Category: Crime

“Last Looks” (2021) starring Charlie Hunnam & Mel Gibson / Z-View

Last Looks (2021)

Director:  Tim Kirkby

Screenplay:  Howard Michael Gould based on this novel Last Looks

Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Mel Gibson, Lucy Fry, Clancy Brown, Robin Givens, CC Castillo, Method Man, Dominic Monaghan, Paul Ben-Victor and Josh McDermitt

Tagline:  This city is a bad place to be a good guy.

The Plot…

Charlie Waldo (Hunnam) is an ex-cop who has withdrawn from society.  He lives a quiet life in a trailer outside the city.  All of that changes when he is convinced to look into the murder of a Alastair Pinch’s wife.  Pinch (Gibson) is a an arrogant, alcoholic, but extremely popular tv star.  Pinch is also the prime suspect in his wife’s murder.  He claims he was blackout drunk when she was killed.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Last Looks has a great cast with Gibson and Hunnam leading the way.  Although Hunnam gets top billing, Gibson steals the show with his take on Alastair Pinch.  It’s fun to see see Clancy Brown, Dominic Monagham and Josh McDermitt show up as well.

Last Looks has the feel of a quirky detective show from the 1970s or 80s. You know the shows where the “guest star” gets the flashy part and there’s plenty of interesting characters along the way. I enjoyed Last Looks and could see it producing a sequel if the box office would support it.

Last Looks earns 4 of 5 stars.

DIG TWO GRAVES by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins!

A new Mike Hammer yarn, Dig Two Graves is coming from Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins!  Here’s the lowdown…

Mike Hammer, the iconic PI created by the master of noir Mickey Spillane, takes on the mob in the first of two gripping final novels for the deadly private eye.

Winter 1969. After a hit-and-run accident nearly kills her mother, Velda learns her father is not who she thought he is. Seeking to uncover her true heritage, Velda and Mike Hammer travel to sunny Dreamland Park, where retired law enforcement officers keep an eye on notorious criminals held under the Witness Protection Act.

Just as Velda and Mike’s search leads to a dead end, a brutal attempt on their lives and a missing fortune in mob money leads them to a deadly midnight confrontation in a cemetery where secrets are buried and open graves await.

 Dig Two Graves drops August 22, 2023.

Dig Two Graves  Hardcover

Dig Two Graves Kindle

“Tulsa King”: Season 1 starring Sylvester Stallone / Z-View

Tulsa King: Season 1 (2022 – 2023)

Teleplay by: Taylor Sheridan and Terence Winter (episode 1); Terence Winter & Joseph Riccobene (episodes 2, 7); Regina Corrado (episode 3); Dave Flebotte (episodes 4, 6); Joseph Riccobene (episode 5), Terence Winter & Tom Sierchio (episode 8), Terence Winter (9)

Directed by: Allen Coulter (episodes 1, 2); Ben Richardson (episode 3); Ben Semanoff (episodes 4,5); Guy Ferland (episodes 6,7); Lodge Kerrigan (episodes 8,9)

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Andrea Savage, Martin Starr, Jay Will, Max Casella, Domenick Lombardozzi, Vincent Piazza, A.C. Peterson, Garrett Hedlund, Dana Delany, Chris Caldovino, Ritchie Coster, Tatiana Zappardino, McKenna Quigley Harrington, Scarlet Rose Stallone,  John Cenatiempo and Joseph Riccobene

Tagline: None.

The Plot…

After serving a 25 year prison sentence, Dwight “The General” Manfredi (Stallone) believes he will be rewarded by the Invernizzi crime family. Manfredi could have talked to the Feds for a lighter sentence, but he stood the full load.  When Manfredi meets with Pete Invernizzi, the Don of their family, Manfredi  learns that he’s being exiled to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Manfredi will be expected to earn money for the Invernizzis, but will be far enough away, he won’t have the influence he once held.  Although Pete and Dwight were once good friends, Pete’s son, Chickie, has always been jealous of their relationship.  Dwight knows that Chickie now makes most of the family decisions due to Pete’s illness.  What Dwight doesn’t know is that Chickie wants him dead.

After 25 years in the joint, it’s a new world for Dwight.  And Tulsa isn’t New York City.  Still, Dwight begins to build a crew and put deals together.  Soon enough Dwight finds himself in a relationship with an ATF agent (Savage), at odds with a deadly motorcycle gang, brought to the attention of the FBI and in the crosshairs of Chickie Invernizzi.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Sylvester Stallone is perfectly cast as Dwight Manfredi.  That should be no surprise since Tulsa King series creator, Tyler Sheridan, built it around Stallone.  Plus Stallone has been welcomed to tweak dialogue and Manfredi’s character to better suit his personality.

The writing is first rate.  Tulsa King is populated by memorable characters.  We learn more about them as the series continues but it never feels like exposition.  They writers create scenes that feel natural with twists that are surprising.

The casting is superb.  Without a doubt, Stallone is the perfect star for this series.  Stallone is supported by an amazing cast. Every single actor/actress no matter how small their role is spot on.  Standouts include Andrea Savage, Jay Will; Dominic Lombardozzi, Garrett Hedlund, Ritchie Coster and Tatiana Zappardino.

I cannot wait for Tulsa King: Season 2.

Tulsa King: Season 1 (2022 – 2023) earns 5 of 5 stars.

Lawrence Block, S.A. Cosby, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell & 13 Others are PLAYING GAMES!

What would you call a book with stories by Lawrence Block, S.A. Cosby, Joe R. Lansdale, David Morrell and 13 others?  Must Buy?  It is actually called Playing Games.  Here’s the lowdown…

WIN, LOSE, OR DIE.

Whether it’s child’s play or for the highest stakes, whether we stick to the rules or cheat, we all play games — for fun, for thrills, for love or money, to prove we’re the best or make an opponent knuckle under. And the games we play, with cards or dice or nothing but our wits, reveal something deeply personal about the players.

In this powerful new anthology, Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Lawrence Block has assembled an all-star team for the ultimate game night. Sit down at the checkerboard with S.A. Cosby, assemble jigsaw puzzles with David Morrell, or play marbles for the fate of the world with Joe R. Lansdale. In Jeffery Deaver’s hands, an innocent game of Candyland takes twists the Parker Brothers could never have imagined. Science-fiction grandmaster Robert Silverberg uncovers painful truths about destiny while betting on the turtle races in a Caribbean resort. And Lawrence Block himself out-Hitchcocks Hitchcock with his classic story of murder victims swapped by strangers on a handball court.

From hide-and-seek to Russian roulette, from mahjong to Mouse Trap, it’s a game lover’s dream — but beware: your turn is coming, and while winning isn’t everything, sometimes losing can be deadly…

And here’s the starred review from Publishers Weekly:

One of the most impressive of the 17 crime stories involving games in this stellar anthology from MWA Grand Master Block (In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper) is Block’s own “Strangers on a Handball Court.” It riffs on Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, as the title suggests, and provides a wholly fair plot with a gut-wrenching surprise. Even knowing that multiple twists are coming doesn’t negate their impact in Jeffery Deaver’s devious “The Babysitter,” which opens with a classic trope: the innocent everyperson who stumbles on a deadly secret. When the charges of 17-year-old Kelli Lambert get bored playing Candy Land, Kelli’s search for another board game leads her into peril after the parents of the kids she’s watching suspect she’s spotted their secret plans to torch a casino so they can establish their own casino. David Morrell shines with the subtle and creepy “The Puzzle Master,” in which a couple become addicted to jigsaw puzzles by a particular artist, only to find potentially ominous clues linking disparate bucolic scenes. The wide range of stories and games in them begs for a sequel.

Playing Games is available now.

Playing Games Paperback

Playing Games Kindle

“The Company You Keep” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I like the concept of The Company You Keep.  The poster and trailer ain’t bad either.  I’ll give it a shot.

A night of passion leads to love between con man Charlie and undercover CIA officer Emma, who are unknowingly on a collision course professionally. While Charlie ramps up the “family business” so he can get out for good, Emma’s closing in on the vengeful criminal who holds Charlie’s family debts in hand – forcing them to reckon with the lies they’ve told so they can save themselves and their families from disastrous consequences. The series is based on the Korean Broadcasting System series entitled “My Fellow Citizens.”

“The Company You Keep” stars Milo Ventimiglia as Charlie, Catherine Haena Kim as Emma, William Fichtner as Leo, Tim Chiou as David, Freda Foh Shen as Grace, James Saito as Joseph, Sarah Wayne Callies as Birdie, Felisha Terrell as Daphne and Polly Draper as Fran.

“Up in the Air” (1940) starring Frankie Darro & Mantan Moreland / Z-View

Up in the Air (1940)

Director: Howard Bretherton

Screenplay: Edmond Kelso

Stars: Frankie Darro, Mantan Moreland, Tristram Coffin, Dick Elliott, John Holland and Carleton Young

Tagline: Murder in a radio station…while the public listens!

The Plot…

Frankie Ryan (Darro) is a radio station page.  Jeff Jefferson (Moreland) is a janitor at the same station.  They dream of becoming a comedy team.  Their antics have almost gotten them fired more than once.  When one of the radio’s singers is murdered at the station, Frankie and Jeff hope to solve the crime before the cops.  What could go wrong?

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Mantan Moreland was the reason I decided to check out Up in the Air.  Mantan is good, the movie less so.

Up in the Air is a low-budget production that clocks in at just 62 minutes.  If you’re a Mantan Moreland fan, then it’s worth a view.  Even so, be advised that there’s a scene where Darro and Moreland do a comedy bit with Darro in blackface. Darro and Moreland made several films together.  I plan to check out as many as possible.

Up in the Air earns 2 of 5 stars.

“Dangerous Money” (1946) starring Sidney Toler / Z-View

Dangerous Money (1946)

Director: Terry O. Morse

Screenplay: Miriam Kissinger, based on characters created by Earl Derr Biggers

Stars: Sidney Toler, Victor Sen Yung, John Harmon, Dick Elliott, Tristram Coffin, Selmer Jackson and Dudley Dickerson

Tagline: THE RIDDLE OF THE “KNIVES OF DEATH!”

The Plot…

While traveling on an ocean liner Charlie Chan is approached by a Scott Pearson, a Treasury Agent.  Pearson is on a case involving counterfeit money and stolen art.  There have been two attempts on his life when Chan saves Pearson from a third!  When Pearson is later murdered, Chan is determined to find the killer.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Mantan Mooreland doesn’t appear in Dangerous Money.  Charlie Chan’s valet is now Chattanooga Brown (perhaps Birmingham’s nephew?), played by Willie Best. Chattanooga and Charlie Chan’s son make an interesting team, but I missed Mooreland.

Dangerous Money, like all Charlie Chan films, is a low-budget affair that runs just over an hour.  It gives us several likely suspects for the killer, with most folks getting it wrong.  Not Charlie Chan though.  That dude is like Columbo before there was a Columbo.

Dangerous Money earns 3 of 5 stars.

SPILLANE: KING OF PULP FICTION by Max Allan Collins and James L. Traylor

SPILLANE: KING OF PULP FICTION by Max Allan Collins and James L. Traylor is coming!

The first-ever biography of the most popular and most influential pulp writer of all time, written by the collaborator who knew him best

There has never been a full-length biography of Mickey Spillane, the most popular and influential mystery writer of his era―until now.

Beginning in 1947 with I, the Jury, and continuing with his next six novels, Spillane quickly amassed a readership in the tens of millions, becoming the bestselling novelist in the history of American publishing. Surrounded by controversy for the overt violence and suggestive sexual content of his iconic Mike Hammer private eye novels, Spillane was loathed by critics but beloved by his readers.

There is, however, more to Spillane’s life than the books. He also starred as Hammer in a movie, was a circus performer, worked with the FBI in capturing a notorious criminal, and starred in Miller Light beer commercials that were so popular they ran for a quarter of a century.

Max Allan Collins became Spillane’s friend and collaborator, continuing the Mike Hammer series for years after the author’s death, building upon unfinished manuscripts the writer left behind. Now, with co-author James Traylor, Collins has produced the first comprehensive and authoritative profile of the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master. It is a must-read for any fan of the author―or of the generations of crime writers that were influenced by his work.

SPILLANE: KING OF PULP FICTION  Hardcover

SPILLANE: KING OF PULP FICTION  Kindle

“Dark Alibi” (1946) starring Sidney Toler & Mantan Moreland / Z-View

Dark Alibi (1946)

Director:  Phil Karlson

Screenplay: George Callahan, based on characters created by Earl Derr Biggers

Stars: Sidney Toler, Mantan Moreland, Ben Carter, Benson Fong, John Eldredge, Tim Ryan, Ray Walker and Milton Parsons

Tagline:  THE MASTER OF MYSTERY EXPOSES A GENIUS OF CRIME!

The Plot…

When Thomas Harley is sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit it will be up to Charlie Chan to prove his innocence.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Mantan Mooreland, who plays Charlie Chan’s valet, Birmingham, is the reason I started watching.  Mooreland is one of my favorite comedians from that era.  His timing and physical comedy are pure perfection.  Mooreland has three scenes in Dark Alibi with his former vaudeville partner, Ben Carter, that are shoehorned into the film.

The Charlie Chan films are low-budget and run just over an hour.  They’re a great way to close out a day.  The Chan films often set the viewer up to think one person is the villain only for it to turn out to be another.  Thankfully, we have Charlie Chan to set us straight.

Dark Alibi earns 4 of 5 stars.

“My Name is Vendetta” (2022) / Z-View

My Name is Vendetta (2022)

Director:  Cosimo Gomez

Screenplay: Sandrone Dazieri, Franco Fraternale, Cosimo Gomez

Stars: Alessandro Gassmann, Ginevra Francesconi

The Plot…

Santo, a former mob hitman, has been living a quiet life with his wife, daughter and brother for years.  When his former boss learns where Santo lives, a hit team is sent in to kill him.  The team takes out Santo’s brother and Santo’s wife.  His daughter gets away.  Santos arrives home to the massacre.  He finds his daughter and then begins to take revenge…

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

I was expecting better for My Name is Vendetta.

Santos’ daughter creates the situations that leads to her mother and uncle’s death by not listening to her dad.  Then after they are murdered she disobeys him again causing their location to be known again.  This makes her character pretty unlikeable from the start.

The action ranges from good to boring.  The fact that Santos’ former mafia employers have access to technology that can find him so easily is just too unrealistic.  The ending was also unsatisfying.  All of these issues point to a need for tighter writing.

My Name is Vendetta earns 2 of 5 stars.

“The Black Phone” (2021) starring Ethan Hawke / Z-View

The Black Phone (2021)

Director:  Scott Derrickson

Screenplay: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill based on “The Black Phone” short story by Joe Hill

Stars: Mason Thames, Madeleine McGraw, Ethan Hawke, Jeremy Davies and E. Roger Mitchell

Tagline: Never Talk to Strangers

The Plot…

A sadistic serial killer of children has been dubbed The Grabber by news media.  Despite multiple kidnappings and murders, the killer leaves no clues.  When Finney, a thirteen year old boy, wakes up in a locked basement, he comes to realize that The Grabber plans to torture and kill him… unless Finney can find a way out.

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)…

Although The Grabber’s “name” isn’t that scary, the masks he wears are.  The scene (picture below) of the serial killer sitting shirtless, in a mask, whip in hand waiting in the kitchen to see if Finney will come up is truly creepy.

The Black Phone has a supernatural aspect to it that makes it less scary in my opinion.  A kid, alone in a serial killer’s basement is frightening.  When he begins getting “help” from beyond, it is much more likely that he’ll survive.

There are couple of cool plot twists and the ending works well.

The Black Phone earns 3 of 5 stars.

“The Locksmith” starring Ryan Phillippe, Kate Bosworth and Ving Rhames – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

The Locksmith has a great cast (Ryan Phillippe, Kate Bosworth and Ving Rhames!) and a classic storyline.  You can check out the trailer below.  Deal me in!

An expert locksmith (Ryan Phillippe) is released from prison and pulled back into a world of crooked cops and small-town gangsters, despite the future he hoped to build with his ex-fiancé (Kate Bosworth) a detective, and their daughter.

“Among the Beasts” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

Among the Beasts has a great title, a cool poster and a trailer that has me on board!  Deal me in!

Directed by: Matthew Newton

Starring: Tory Kittles, Libe Barer, Sarunas J Jackson, Jon Bass, Jim Norton

Synopsis: When a gangster’s daughter reluctantly teams with a former Marine to find her kidnapped cousin, the combat veteran must overcome his own demons in order to rescue the child.

THINGS GET UGLY: THE BEST CRIME STORIES of Joe R. Lansdale is Coming!

Things Get Ugly: The Best Crime Stories of Joe R. Lansdale will be available August 15, 2023!  352 pages of Lansdale goodness.  Here’s the preview…

Edgar Award winner and bestselling author Joe R. Lansdale (the Hap and Leonard series), one of America’s most essential crime writers, heads back to the dangerous woods of East Texas. In his first crime career-retrospective, including previously uncollected work, Lansdale shows exactly why critics continue to compare him to Elmore Leonard, Donald Westlake, Flannery O’Connor, and William Faulkner.

“Pulpy, blackly humorous, compulsively readable, and somehow both wildly surreal and down-to-earth. Lansdale is a national fucking treasure.”
―Christa Faust, author of Money Shot

In the 1950s, a young small-town projectionist mixes it up with a violent gang. When Mr. Bear is not alerting us to the dangers of forest fires, he lives a life of debauchery and murder. A brother and sister travel to Oklahoma to recover the dead body of their uncle. A lonely man engages in dubious acts while pining for his rubber duckie.

In this collection of nineteen unforgettable crime tales, Joe R. Lansdale brings his legendary mojo and gritty, dark humor to harrowing heists, revenge, homicide, and mayhem. No matter how they begin, things are bound to get ugly―and fast.

Pre-orders are available now.

Things Get Ugly  Paperback
Things Get Ugly  Kindle