Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Proposition (2005)

In 1880's Australia, captured outlaw Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is given a proposition by Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone): kill Charlie's notorious older brother Arthur (Danny Huston) who had orchestrated the murders of an entire family including a pregnant woman. If Charlie complies within nine days, the Burns youngest brother Mike (Richard Wilson) will, along with him, get full pardons. Charlie locates his brother but hesitates in doing the job. Meanwhile, Stanley is at odds with the town and his superior when it's revealed that he had let Charlie go free. He's ordered to flog Mike a hundred times—a punishment Stanley knows will kill the young man.

THE PROPOSITION is overflowing with remarkable acting talent, though Emily Watson deserves extra mention for her portrayal of Martha, Captain Stanley's wife, a cultured Englishwoman who finds herself in a living nightmare (or as her husband coins it, "Australia. What fresh hell is this?"), determined to retain her principles. The brooding music was composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Cave also wrote the screenplay. A harrowing, sobering film that becomes stamped on your consciousness long after viewing. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Sad to hear about the passing of Mary Tyler Moore. I grew up watching reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show and first run episodes of her 1970's program where she played news producer Mary Richards. Our family still gets a kick out of Rob and Laura Petrie. Rest In Peace, Mary.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Wizard and Glass

Roland, Cuthbert, and Alain arrive in Hambry under the pretenses of a “special mission from the Affiliation to serve as counters of all materials which might serve the Affiliation.” First contact is gregarious Sheriff Herk Avery and his deputies, who clearly view the trio for what they happen to be—green. After reporting in, they attend Mayor Thorin’s elaborate welcoming party where everyone that matters is in attendance—though, only one really matters to Roland:
His eye was held by Susan Delgado: the blue dress, the tanned skin, the triangles of color, too pale and perfect to be makeup, which ran lightly up her cheeks; most of all her hair, which was unbound tonight and fell to her waist like a shimmer of palest silk. He wanted her, suddenly and completely, with a desperate depth of feeling that felt like sickness. Everything he was and everything he had come for, it seemed, was secondary to her.
Here's my take on The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass that includes Chapter 5 "Welcome to Town" - Chapter 7 "On the Drop."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Hell or High Water

HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016) is a robust character-driven film described by Wikipedia as an "American Western heist-crime." And to these enviable ingredients, it should be added "funny," especially the ribbing banter between Tanner Howard (Ben Foster), an ex-con, and his younger brother Toby (Chris Pine).

Tanner: "This is Mr. Pibb. I asked for a Dr. Pepper."
Toby: "So?"
Tanner: "Only assholes drink Mr. Pibb."
Toby: "Drink up."

The boys have taken to robbing banks in west Texas to pay off a debt on the family ranch which is on the brink of foreclosure by the Texas Midlands Bank. Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) along with his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are tracking the Howard's. Marcus is near retirement and is thankful for the last-minute reprieve from the rocking chair as he stakes out a bank he suspects the brothers will hit next.

The final showdown is action-packed perfection, but the real joy is the sharp dialogue written by Taylor Sheridan, accompanied with dynamic music from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis who also collaborated on THE PROPOSITION (2005).

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Hateful Eight (2016)

Ennio Morricone's (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) elegiac opening music sets the tone for this grim tale of eight eclectic characters holed up in a remote Wyoming stagecoach lodge after a winter storm strands them. Absorbing dialogue (overly talky first half but never boring) somewhat marred by Tarantino's insistence on tossing the "N" word in every chance he gets. Give it a rest, T.

The last hour is particularly well crafted when we learn the backstory behind Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) that John "The Hangman" Ruth (Kurt Russell) is escorting to Red Rock albeit turning the narrative into a gore splattered nightmare for our hateful travelers—a hardboiled Western not for the squeamish. Along with Russell's similar, in sobering brutality, BONE TOMAHAWK (2015), THE HATEFUL EIGHT would make for a helluva Western Horror double feature.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Communication Breakdown

I've had almost zero internet for two weeks, and after several days of junkie withdrawals I found myself reading more of the daily newspaper which was a '17 goal, but on the downside my television viewing spiked. Not quality TV, mind you, but binging on fatuous comedy shows. Biggest issue has been not connecting with all my fellow Bloggers, though hopefully by week's ends I will be able to make the rounds.

In the meantime, if you get a moment, here's my latest article on Stephen King's Wizard and Glass.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Wizard and Glass: The Dark Tower IV

When we left Roland, Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy the billy-bumbler, they were trapped on the psychotic locomotive, Blaine the Mono, crossing through the feared waste lands. Our ka-tet had narrowly escaped the destruction of Lud that Blaine had decimated with gas—but for what? To become prisoners aboard a train bulleting into a desolate hell populated by fierce beasts, with a guide that’s clearly mad. Yeah, it looks like we are bound to have a helluva lot of fun as we continue our journey to the Dark Tower, over at Criminal Element.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

In A Valley of Violence (2016)

Paul (Ethan Hawke) and his dog, Abbie, on their way to Mexico stop in the desolate, dust-swept town of Denton run by Marshal Clyde Martin (John Travolta) and his son Gilly (James Ransone). In classic Western cadence, Gilly tells Paul to git, and ends up in a fight with the stranger, getting his ass kicked. The marshal knows his offspring is a dolt, recognizes Paul is an Army man—respects that fact—and directs him to move along peacefully. Gilly, still smarting from his public shaming, tracks down Paul, and with the help of three buddies, they throw him over a steep cliff. Paul survives and exacts revenge. Seems standard Western fare, right?

And it is, except in the hands of director Ti West, it's teeming with fresh, crisp direction, editing, and quite a bit of welcoming humor. The film jumps from brutal action and disturbing gore to laugh out loud slapstick. Travolta is a particular hoot as he tries to goad his scaredy-cat deputies into engaging Paul who is systematically picking them off. Ethan Hawke and Taissa Farmiga (playing a teen who wants to help Paul but is rebuffed) turn in some particularly strong performances. Hawke is tailor-made for the brooding stranger with a dark past, and after his roles in The Magnificent Seven and In a Valley of Violence, here's hoping he'll return to the saddle before too long.

Special mention for Jumpy who plays Abbie, Paul's canine sidekick. I haven't seen a dog since Asta (The Thin Man) or The Duke's mutt in Hondo with this much character, becoming such an emotional cornerstone of the movie.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


The lives of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald continue to fascinate in a new Amazon original show called Z: The Beginning of Everything. Christina Ricci is excellent as Zelda with just the right amount of wild child and creative artist combination. First episode is available now and I'm looking forward to the rest of the first season set to be released on January 27. Here's the trailer featuring some excellent music.

Looming Tower

We are closer to finding that Dark Tower! My latest article is now up at Criminal Element.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Hollow Men

My review of Rob McCarthy's The Hollow Men at Macmillan's Criminal Element

Creepy by Alec Cizak

It's always a pleasure when our friend, the very much in-demand Alec Cizak, stops by the BEAT to a PULP webzine. Warning: his latest may just make you feel a bit "Creepy."

We checked on the van in the back of the BigMart parking lot shortly after the second body surfaced near Turkey Creek. Not too far from the first corpse, which had been discovered the previous week. Both victims were female. College students from Valpo. Dark hair. Mini-skirts. Too much makeup. Disappeared after a night of boozing. None of us believed we'd ever harbor a serial killer in little old Lublin, Indiana. That sort of thing just didn't happen around here. We got to discussing the problem at the Pub 900.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017 In Which

I plan to publish books by Court Merrigan, Glenn Gray, Nik Morton, Eric Beetner, and Kyle J. Knapp to name a few ... continue reviewing for Macmillan, a part-time job I enjoy immensely (what's better than getting paid to review books, right?) ... lose a few pounds ... finish two novellas of my own: The Honorable Killer and Me & Creature ... walk a mile a day ... study mathematics ... get back to reading the newspapers ... listen ... and more family activities, great and small.

You? What's on your agenda?