The Dead Pool (1988 USA)

“If you wanna play the game you better know the rules, love.” So sayeth Harry Callahan. Thankfully, director Buddy Van Horn and his team knew how to end the franchise on a high note. This is just as good as its two predecessors. In fact, Sudden Impact and The Enforcer were both pretty lackluster to the point of being almost boring. At least this swansong for Harry has a high degree of pure 80’s trash going for it. You want rock music videos, silly accents, some amusing dialogue, Uzi machine guns ejaculating at glass elevators and even a high speed car chase that involves a toy? With The Dead Pool, you’ve got all that and more.
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Playback (Raymond Chandler)

‘Playback’, Chandler’s final completed novel, this is a haunting follow-up to ‘The Long Goodbye’. The prose sweeps me away with its speed and economy, and in this novel, more than any of Chandler’s others, I feel Marlowe’s humanity. In this last time around, Marlowe gets railroaded into a job tailing a well–endowed redhead, which quickly turns into a muddled mystery involving blackmail, murder, gangsters, and a crappy tourist-trap town. [Read more…]

Man In A Suitcase (1967/68 United Kingdom)

No, its not the Police song from their 1980 album ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’. Man in a Suitcase is one of those ITC colour series filmed in and around Pinewood Studios and on location in London during 1966/7. (Locals at the time must have been constantly interrupted by cameras, cast and crews preventing them getting from A to B). Its a rough, tough adventure series which, thanks to the strength, charisma, and capability of the leading player: a surly Texan method actor Richard Bradford, still continues to enthrall and entertain folk who lap up this nostalgia for swinging London, dollybirds in mini-skirts, green Hillman Imps etc.
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The Assassination Bureau (1969 United Kingdom)

‘The Assassination Bureau Ltd.’ was an incomplete novel by Jack London. The 1969 film version was produced by Michael Relph and directed by Basil Dearden. Crusading journalist Sonya Winter (Diana Rigg) uncovers the existence of a secret society of hired assassins operating at the turn of the 19th century. Their founder is cocksure Russian nobleman Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed). He is hired by Sonya to murder…himself. Feeling the Bureau to have become complacent, he accepts the challenge. Sounds like quite an ominous plot!
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Nightmare In Pink (John D MacDonald)

Nightmare in Pink is the second book in John D. MacDonald’s 21- novel Travis McGee series. Although McGee gets involved in mysteries, he is not a police officer or a private investigator. Instead, he is a “salvage consultant” who lives on a houseboat (“The Busted Flush”) in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He prefers to be a beach bum, get a tan, reel in some fish, drink some beer, etc and seems a little uncomfortable in the big city. He is also a ladies’ man. [Read more…]

The Butterfly Garden (Dot Hutchison)

This is a psychological/mystery/horror thriller – that won’t be to everyone’s liking; due to the subject matter. (And there’s bound to be a big screen version) It starts off with two FBI agents, Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison, interviewing a young woman, Maya/Inara, who was rescued with other girls that were being held captive by a person only known as ‘The Gardener.’ The garden is a New York–set paradise complete with beautiful trees and flowers, streams and ponds, a cliff and a waterfall. But in reality it is a prison, fully enclosed by walls and glass within a larger garden from which there is no escape. [Read more…]

The Ax ( Donald E Westlake)

Wanted: Middle management for the oversight of an assembly line in an industrial paper factory. College degree and experience a must. Homicidal maniacs welcome to apply. Burke Devore is a typical middle-aged guy with a steady job, a wife and two kids. When he gets laid off he spends 2 years looking for new employment and realizes that there are too many people with more education and experience looking for similar work. Donald Westlake wrote this in 1997, but his publishers missed an opportunity during the last economic bust to reissue this book with great fanfare because it’s even more poignant now. There is not a single dull moment in the entire novel and to top it all off, the ending is even more brilliant.
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All These Condemned (John D MacDonald)

Written in 1954 before environmental issues became big in the public consciousness – this is very different than his later works. If I didn’t know I would never have guessed it was by JDM. In the hands of some lesser writer, the two chapters per character-narrator would have come off as a cheesy gimmick, but not for the MacDonald. In just pages, MacDonald fashions whole biographies, not of these character’s histories, but of who they are in body and soul. I rarely come across a book filled with such depth and such distinctive characters.  [Read more…]

Death Wish (1974 USA)

Few motion pictures have the notoriety of Death Wish: short sharp slabs of repulsive, sadistic violence that linger in the memory along with a theme–if you like the film then you must be an advocate of fascist exploitation cinema, or if you don’t like it then you are a bleeding heart liberal. Critics of the time hated the picture, calling it irresponsible for advocating vigilantism. What the critics of the time failed to see, as the film became a huge commercial success, was that they had the luxury to sit in their comfy secure high rise apartments as the people of the streets lived in fear of stepping outside their homes. At least in large cities like New York. [Read more…]

American Made (2017)

Mr Show Pony himself, Tom Cruise, is here recycling his usual mannerisms – the grin, the hand gestures – even revisiting his own cinematic past as a pilot. Yet this time around his showboating is not meant to be wholly admired. Originally, Cruise was liked by the public, then fell out of the public’s good graces for some reasons…sofa jumping on Oprah, shilling for a cult, suing gay porn star after gay porn star until they were pauperized…but now, due to his skill as an actor, he is conditionally liked again. Director Doug Liman, having directed The Bourne Identity and Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, knows a thing or two about fast pace, intrigue, and the limits of idealism. And American Made really is American made! Amazing. [Read more…]

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