, since the ‘90s, and is truly world-class. “New kid” Brian Van Winkle, Jim’s brother, took over bass when Chuck Bunn passed away a few years ago – Brian is one of the coolest guys you could ever hope to meet, and an excellent bass player.


Crusin’ at Muscatine High School 50th class reunion, left to right, M.A.C., Jim Van Winkle, Steve Kundel, guest Joe McClean, and Brian Van Winkle.

The gigs we played in 2016 were a mixed bag. Actually, every gig went well, but three of them were impacted by my pertussis. Whooping cough does not do a lead singer any favors. The third gig I was getting somewhat back to normal, but it was something of a disappointment because we had originally intended to have a reunion of my original band, the Daybreakers. Illness (not mine for a change!) threw a wrench in the works, although we did add guest artist Joe McClean of the XL’s into the standard Crusin’ mix. The dance went well but I’m afraid a 50th class reunion could not live up to the wild, rockin’ affair of my imagination.

Anyway, 2016 had its highlights, and QUARRY on TV and Crusin’ on stage were chief among them.

Today I am putting finishing touches on the third Caleb York western, The Bloody Spur. That’s the last one on the contract – we’ll see if more follow.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. Barb cooked up a storm, and baby Sam Collins was the life of the party. We had our Department 56 Halloween houses up, with lots of movement and scary sounds, and he was fascinated…not frightened in the least.

* * *

J. Kingston Pierce has included Better Dead on his Best 10 list, and has wonderful things to say about it.

Here’s a great review of The Legend of Caleb York.

Mystery Scene magazine has a wonderful Quarry in the Black review by Hank Wagner. Here’s a taste: “…Collins delivers some of the crispest, funniest and most gripping prose of his long career to date. Hardboiled crime fiction at its finest, the Quarry series continues to provide top-notch action, wit and suspense.”

M.A.C.

Thanksgiving 2016

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

In a year like the one I’ve experienced, it might seem tough to be thankful.

Those of you follow these updates know that I’ve had some health issues. The year began with carotid surgery preceding open-heart surgery, during which I had a stroke. While not major, the stroke left me with a fairly useless right hand – couldn’t type, didn’t even have a signature. And a writer losing his or her signature has lost a key piece of identity.

What followed was a lot of work getting my hand functional again and recovering from the surgery with physical and occupational therapy. Also, in the run-up to the heart surgery, something growing in my lower right lung lobe made itself known, requiring keeping an eye on. Eventually I was scheduled to go in for surgery that would probably be just a closer look, but might result in more serious surgery.

While all of this was going on, my son Nate’s bride Abby gave birth to Sam Collins, a preemie who fought a brave battle for life. Nate and Abby practically lived in the hospital for a month while this little tadpole of a kid fought to be a baby. We visited as often as we could, though this was going on concurrent with my heart condition stuff, and that limited us some.

Then both Barb and I managed to get pertussis, which is to say whooping cough. I got mine in August and she got hers a few weeks later, and we are still coughing (the hundred-day cough, they call it). My adventures, recounted in detail in previous updates, included rushing back from New Orleans the moment I landed because Barb’s pertussis had sent her to the emergency room; and having my lung surgery postponed for a month to allow me to get over my bout with the stuff.

The surgery wound up being more serious. A baseball-size thingie was taken out of my lower right lobe. It’s now been diagnosed as MALT-lymphoma, which has nothing to do with old Pop Jenkins down at the soda shop.

Then, while I was recovering from the lung surgery, glued to the TV, I witnessed Donald Trump being elected president of the United States.

So what the hell do I have to be thankful for?

Almost everything (except for the Trump part).

We can start with this career that has allowed me to concoct stories and get paid for it for four decades. We can move from there to my wife Barb, whose love and support got me through all of the bullshit above – she always knows when I need a tender shoulder and also when I need a kick in the pants. She is not a self-pity fan.

From there we can move to my great son and his equally great wife, who gave me this wonderful grandson who has overcome all of the obstacles and is now smart and healthy and very funny. You may have a baby or a baby grandkid who seems pretty cool, but can yours do an evil maniacal laugh at sixteen months?

As for my travails, I was typing almost immediately when I got home from the hospital. Initially all I could move was the mouse, and for some weeks the sensitivity of the computer keyboard was how my weak right hand was able to register anything. But two weeks home after my three-week hospital stay (two of it in O.T. and P.T.), I was working on my draft of Antiques Frame. Before long I was writing The Will to Kill, the new Mike Hammer, and Executive Order with my pal Matt Clemens. Throughout every stage of various recoveries, I have found that my writing has been unimpeded, that it is a place I can go and think of nothing but the story at hand.

Every day I filled at least a full notebook page with my signature, and within a month I had it back. If you ever need an M.A.C signature, my wife can tear one of out the notebook I filled with them. (Ask for one from a later page.)

The pertussis Barb and I shared brought us even closer together, because we were dealing with it at the same time. I won’t pretend it didn’t suck, but something odd happens when you are sick and have a reasonable expectation to get well – you start to really, really appreciate normal, everyday life. To look forward to the most trivial damn things – a meal out, a movie, a walk on an autumn day.

As for the lung thing, I am in a wait-and-see mode, and have a few more tests to take, but I am assured this is a treatable, very survivable condition…and I may have no recurrence. At this point there’s been no talk of chemo or radiation.

If that comes, rest assured I will do everything I can to keep writing, and taking advantage of the support and friendship my readers, editors and my great agent Dominick Abel have always provided. Do not worry about me. I am fine, and I am blessed.

Thanks.

* * *

Here’s the Brash Books blog with stuff about Road to Perdition the novel and Quarry as well.

Here’s a nice latterday review of Kill Your Darlings, though oddly the Bouchercon aspect of the story (usually the favorite aspect of readers) is not so favored here.

Finally, here’s a cool review of Dan John Miller reading Better Dead.

M.A.C.

Quarry’s Daddy on the TV Series

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

So what’s my opinion of the QUARRY TV series?

It’s a first-rate show. The finale (like the opening episode) is a feature-length crime story worthy of release as an indie film. The Vietnamese war sequence – one long take – is as remarkable a piece of filmmaking as I’ve seen in some time, capturing the feel and pressure and insanity of battle. The cast has been stellar, as well, and the cinematography, art direction, location work, music selection, those elements and more, have been damn near flawless. Greg Yaitanes directed all eight episodes, meaning he pulled off a sustained nine-hour movie, an amazing feat.

Yet I get e-mails and comments from some readers bemoaning that the show isn’t like the books, and in some cases I have been criticized for essentially selling out, letting a bunch of Hollywood punks run roughshod over my creation. Well, first of all, if somebody wants to give me money to make a movie or TV show out of my stuff, and the price is right, they can star a sock monkey and set the show on Venus for all I care. As James M. Cain said (slightly paraphrasing here), “Hollywood hasn’t done anything to my books – they’re right here on the shelf.”

The books are the books. They have existed and will exist, strictly on my terms. Certain aspects of the novels just do not translate to film (this includes the Quarry-derived film THE LAST LULLABY, which I co-wrote). The QUARRY novels are almost entirely dependent on the first-person voice of Quarry himself – his sense of humor, his personal philosophy, the very sound of the things he says, the irony, the black humor. That’s lost in any QUARRY adaptation, unless you use voiceover, which is just not the same (and usually clumsy).

Additionally, the books are short, compact narratives depicting the jobs that Quarry goes on – none of them individually would sustain a season of television. Once the decision was made to do long-form narrative like MAD MEN or BREAKING BAD, the near novella form of the novels had to be dropped. The approach of the novels is what TV folks call “procedural.” Cinemax wanted a cast of recurring characters with their own evolving storylines – the novels are lone-wolf affairs, with few if any recurring characters.

Nonetheless, I have been impressed from the beginning that writers Michael Fuller and Graham Gordy have been able to draw upon the novels in resourceful, respectful ways that guarantee that my DNA stays in the mix. The eight-episode season that just concluded draws heavily upon the first novel, QUARRY (1976), which presents Quarry five years into doing hits for the Broker. The backstory of that novel – Quarry coming home to find his wife having an affair, followed by Quarry killing the guy – is depicted in the first episode right down to how the cheater dies. As director Yaitanes has made clear, the TV series is an origin story, a prequel to the novel series. And Mike and Graham understood, from the start, that Quarry was a PTSD vet (though the term wasn’t around when I wrote the early novels) and that the Vietnam War was very much an underlying theme. I was very pleased when they agreed with me that the show be set in early ‘70s period.

The Broker remains very much my character, and the way he insinuates himself into Quarry’s life on the show is clever and satisfying. In the 1976 novel, Quarry discovers the Broker is involved in heroin trafficking and this initiates the deterioration of their relationship – that aspect is present in the series in a major way. Also, Quarry in that first novel is working with a gay partner who is losing his focus – also a major aspect of the series. Quarry’s self-hating annoyance at the Broker’s various proteges comes from the 1976 novel as well.

Don’t be confused by my Executive Producer credit – that’s doesn’t mean I have control of anything. The TV series is the vision of Fuller and Gordy (as executed by Yaitanes), and when I write an episode, I am following their lead. It’s their baby. And of course when I’m writing a QUARRY novel, it’s all mine. Nobody gets near that crib but me.

What is important is that the original novels get some nice attention drawn to them, because of the quality TV series the books have spawned. It means more sales. More readers. More money. Much as I love my work, this is not a hobby – I’m trying to make a living here. When something like the QUARRY TV series happens that I can be proud of, so much the better.

Haven’t watched Wild Dog on ARROW yet, by the way. Is he played by a sock monkey? Just wondering.

* * *

The extended battle sequence I mention above is discussed by director Yaitanes here.

Here’s a short, sweet review of the new expanded version of the ROAD TO PERDITION prose novel. It was picked up by AP and has had wide coverage on the Net.

Finally, here are “15 Things You Didn’t Know About Wild Dog.”

M.A.C.