Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tarantino on Blu-ray

I like Quentin Tarantino's movies. Pretty much all of them, in fact, although I thought Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds were poorly-structured, narratively. Still... from Reservoir Dogs through the Kill Bill films, I've found Tarantino's movies to be a lot of fun. When I got into laserdisc in the 90s, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction were among the first platters I bought. Yes, I know it's not considered cool to like QT nowadays, and yes, I know that his movies tend to be patchwork cinematic creations comprised of thinly-disguised homages and/or outright swipes from dozens of other films - but I actually like that. Part of the pleasure I derive from something like Kill Bill or Basterds is recognizing QT's influences and inspirations from my own obsessive movie-watching.

In the last year, as I've been compiling my Blu-ray collection, I've been rather surprised that probably his best-known film (after Dogs), Pulp Fiction, was not available on the format. Neither was Jackie Brown, which I think is a fine Elmore Leonard adaptation and probably Tarantino's most under-appreciated film. Apparently, it all has to do with the breakup of the Miramax label at Disney, and the redistribution of the various Miramax titles to different companies. (Including the unfortunate acquisition of many of the Miramax/Dimension Films sub-label's genre films by the crap merchants Echo Bridge Entertainment.)

Well, anyway, it's finally been announced that Lionsgate will be releasing Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown on Blu-ray on October 2nd, with transfers supervised by QT himself. Obviously, I'm eager to add these flicks to my HD library.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dragon Crusaders


Well, The Asylum has another fantasy film on the way from writer/director/cinematographer Mark Atkins, Dragon Crusaders. I tend to enjoy Atkins' films more than many of the others produced by the microbudget studio, and am still quite a fan of his 2008 fantasy, Merlin And The War Of The Dragons (although I was less impressed by the 2009 follow-up Dragonquest). Well, here we are with dragons again (the better to take advantage of existing CGI models and animation, no doubt), but it looks like the story - a pretty standard fantasy plot - has been tailored to the small budget (no "big" armies evident this time) and that the filmmakers have returned to the gorgeous Welsh locations that so enhanced their Merlin picture.

What the hell. I'm looking forward to it. Might be fun.

Wednesday Cover: Dagar The Invincible

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Dog's Life... of Mystery!

I am not - generally speaking - much of a fan of literary "gimmicks," especially in mystery fiction, but a while back (I forget how - maybe through an Amazon "recommendation") I became aware of the "Chet & Bernie" mystery novels by Spencer Quinn (real name: Peter Abrahams), about a hardluck private eye named Bernie Little, and his canine partner, Chet... mysteries narrated by Chet. Yeah. The dog.

I don't know why, but that intrigued me, especially since the reader reviews on Amazon and other sites were generally very positive. So, I put the first book in the series, Dog On It, onto my Amazon wishlist, and figured I'd pick it up one of these days.

Well, on Friday, Brandi took a half day off from work, and with my jury service completed, we made an afternoon of it. We went to Longhorn steakhouse for an early dinner, and then went to see the last Harry Potter film. We had an hour to kill between those two activities, however, so we dropped by the local Barnes & Noble to browse around a bit. There, I happened to find the first and third "Chet & Bernie" novels in trade paperback, and remembered my interest in them. But at $15 each, it was a bit more than I could justify spending (money's tight for most of us these days), especially since I wasn't really sure if I'd like them, and they didn't have book 2 on the shelf. But, as we were leaving, I found the first two books - in their original hardcover editions - on the bargain table for only about $6 each. Two books for $12 seemed like a deal that made more sense, so I picked up Dog On It and Thereby Hangs A Tail (mystery writers love their puns, don't they?) and headed off to the movie.

I've already read the first book and am about halfway through the second. I'm kinda surprised, because I've had difficulty focusing on reading anything of length lately (my TBR pile holds the last two Robert Crais "Joe Pike" novels, the last two Spillane/Collins "Mike Hammer" books, the last two "Alex Rider" adventures from Anthony Horowitz, and Carte Blanche, the new Bond book by Jeffrey Deaver - all books that normally would get read immediately upon purchase, and quickly completed, at that!). But the "voice" that Quinn has created for his canine narrator is truly engaging, and I have been well and truly engaged.

The concept is ridiculous and impossible, of course, but Quinn manages to make it somehow believable. Chet (plain and simple) certainly possesses an astounding vocabulary, but his reactions, distractions, observations and obsessions are somehow... right. Chet's loyalty to his "partner," joy in life's simple pleasures, confusion over abstracts like finances, and overall ability to live completely in the present, all make for a unique and comforting read -- and apparently, these books were exactly what I needed right now.

As mysteries, they're not all that challenging, but they're surprisingly involving and enjoyable reads, and if you're someone who doesn't mind a little goofiness in your crime fiction, you might want to check them out for yourself. Me, I need to find that third book cheap now.... (Wait? There's four books?!)

More info at chetthedog.com

Sunday, July 17, 2011

DRESSED TO KILL Double Feature

Tonight's late night double feature - two 40s series mysteries with the same title! Lloyd Nolan is private eye Michael Shayne in 1941's Dressed to Kill from 20th Century Fox and Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce co-star in the 1946 Universal Sherlock Holmes mystery of the same name. Movie mysteries until dawn!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday Cover: The Five Faces Of Murder

I'm something of a fan of Jay Flynn. Many (probably most) of his books are the worst sort of hacked-out trash pulp, but there are a few gems scattered among the garbage, like The Action Man. I've never read The Five Faces Of Murder, though, so I have no idea where it falls, quality-wise, in his "oeuvre." Nice cover, though. I don't recognize the artist, unfortunately.
Zoe. Photo by Brandi

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lady Sabre & The Pirates Of The Ineffable Aether!

One of my favorite comics/crime writers, Greg Rucka, and one of my favorite artists (and collaborators), Rick Burchett, have just launched a new webcomic - Lady Sabre & The Pirates Of The Ineffable Aether!

This steampunk-ish fantasy is something of a departure, genre-wise, for both creators, but based on today's first installment, it already looks like a winner - and a genuine masterpiece in the making. Check it out!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

RKO's Saint

I just received the George Sanders Saint Movie Collection from Warners Archive. The two-disc, manufactured-to-order DVD set includes all five of the Saint movies that George Sanders starred in for RKO - The Saint Strikes Back, The Saint In London, The Saint's Double Trouble, The Saint Takes Over and The Saint In Palm Springs (Louis Hayward and Hugh Sinclair also played Simon Templar in RKO films, but it's the five with Sanders that are the best-remembered. 

These are not remastered or restored in any way. The source prints used for the transfers all show significant age-related wear and tear, but they're still pretty decent, and certainly watchable.

So far, I'm really enjoying them. I love these old hour-long B-mystery series detective flix, whether they feature Sherlock Holmes (the Universal series), Charlie Chan, Mike Shayne, Mr. Moto, or Mr. Wong, and these are right in there with those esteemed series. I had a copy of The Saint Strikes Back on VHS years ago (pictured at left), so I was pretty familiar with that one, but they're all a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed The Saint's Double Trouble, in which Sanders plays both Templar and his criminal double, even though the great Bela Lugosi is terribly underused in the flick. Later tonight, I plan on checking out The Saint Takes Over.

I loved Roger Moore in the 60s Saint TV series, and liked Ian Ogilvy in the 70s revival, The Return Of The Saint (great theme music, too). But I'm beginning to think Sanders is my favorite Simon of all.

So, thanks, Warner Archive, for bringing these to DVD at last. Would it be too much to hope that The Falcon series might be on the way? Or am I being greedy?

Saturday, July 09, 2011

More Mike Hammer coming to DVD!

2011 has been a good year for Mike Hammer on DVD so far, even if the Armand Assante I, The Jury and the 80s Stacy Keach TV series (both of them) are still among the missing. We've had Criterion's amazing restoration of Kiss Me Deadly (my review HERE), and the MGM Limited Edition Collection has made available the rather less-than-stellar (but still appreciated) My Gun Is Quick (my review HERE) on manufactured-on-demand DVD.

Now, it looks like A&E Home Video will be releasing the 50's syndicated television series, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, starring the incredible Darren McGavin to DVD in September, with a 12-disc set containing the entire series. The suggested retail price is astronomical (at least, for me), but at least they're releasing the whole series at once, so if I do manage to scrape up the lettuce, I won't have to wonder if the rest of the seasons will come out.

Yeah - damn right, I'm still burning about their Peter Gunn DVD releases ten years or so back, which dried up incomplete after two volumes.

Thanks to Bish's Beat for the head's up. You can pre-order the set from Amazon (at a slightly less astronomical discounted price) here: Mickey Spillanes Mike Hammer-Complete Series

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Wednesday Covers: The GRACKLE

Back in the mid-90s, right around the time that Frank Miller's Sin City and David Lapham's Stray Bullets were actually selling better than many super-hero titles, the increasingly desperate management of Acclaim Comics decided to launch an entire line of crime comics. One of them was a limited series called The Grackle, written by Mike Baron and illustrated by the great Paul Gulacy. Here are two of the four cover illustrations he did for that miniseries.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

China. Photo by Brandi

Recent Reviews @ DVD Late Show

That's right, kiddies: it' time for another reminder that I also publish a variety of cult, B-movie and genre DVD and Blu-Ray reviews over at my DVD Late Show website.

Let's see. In the last few weeks I've posted reviews of the Mike Hammer potboiler My Gun Is Quick; the Mike Hammer classic, Kiss Me Deadly on Criterion Blu-ray; Mega Python Vs Gatoroid, starring 80s pop tarts Debbie Gibson & Tiffany; Larry Cohen's The Ambulance, starring Eric Roberts' amazing mullet; the Medieval horror film, Black Death, starring Game Of Thrones' Sean Bean, on Blu-ray; Burn Notice - The Complete Fourth season; the incredibly fun 1968 space opera, The Green Slime; the excellent Burn, Witch, Burn, with a screenplay by Richard Matheson & Charles Beaumont adapting a Fritz Lieber horror classic; Walter Hill's The Long Riders, on Blu-ray;  the 1977 lost world adventure, The Last Dinosaur, starring Richard Boone; and Roger Corman's Dinocroc Vs Supergator, on Blu-ray.

Reviews on tap for the rest of this week include Hobo With A Shotgun, with Rutger Hauer; The Baby; Thundarr The Barbarian - The Complete Series; and the Linda Blair/Sybil Danning Women In Prison Triple Feature of Chained Heat, Red Heat & Jungle Warriors. Check it out!