“Near Dark” (1987) / Z-View

Near Dark (1987)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Screenplay by:  Eric Red, Kathryn Bigelow

Starring:  Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Tim Thomerson, Joshua John Miller and James Le Gros

Tagline:  At dawn they hide. At dark they wake. At night they search for blood…pray for daylight.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Unknown to Caleb (Pasdar), his new girlfriend (Wright) is vampire.  When she turns him, Caleb reluctantly joins her coven which consists of their leader, Jesse Hooker (Henriksen), Diamondback (Goldstein), Severen (Paxton) and Homer (Miller). Each night the group goes out to hunt and feed. Sickened by what he has become, but with nowhere to turn, Caleb goes with them.  When things go sideways, the coven finds the police as well as Caleb’s father closing in on them.  Caleb will be forced to make a choice… but at what cost?

This modern day vampire tale is a blast.  Bill Paxton fills the screen as a vampire who enjoys his undead life.  It’s a thrill to see the Aliens trio (Henriksen, Goldstein and Paxton) together again.  The scene in the roadside bar still terrifies while at the same time makes audiences smile.  This movie’s influence can be see in many films that followed it.  Near Dark is so entertaining it easily rates 4 of 5 stars.

RIP: Joseph Turkel

Joseph “Joe” Turkel, best known for his roles in The Shinning and Blade Runner died on Monday, June 27, 2022.  He was 94 years old.  When he was 16 years old, Joe Turkel enlisted in the US Army and served during World War II.  After the war, Mr. Turkel decided on an acting career.

Joe Turkel’s resume contains over 140 credits of television and feature film roles.  Some of the television shows that Mr. Turkel appeared on include: The Lone Ranger, Highway Patrol, Sky King, Dragnet, Bat Masterson, Wagon Train, The Untouchables, Combat!, The Andy Griffith Show, The Rat Patrol, Bonanza, Ironside, Land of the Giants, Adam-12, SWAT, Police Story, Kojak, Fantasy Island and Miami Vice.

Some of the feature films in which Joe Turkel appeared include: The Killing, Paths of Glory, The Sand Pebbles, The Shinning and Blade Runner to name just a few.

Joseph Turkel had a face you couldn’t forget.  As a kid, I remember seeing Mr. Turkel show up on many of the shows I watched.  As an adult I began seeing him in films.  Usually, Mr. Turkel played a bad guy, but I knew he was a good guy to see in the credits.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Joseph Turkel’s family, friends and fans.

“Whiskey Made Us Brave” by S.A. Cosby

S.A. Cosby is one of my favorite writers.  I’ve read three books by Cosby and each one is a winner:

Cosby recently posted a link to his short story, Whiskey Made Us Brave.  If you like crime fiction, give it a read.  It’s short, but like all great crime stories, not sweet.  I can’t wait to see what S.A. Cosby has for us next!

RIP: Sonny Barger

Sonny Barger, one of the founding members of the Hell’s Angels, died yesterday from cancer.  Sonny Barger’s notoriety as a Hell’s Angels leader (including being part of the Rolling Stones security at the Altamont concert where Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane was knocked unconscious and audience member Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death) brought him into the public eye.  Mr. Barger appeared several documentaries about the Hell’s Angels and other motorcycle clubs, three feature films, but is probably known for his reoccurring role on Sons of Anarchy where he played Lenny ‘The Pimp’ Janowitz.  Sonny Barger also wrote or co-wrote six books.

I first became aware of Sonny Barger through his leadership of the Hell’s Angels and the wild stories and documentaries about him/them.  His addition to the cast of Sons of Anarchy added a level of authenticity to the show.  I’ve read a couple of his books.  He lived his life as he wanted.  His final message posted on his Facebook page was:

If you are reading this message, you’ll know that I’m gone. I’ve asked that this note be posted immediately after my passing. I’ve lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club. Although I’ve had a public persona for decades, i’ve mostly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, my family, and close friends.

Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer. But also know that in the end, I was surrounded by what really matters: My wife, Zorana, as well as my loved ones. Keep your head up high, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor. – Sonny

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sonny Barger’s family, friends and fans.

“The Untouchables” (1987) Starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery & Robert De Niro / Z-View

The Untouchables (1987)

Director: Brian De Palma

Screenplay by:  David Mamet based on The Untouchables by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley

Starring:  Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Billy Drago and Patricia Clarkson

Tagline:  What are you prepared to do?

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Elliott Ness (Costner) is a Federal Treasury agent sent to Chicago to take down Al Capone (De Niro) and his criminal enterprises.  Due to widespread corruption in the Chicago Police Department, Ness creates a team of “Untouchables” consisting of a Jim Malone (Connery) a street cop; George Stone (Garcia) a young police cadet and Oscar Wallace (Smith) a Treasury bookkeeper.  With their lives and families in danger, Ness and his Untouchables find themselves in Capone’s crosshairs as they move forward with their mission.

The Untouchables is arguably director Brian DePalma’s finest film.  It is the movie that made Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia stars.  Sean Connery won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jim Malone.  The film was also nominated for 3 additional Oscars: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Original Score.

I absolutely love The Untouchables.  Everything comes together beautifully – the screenplay, the director, the cast and the music mesh to create a magical movie experience.  David Mamet wrote the screenplay based on the book by (the real Elliott Ness) and Oscar Fraley.  While the film is a fictionalized account, it’s not a documentary, so let’s not pick that nit.  The film’s direction features DePalma at his peak.  There are so many memorable scenes – Ness and Malone meeting for the first time, Malone’s way of getting a Capone bookkeeper to talk, Ness’ confrontation with Capone on the staircase, Nitti and another thug at Malone’s apartment, Ness and the baby carriage, Stone saving the day and Ness and Nitti on the rooftop – to name several.

Connery is at his best and deserving of his Oscar.  Kevin Costner is perfect as the straight arrow cop who tests his limits when he discovers what he is willing to do to bring down Capone.  Andy Garcia is spot on as the cocky because he’s that good cop.  Charles Martin Smith plays what looks like a stereotypical bookkeeper until the action starts.  Billy Drago has a smaller but vitally important role as Frank Nitti, Capone’s number one hitman.

If you’ve never seen The Untouchables, you should rectify that as soon as possible.  If you have seen it, then you know I’m not exaggerating when I say The Untouchables is worthy of a 5 of 5 star rating.

“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” Starring Sean Connery (2003) / Z-View

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

Director: Stephen Norrington

Screenplay by:  James Dale Robinson based on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic books by Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill

Starring:  Sean Connery, Stuart Townsend, Peta Wilson, Jason Flemyng, Naseeruddin Shah, Tony Curran, Shane West  and Richard Roxburgh

Tagline: The power of seven become a league of one

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

It’s 1899.  A man who calls himself the Fantom leads an army of terrorists who strike without pity and leave clues implicating foreign countries.  The Fantom’s goal is to create a world war from which he will profit.

In an effort to bring down the Fantom a group of “extraordinary gentlemen” are recruited by “M” (Roxburgh):

  • Allan Quatermain (Connery) the famous hunter/tracker
  • Captain Nemo (Shah) the famous scientist/adventurer
  • Mina Harker (Wilson) who has vampire-like abilities
  • Dr. Henry Jekyll (Flemyng) who becomes the raging Mr. Hyde
  • Rodney Skinner (Curran), a thief who stole a formula that makes him invisible
  • Dorian Gray (Townsend) who appears to be immortal and
  • Tom Sawyer (West) who is a special agent from the United States

The “extraordinary gentlemen” make a formidable team, but there is a traitor among them…

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen gets a bad rap with some folks.  Perhaps some of that was caused by the tension on the set between director Stephen Norrington and Sean Connery.  Neither man enjoyed working with the other.  Sadly, it was Connery’s last live action film.  Some say the experience on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen led to his retirement.  Surprisingly, it was also Norrington’s last film as well.

There are another group of fans who loved the comics by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill and were disappointed with things the film changed.  Since I’ve never read the comics (and I do need to fix that!), I went into the movie with no preconceived thoughts.

As for the movie, I enjoyed it.  What’s not to love?  You have famous characters from different stories teaming up against a larger than life menace to the world!  The introductory scenes of each character is where the movie really shines.  We quickly learn who each person is and then we’re off on the adventure.  I would have loved this film even more if I was a kid… but there’s still enough of a kid in me to rate it 4 of 5 stars.

“The Deadly Companions” Starring Maureen O’Hara & Brian Keith (1961) / Z-View

The Deadly Companions (1961)

Director: Sam Peckinpah

Screenplay by:  Albert Sidney Fleischman based on his novel The Deadly Companions

Starring:  Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith, Steve Cochran, Chill Wills, Strother Martin and Will Wright

Tagline: Trapped… by her past and the sins of the men who pursued her through a savage land!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Yellowleg (Keith), a gunfighter named Billy (Cochran) and Turk (Wills) ride into a small town.  When bank robbers come out with guns blazing, Yellowleg and Billy return fire killing the thieves.  One of Yellowleg’s shots misses and kills a young boy.  The boy’s grieving mother, Kit (O’Hara) decides she will take her dead son to be buried next to his father.  To do this she will have to pass through dangerous Indian country.

Yellowleg offers to accompany her, but Kit refuses.  Despite her not wanting his help, Yellowleg recruits Billy and Turk to join the journey.  The threat of hostile Indians is real, but Kit and Yellowleg will learn too late that Billy and Turk have their own reasons for making the trip.

This is Sam Peckinpah’s first time directing a feature film.  The Westerner tv series, which starred Brian Keith, had just been cancelled. Keith had been named the lead for The Deadly Companions and he recommended Peckinpah for the director’s chair.  Reportedly Peckinpah and Maureen O’Hara didn’t get along. At any rate, this isn’t your typical Peckinpah film.

Brian Keith is always good.  Chill Wills has the ability to get laughs even playing the heavy.  There is a love story subplot (of course) and a revenge subplot and both require a bit more suspension of disbelief than a gritty western would require.  Still Peckinpah-lite is better than no Peckinpah at all.  The Deadly Companions earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Thieves’ Highway” (1949) / Z-View

Thieves’ Highway (1949)

Director:  Jules Dassin

Screenplay by:  A. I. Bezzerides based on his novel Thieves’ Market

Starring:  Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese, Lee J. Cobb, Barbara Lawrence, Jack Oakie, Millard Mitchell, Joseph Pevney and Jules Dassin

Tagline: Rackets Ride The Roads!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Nick Garcos (Conte) returns home from the war with plans to marry his girl and start a business.  When Nick learns that his father, a trucker, was crippled due to a crooked produce dealer named Mike Figlia (Cobb), Nick decides to get revenge.  Nick underestimates Figlia and realizes he’s in over his head too late…

Thieves’ Highway is another excellent film that I might have missed if not for Eddie Mueller and TCM.  Richard Conte is excellent as the honest, headstrong son looking to avenge his father.  Lee J. Cobb presents just the right amount of attitude playing the smug, tough (yet truly cowardly) dirty businessman.  It was humorous that everyone knew what a creep Figla was, but they had to deal with him.  Jackie Oakie provides some comedy relief.

If there was any nit I would pick, it would be the love subplot.  Nick seems ready to switch his allegiance pretty quickly. And just as fast we learn that his fiancé loves money/security more than Nick.  The subplot does provide a fun scene with Nick talking on the phone to his girl in a crowded bar full of men ready to join in.

Thieves’ Highway was a fun ride and it earns 4 of 5 stars.

The Protégé (2021) Starring Maggie Q, Michael Keaton & Samuel L. Jackson / Z-View

The Protégé (2021)

Director:  Martin Campbell

Screenplay by:  Richard Wenk

Starring:  Maggie Q, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Patrick

Tagline:  Made for vengeance

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Anna (Q) and Moody (Jackson) are assassins.  Moody rescued and raised Anna since she was a child.  When Moody is killed by a hit team, Anna vows revenge.  Soon she finds herself in a cat and mouse game with Rembrandt (Keaton) an assassins with skills that match (surpass?) her own.

Maggie Q is more than capable as the world’s greatest assassin.  Michael Keaton steals every scene he’s in.  His “Nobody home” line still makes me smile.  Samuel L. Jackson is always good.  Poor Robert Patrick isn’t given much to do and what he is given isn’t great.  No fault to him though, it’s just not a great role.

The Protégé is at it’s best when in action mode.  The early scenes with Q and Keaton are fun, but after a while become repetitive.  There’s a twist I didn’t see coming and the ending also holds a surprise (if not in what happens, then in the, uh, execution).    The Protégé rates 3 of 5 stars.

Scott Christian Sava’s Six 007s!

Scott Christian Sava is an animator, illustrator, director, writer, producer and founder of Blue Dream Studios. Scott has produced work for Disney, Universal Studios and Nickelodeon.  Movies using Scott’s art include Star Wars, X-Files, Aliens vs. Predator, Spider-Man, and Animal Crackers (which was Blue Dream Studios’ first feature and was the number 1 animated film in the world in 2020!).

Scott is also the artist of the James Bond sketches above.  Scott Christian Sava is a great artist, but also one of the kindest and coolest human beings on social media. You can find him on TwitterInstagram, TikTok and Facebook.

SHOEDOG by George Pelecanos / Z-View

Shoedog by George Pelecanos

Trade Paperback : ‎ 240 pages
Publisher: ‎ Back Bay Books

First sentence…

The first thing Constantine noticed, as the car pulled over and slowed to a stop, was the bumblebee emblem on the grill.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Constantine left home at 17 and has been drifting around the world for almost as many years.  While hitchhiking, Constantine is picked up by an older man named Polk.  They make good traveling buddies and plan to head towards Florida, but first Polk asks Constantine to accompany him on a stop.  A man named Grimes owes Polk $20,000 and Polk intends to collect it.

Polk and Constantine meet Grimes in an office in Grimes’ mansion.  Grimes tells Polk that he can pay him after a score he has planned for the coming week.  There’s a spot for Polk if he wants in.  Then they’ll just need to find one more driver.  Polk suggests that they use Constantine, if after hearing the plan they want in.

Grimes brings everyone together. The crew consists of Gorman (something isn’t right about this guy), Grimes (has history with Polk and it may not be good), Valdez (who takes an instant dislike to Constantine), Jackson and Randolph (the one dude who seems most trustworthy).  The plan is to knock over two locations using three man teams.  Constantine is deciding if he wants in when Grimes’ young wife, Delia, brings everyone coffee.  Delia’s eyes meet Constantine and his decision is made. He’s in.  As the days go by leading up to the caper, Constantine and Delia grow closer despite the risk of what Grimes will do if he finds out.  And by closer, I mean “closer’.

After the robbery, Polk plans to collect his money and head south with Constantine.  Delia and Constantine have other ideas. They will use Constantine’s cut to make their escape.  None know that Grimes, Gorman and Valdez have plans of their own.

Pelecanos has another winner with Shoedog, a true crime noir.  It earned 4 of 5 stars.

Shoedog Hardcover
Shoedog Trade Paperback
Shoedog Kindle

“We Own This City” (2022) / Z-View

We Own This City (2022)

Developed by:  George Pelecanos, David Simon

Teleplays by:  George Pelecanos (Parts 1 & 5), David Simon (Parts 1 & 6), Ed Burns (Parts 2 & 4), William F. Zorzi (Parts 2 & 4),  D. Watkins (Part 3),

Directed by:  Reinaldo Marcus Green

Starring:  Jon Bernthal, Wunmi Mosaku, Jamie Hector, Josh Charles, McKinley Belcher III, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Rob Brown, Don Harvey and Seth Hurwitz.

Tagline:  None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers.

We Own This City is based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Justin Fenton, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun.  We Own This City follows a task force created to deal with rising crime.  Baltimore PD’s shining star, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins builds a team to take guns and drugs off the streets. Although successful, under Jenkins’ watch, the strike force steals drugs and money from their busts.  They also plant evidence and lie under oath.  Numerous complaints leads to an investigation which shows widespread corruption throughout the force and gives lengthy jail sentences to those sworn to protect and serve.

We Own This City features excellent writing, direction and an amazing cast lead by Jon Bernthal (who should receive an Emmy nomination).  Josh Charles is great as the unlikable Daniel Hersl.  McKinley Belcher III from Ozark and The Passage, is always good. Seth Hurwitz is perfect as the slimy bail bondsman who helps Wayne Jenkins move stolen drugs.   Kudos also to Kris Bowers for his music.   We Own This City easily earns 4 of 5 stars.