Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 In Which

I took up tea drinking with committed passion ... became a walking enthusiast, finding a renewed energy ... more actively invested in politics by challenging our elected officials on a regular basis ... improved my backgammon game via the computer—also playing chess with a co-worker ... published my novella The Drifter Detective: Torn and Frayed ... had eighty of my articles (devoted to books and movies) published at Macmillan's Criminal Element ... re-familiarized myself with Algebra ... delighted in the eighth year of BEAT to a PULP as one of its creative best ... and savored every minute of the year that I could with my charmers, Ava & Denise.

Now I raise a toast to all of you, my friends, wishing you a Happy New Year!

Razored Bliss

Over at Charles Gramlich's Razored Zen blog he picked two BEAT to a PULP's titles among his favorite reads of 2016: Garnett Elliott's Carnosaur Weekend and my own Torn and Frayed. How cool is that, right? Thanks, Charles!

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Duel (2016)

Texas Ranger David Kingston (Liam Hemsworth) is sent to a town along the Rio Grande to see if Abraham Brant, aka The Preacher (Woody Harrelson), is responsible for a series of murders. "By some strange twist of fate" as David tells his wife Marisol (Alice Braga) Brant is the man that killed his father twenty-two years earlier in a knife duel that the young David witnessed. Similar in that regard to 2014's The Dark Valley where a revenge-seeking son takes on a man who has immersed himself as a god of sorts holding an almost mystical trance over the citizens.

Yes, it's all been done to death before and a whole lot better than this tired Western. The opening knife fight was well executed making me cringe with the sounds of blade penetrating flesh but the story just plods on and on. I did appreciate Hemsworth's character as an honorable man willing to bring Brant to justice, which is a refreshing return to the old days. But here's another tale where a so called religious man spouts the word of God for his own selfish interests. C'mon on Hollywood, give that trope a merciful death already.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Dark Valley (2014)

A tight-lipped stranger by the name of Greider (Sam Riley) rides into a town in the Austrian Alps. He wants to stay for the winter but the townsfolk, at first, tell him to get along until they learn he is a photographer with a daguerreotype camera. He ends up rooming with a widowed woman and her daughter and witnesses how the entire town is under the control of an old man named Brenner and his six ruthless sons. When two die under mysterious circumstances suspicion falls on Greider especially after the one is found with nails in his eyes—nails like Greider was seen purchasing at the town store. He goes into hiding and his family's connection to the remote town is revealed before, yes, you guessed it, the climatic shoot-out. A dour, slow moving German film (subtitled but easy to read) that I enjoyed though there's nothing new here other than its stunning locale.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Purity in Death by J.D. Robb

At Criminal Element they are reviewing the entire J.D. Robb Eve Dallas series. I decided to jump in on a few and first up is Purity in Death.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Twelve Miles

I've managed to walk twelve miles since Friday evening. Usually I do a mile and then come back to my desk, get some writing done, and then walk another lap a few hours later. That's probably going to slow down to just a mile a day over this next busy week. Still, it feels good to exercise, get the blood pumping.

Any other walkers out there?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day

It has been a spectacular Christmas for our daughter as she opened present after present and we shall see which gift steals the show. There's always one, right? Oh, and both my charmers surprised me with my very own TARDIS and The Fourth Doctor's scarf. Yeah, they know me pretty well. Hope all you friends out there are having a top day! Now where's that eggnog...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Very Best

For those who celebrate Christmas, I wish you the very best the holiday has to offer and I hope the eggnog is spiked to your satisfaction.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Jane Got A Gun (2016)

In 1871's New Mexico Territory, Jane Hammond's (Natalie Portman) husband Bill (Noah Emmerich) returns home from having been bullet riddled by the revenge seeking Bishop Boys (Ewan McGregor, Boyd Holbrook). After stabilizing him, she gets her young daughter to safety and seeks out assistance from an old boyfriend, Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), who at first is reluctant to help, still smarting from losing her years before. He eventually does and through well-sprinkled flashbacks we learn about their relationship and why the Bishops are seeking to kill Jane's husband in the first place.

This film opened to mixed reviews and died at the box office but don't let that discourage you from watching one of the best Western action movies of recent memory led by Ms. Portman in a memorable performance. From a tear-stained face as she says goodbye to her little girl to the steel in her eyes as she guns down a gunslinger, she puts her stamp on the genre as an intelligent, complicated protagonist. And in an era where the emphasis has turned to revisionism or hybrid Westerns, damn if it isn't nice to have straightforward storytelling with a climax that actually delivers the goods. Jane Got a Gun may have had a troubled, lackluster start but this film will age well.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Django (1966)

A classic that still kicks ass half a century later and still inspiring tributes like Quentin Tarentino's Django Unchained (2012) though all pale in comparison to this spaghetti Western that was itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961). Franco Nero is Django who is first seen dragging a coffin near the muddy Mexico and United States border. After rescuing the beautiful Maria (Loredana Nusciak) from being crucified on a burning cross, he goes to a nearby ghost town and makes a saloon his base of operation. Django then for reasons, at first, that's only known to him wages a one-man war against two local warring factions led by Major Jackson’s klansmen and General Hugo Rodríguez’s revolutionaries. He seems to be setting himself up against insurmountable odds but no worries, pilgrims, all the help he will need is in that coffin.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Diablo (2015)

Psychological Western has Civil War veteran Jackson (Scott Eastwood), once known as General Sherman's best killer, searching for his kidnapped wife. Always hypnotizing Walter Goggins plays Ezra who seems to know Jackson from his military days and begins murdering anyone who comes in contact with him. We discover before long to what degree the war has unhinged Jackson when an old 'friend' played by Danny Glover seems unusually terrified warning his granddaughter, "He's killed more men than you met in your lifetime."

Far from a perfect film, with an unsatisfying ending, benefits greatly from stunning cinematography courtesy of Dean Cundey and a evocative musical score by Timothy Williams.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Waste Lands

Thank you for joining me on a journey of Stephen King’s The Waste Lands (1991), the 3rd book in The Dark Tower series. We just finished our journey across the beach in The Drawing of the Three, drawing Eddie and Susannah Dean into Roland's world and ending the pitiful life of Jack Mort. Eddie is off heroin, and Susannah's previously split mind has merged into one—but Roland Deschain is troubled. It seems by killing Jack Mort and allowing Jake Chambers to live, he has created a paradox ... and it's tearing his mind apart. What's next for this new ka-tet? Will Roland be able to rectify this butterfly effect? Join us as we make our journey into The Waste Lands.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Ranking The Doctors

I watched quite a bit of Doctor Who over the weekend resulting in my ever changing list of favorite Doctors. Currently the order:

Matt Smith
Tom Baker
David Tennant
Patrick Troughton
Jon Pertwee
Peter Davison
Christopher Eccleston
Paul McGann
Peter Capaldi
William Hartnell
Sylvester McCoy
Colin Baker

If I were to include The War Doctor (John Hurt) he would place in the top five easily. How about you? Any fans of the Time Lord?

Friday, December 16, 2016

China 9, Liberty 37 (1978)

China 9, Liberty 37 (1978) directed by Monte Hellman is a B Western with an A performance by Warren Oates. Clayton Drumm (Fabio Testi), within minutes of being hanged, gets a reprieve from some greedy railroad company men if he will murder Matthew Sebanek (Warren Oates) who refuses to budge from his property that the company wants to gobble up. Clayton agrees, but he becomes friendly with Matthew instead which is complicated by the man's alluring wife Catherine (Jenny Agutter) who falls for the hunk assassin. A low-budget oddity that maintains interest thanks to Hellman's devotion to strong character development, and, well, Oates—he is an acting force of nature that's never dull. Plus this forgotten '70s film has the added curio of infamous director Sam Peckinpah in a rare acting gig.

My friend Randy Johnson went into a little more plot detail with his 2009 review at Not The Baseball Pitcher blog.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

For the Love of Spock (2016)

I've been a Star Trek fan ever since my mom and dad bought me a phaser that fired plastic rings (I easily imagined myself slicing and dicing Klingon warriors and salt vampires), and also a book called Star Trek: The Prisoner of Vega (can still remember that story sentence by sentence yet I haven't read a single page in decades).

For the Love of Spock (2016) is a documentary directed by Adam Nimoy, son of Leonard Nimoy who played the iconic figure for five decades. This treasure trove of information, interviews, and never before released video only deepened my appreciation for the show and the thoughtful, intelligent man who embodied the half-Vulcan character. Like the McQueen bio I mentioned a few days ago, there's much deeper themes here than just another valentine for Trek enthusiasts. Recommended for all.

Here's a link to the trailer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


I've been on a reread of Roland of Gilead's adventures and am currently at The Dark Tower: The Waste Lands, Part IV. Hope you join me over at Macmillan's Criminal Element blog. Here's a sample:
Jake names the straggling billy-bumbler Oy and begins caring for it, adding a “boy and his dog” warmth to the proceedings along with some depth to the world in which Roland lives. Kind of like a racoon but with a longer neck, Oy shows off his ability to mimic sounds that he hears. It’s explained that once upon a time, many homes in Mid-World had billy-bumblers traipsing about—much like our own pets—and they possibly have a greater intelligence than first observed. I’m really taken with Oy, and I’m getting the vibe he will take a large part in the Dark Tower quest as we go along, and to some purpose.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Subversive Laughter is the Best Medicine

We've been watching NewsRadio again which I'm laughing at just as hard as the first go around. Made me think of other shows that I rank high up on the funny bone chart. Of course, with most programs, the early episodes are best. In no particular order, my favorites:

Barney Miller
The Honeymooners
Fawlty Towers
The Larry Sanders Show
Arrested Development
American Dad
Night Court
WKRP in Cincinnati
Sanford and Son

Seeing a definite subversive slant running through my list that I wasn't aware of before compiling. Anyway, what makes your list?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Outlaws and Angels (2016)

Fine performances by Chad Michael Murray and Francesca Eastwood are eventually marred by an overtly sadistic script. Realism is one thing, but lingering scenes of the rape of  a woman and a man about to be sodomized ventures into gratuitous territory. A Tarantinoesque wannabe sees a trio of on-the-run outlaws deciding to hole up in the home of a preacher whose sexual desires extend to his own daughters. It’s not long before fifteen-year-old Florence Tildon (Ms. Eastwood—yes, from Clint’s clan) warms to the outlaws’ leader (Murray) and joins the gang to exact a bloody revenge on her cowering family.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Deadly Companions (1961)

Just passable, meandering film, about a former Yankee soldier (Brian Keith) who accidentally kills a saloon girl's (Maureen O'Hara) son and then helps the lady—against her will—escort the boy's body back home through Apache territory to be buried next to his father. Brian Keith is superb as the guilt ridden Good Samaritan but the beautiful Ms. O'Hara makes every scene she's in pop—though it's quite gratuitous silly for her to take a bath in a creek with the enemy milling around. (Though, I'm sure, most viewers won't complain.)

Best line comes from the tortured Keith character who says:

"You don't know me well enough to hate me that much. Hating's a subject I know a little something about. You better be careful it don't bite you back. I know somebody spent five years looking for a man he hated. Hate and wanting revenge was all that kept him alive. He spent all them years tracking that other man down. When he caught up with him was the worst day in his life. He'd get his revenge, all right. Then he'd lose the one thing he'd had to live for."
Early Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch, Ride the High Country) though you would hardly know because he had very little control over the finished product.

Let's Go Racing

Here's a damn fine documentary: Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans (2015). More than just a racing film but rather what obsession does to the human psyche. Recommended for not just fans of  The King of Cool (The Great Escape, The Getaway) but viewers who like human interest stories and well sliced together documentaries.

It's currently available for free on Amazon Prime.

Friday, December 9, 2016

My Drinking Habit

I gave up coffee this year and am now drinking tea with quite the compulsion. So far the favorites are "Constant Comment" black tea, Classic Sleepy Time, and Tetley green tea with lemon. Of the three, I'd rate "Constant Comment" highest and is my morning kicker and the other two throughout the day. Since I like sugar with my tea, I'm using a zero calorie sweetener called Stevia In The Raw. Perfect mix especially with the Sleepy Time.

You are now up to date on my drinking habits. Yours?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

There's David

It has been a couple of weeks since I last posted here and the main reason for the lull is I have been occupied working on a poetry collection for BEAT to a PULP and am also gainfully employed reviewing books for Criminal Element. If you check the right hand column you will see my Twitter feed where I usually check in once a day, just in case you want to keep a closer tab on my whereabouts. Anyway, I will make the rounds to see how you, the last of the bloggers, are doing.