Category: Z-View

ZERO SAINTS by Gabino Iglesias / Z-View

Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias

Trade Paperback: 196 pages
Publisher: Broken River Books

First sentence…

I didn’t hear those pinches cabrones coming.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

In Zero Saints, Gabino Iglesias created one of the most intense opening chapters in memory.   Fernando, a drug dealer/crew leader, is beaten and taken to an abandoned house.  Secured to a chair is Fernando’s friend.  Fernando is forced to watch a heavily tattooed gangbanger (with insane black eyes) slowly torture and behead his buddy. The message is clear: Give up your territory or die.

Fernando knows a war has arrived.  His odds of survival are slim.  So with his back against the wall, Fernando recruits a Russian gun thug (who owes him a favor) and a crazy blood simple buddy to join him in a last ditch chance at payback.

Iglesias takes what could be a simple tale of revenge and peppers it with gangbangers, drug dealers, hitmen and a touch of the supernatural.  Fernando isn’t your typical protagonist. He’s unable to save his friend, others close to him die and he fears the Mara Salvatrucha cartel (especially the one with the black eyes).  Fernando moves through a gritty underworld that exists in many big cities, but is only safely visited in stories like Zero Saints.

Zero Saints was my first book by Gabino Iglesias.  I look forward to reading many more (hopefully including tales of Fernando and his supporting cast… well, those who lived).


“The Last Duel” / Z-View

The Last Duel (2021)

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenplay: Nicole Holofcener & Ben Affleck & Matt Damon (based on the book by Eric Jager)

Starring:  Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck.

Tagline:  The truth has different versions.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The Last Duel is the true story of the last trial by combat officially sanctioned by the King of France.  The battle took place on December 29, 1386, between Knight Jean de Carrouges (Damon) and Squire Jacques Le Gris (Driver).  They had been friends who once fought side-by-side. Over the years de Carrouges felt cheated by Le Gris.  He was also jealous of Le Gris’ friendship with Count Pierre d’Alençon (Affleck), a relative of the King.  The duel was a result of de Carrouges’ wife accusing Le Gris of rape.

The Last Duel is told in three parts, each being the truth as seen by Jean de Carrouges, Jacques Le Gris, and Marguerite de Carrouges.  This is an interesting method of story presentation (a la Rashômon), but adds to the length of the tale, which could benefit from being shorter.

The acting is first rate.

This may be Damon’s best performance ever.  His character is a volatile, angry man who feels (and is) slighted by Count Pierre d’Alençon.  I admired de Carrouges’ willingness to sue royalty, confront Le Gris and the Count to support his wife’s accusation… but also know his abrasive personality caused him many problems.

I was surprised by how good Ben Affleck is in his role as the Count.  His performance here was as good as in The Tender Bar!

The Last Duel rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Vampires vs the Bronx” / Z-View

Vampires vs the Bronx (2020)

Director: Oz Rodriguez

Screenplay:  Blaise Hemingway (story by Oz Rodriguez)

Starring:  Jaden Michael, Gerald Jones III, Gregory Diaz IV, The Kid Mero, Sarah Gadon, Method Man, Shea Whigham, Chris Redd and Zoe Saldana.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Four young friends discover a vampire nest in their neighborhood.  Who would believe that?  No one.  So it falls to the kids to wipe out the blood suckers.

Vampires vs the Bronx is much better than you might think.  That’s due to a combination of the casting, the direction and right mix of horror/humor.  The four lead kid actors are well written and just plain likeable.  The same can be said for the neighborhood adults.  The kids parents don’t come off as adults typically found in kid comedies.  The director provides some cool touches such as a vampire’s hand slowly reaching unseen for a kid, a vampire slowly rising up behind a victim,  There’s a subplot about people moving out of the neighborhood thanks to a corporation buying up property that works well with the story.

I thought that Vampires vs the Bronx would be fun based on the trailer, but I was surprised at how much I liked it.  If they could get the cast, writer and director back, I’d love to see the kids in a sequel with more monsters.  Vampires vs the Bronx earns 4 of 5 stars.

“The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” / Z-View

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

Director:  Eugène Lourié

Screenplay:  Lou Morheim, Fred Freiberger (based on a short story by Ray Bradbury)

Starring:  Paul Hubschmid, Paula Raymond, Cecil Kellaway, Kenneth Tobey  and Lee Van Cleef.

Tagline:  They couldn’t believe their eyes! They couldn’t escape the terror! And neither will you! 

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When a nuclear blast frees a prehistoric monster, the terror mounts as the dinosaur makes its way to New York City!  The true star of The Beast of 20,000 Fathoms is Ray Harryhausen’s Rhedosaurus.

There are a couple of surprisingly frightening scenes when the dinosaur devours some folks!  I was also impressed when a bazooka wounds the Rhedosaurus and its blood releases a prehistoric virus that is fatal to humans! That’s a plot twist I wasn’t expecting in a movie made in 1953. A military sharpshooter (played by Lee Van Cleef) with a radioactive shell is humanity’s last hope.  The final scenes at a amusement park’s wooden roller coaster are still pretty impressive.

The Beast from 20,000 has some fun moments and rates 3 of 5 stars.

The Sunshine Boys (1975) / Z-View

The Sunshine Boys (1975)

Director:  Herbert Ross

Screenplay:  Neil Simon

Starring:  Walter Matthau, George Burns, Richard Benjamin, F. Murray Abraham and Howard Hesseman.

Tagline: For the price of a movie, you’ll feel like a million!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

At one time Lewis & Clark, aka The Sunshine Boys, were the Kings of Vaudeville.   Audiences loved their routines and the comedy duo had a long, successful run.  Sadly, when Lewis & Clark broke up, they’d reached the point that neither could stand the other.  They haven’t talked in years.

Now an opportunity to perform together on television has appeared.  Will The Sunshine Boys be able to put aside past differences and catch lightning in a bottle once again?

As I watched The Sunshine Boys I couldn’t help but think how our perception of the elderly has changed.  When Lewis got lost, couldn’t open a door and yelled at people, audiences in 1975 probably thought, “This old guy is quite a character.”  I couldn’t help but think, I wonder if he has onset dementia.

I was expecting more laughs from The Sunshine Boys.  The best scene is when Lewis & Clark first get together to rehearse the routine they’ll perform on tv.  Sadly the rehearsal is funnier than the actual performance.  Also Lewis comes off as a real jerk.  It’s no wonder Clark didn’t want to perform with him any longer.

Still The Sunshine Boys does have it’s moments.  George Burns is a joy and it’s no wonder he won an Oscar for his performance (which was the first movie he’d made in over 30 years)!  The scene of Lewis auditioning for a potato chip commercial is funny.  The interactions of Lewis & Clark are the heart of the movie and I wish we had more of them.

The Sunshine Boys earns 3 of 5 stars.

Flu (2013) / Z-View

Flu (2013)

Director:  Sung-su Kim

Screenplay:  Young-jong Lee, Sung-soo Kim (from a story by Jae-ho Jung)

Starring:  Jang Hyuk, Soo Ae, Min-ah Park, Hae-Jin Yoo and Ma Dong-seok.

Tagline:  Death goes viral.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When a fatal airborne virus runs rampant in a suburb of Seoul, a cure must be found before the government resorts to the ultimate solution to end the outbreak.  With the clock ticking, a female doctor working on the cure has a personal reason to find it — her daughter is infected.

Ma Dong-seok from Train to Busan fame shows up as a bad guy!

Flu takes time to set everything up, but once the virus begins to spread unrestrained, the stakes are raised.  The internment disposal area is mind-blowing.  Min-ah Park is an excellent little actress.  Although Flu was released in 2013, the subject has never been more relevant.  Flu rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Nobody” / Z-View

Nobody (2021)

Director: Ilya Naishuller

Screenplay: Derek Kolstad

Starring:  Bob Odenkirk, Aleksey Serebryakov, Connie Nielsen, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Ironside and RZA.

Tagline:  Never underestimate a nobody.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Hutch Mansell lives a mundane life.  He has a wife (they are drifting apart), a son and daughter.  His job is routine and he’s in a rut.  Things get worse when burglars break into his house to rob it and Mansell does nothing to stop them.  His son sees him as a coward, and the rest of the family looks at him with pity.  What they don’t know is that Mansell used to worked as a CIA “auditor” who was sent in as a last resort to “clear the books”.

As Mansell’s anger builds he goes looking for the two thieves.  When five thugs on a bus begin to terrorize a young lady, Mansell takes out his rage on the would-be tough guys, hospitalizing all of them.  Unfortunately one of the mooks is the brother of a crazy Russian crime boss who will bring the full weight of his organization down on Mansell and his family.

Let the good times roll!

Nobody can be described as John Wick light.  Bob Odenkirk is surprisingly effective as the former CIA auditor and Nobody shows how talented he is.  To go from Sal Goodman to Hutch Mansell is more than a stretch.  The scene on the bus is fun and surprisingly violent.  I referred to Nobody as John Wick light and the humor is what takes it down a notch.  Plus when Mansell’s dad (Lloyd) starts blowing away a Russian hit squad you know we’re in a different universe.

I really enjoyed Nobody.  It was a fun ride with plenty of action and humor.  It rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Hellblazers” (2022) / Z-View

Hellblazers (2022)

Director: Justin Lee

Screenplay: Justin Lee

Starring:  Adrienne Barbeau, Greg Beaton, Crash Buist, Bruce Dern, Meg Foster and Billy Zane.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When a satanic cult summons a demon the residents of a very small southwestern town must band together to survive.

Hellblazers is a low, low budget film set in the 1980s.  It would have fit right in on a drive-in triple feature from the same time period.  If you go in knowing you’re going to get a chance to see older stars in a film that requires you to put your brain on hold to enjoy the ride, you just might (enjoy the ride).  Hellblazers makes attempts at humor but never totally commits to comedy.  There are a couple of jump scares but isn’t really scary despite being about a satanic cult and a demon from hell killing off the population of a small town.

With that said, I watched with my wife and we found it an okay way to pass the time.  Therefore Hellblazers rates 2 of 5 stars.

Fronteras (2018) / Z-View

Fronteras (2018)

Director: Andrew Dean

Screenplay: Andrew Dean

Starring:  Cortez Chappell, Steven Sean Garland and Wade Everett

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Shane Estes, a Hispanic Border Patrol Agent, is recruited to join an effective Strike Force team brought in to wipe out the local drug trade. If the team is successful, Estes will get a promotion, but he finds the Strike Force’s methods immoral and illegal.  Estes’ boss wants Estes to finish the assignment.  As the pressure mounts Estes finds himself at the point of no return.

Fronteras has the set-up for an excellent movie.  Sadly the execution falls short.  Fronteras rates 2 of 5 stars.

“The French Connection” / Z-View

The French Connection (1971)

Director: William Friedkin

Screenplay:  Ernest Tidyman (based on the book by Robin Moore)

Starring:  Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Ray and Tony Lo Bianco.

Tagline:  The time is just right for an out and out thriller like this.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Let me say from the start most folks like The French Connection much more than me.  The French Connection was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won five (Best Picture, Best Actor – Hackman; Best Director, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium and Best Film Editing – Gerald B. Greenberg).  When a movie gets that many awards, is the number three box office champ for the year and a reviewer only gives it 3 of 5 stars, your mileage will probably differ.

My biggest problem with The French Connection is the lead characters.  Detective Buddy Russo (Scheider) isn’t given much to do other than be Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle’s reluctant sidekick.  ‘Popeye’ Doyle (Hackman) is a loud, unlikeable screw-up.

Let me count some of the ways Doyle irritates me.  When following the drug importing mastermind, Popeye gets made and played on the subway.  Doyle “commandeers” a citizen’s car to chase a sniper making a getaway on an El-train.  During the chase he causes multiple wrecks, nearly runs over a lady pushing a baby carriage, and destroys the car he “borrowed”.  When Doyle gets into a footrace with the sniper he ends up shooting the guy in the back.  The movie culminates with Doyle accidentally shooting an FBI agent and the drug importing mastermind getting away.

Despite the nits I picked, The French Connection has its moments.  It features one of the most popular car chases in movie history.  Friedkin’s documentary feel influenced filmmakers and it is an excellent example of 70s films (anti-heroes, gritty city settings, good guys don’t always win).

The French Connection rates 3 of 5 stars (but again I stress, your mileage may vary!).

“Welcome to Sudden Death” / Z-View

Welcome to Sudden Death (2020)

Director: Dallas Jackson

Screenplay:  Dallas Jackson, Gene Quintano

Starring:  Michael Jai White, Michael Eklund and Gary Owen.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The biggest problem with Welcome to Sudden Death was the marketing.  No, really.  Hear me out.

Welcome to Sudden Death was advertised as an action-packed remake of the Jean Claude Van Damme movie, Sudden Death.  And it is, but… and this is a big but… the reboot is a comedy with action.  Folks went into the Michael Jai White version thinking that they were getting a straight up serious action movie.  They didn’t and they were rightly disappointed.  If Welcome to Sudden Death had been sold as a comedy/action film then audiences wouldn’t have judged it so harshly.  Sure, they may have felt it wasn’t funny enough or the mix of action/comedy wasn’t right, but they would have gone in with different expectations.

I had read that the original Sudden Death was supposed to be more of a comedy, but that aspect was toned down when JCVD came on.  Welcome to Sudden Death was going to play up the yuks along with the action, I was interested.

While Welcome to Sudden Death isn’t the funniest movie or the best action film you’ll ever see.  If you go in knowing that, you shouldn’t be disappointed.  The tone is less serious than the original, but not as far out as say, The Naked Gun.  Michael Jai White does a good job as the hero.  I loved Gary Owen as the reluctant sidekick.  The bad guys are over the top, the plot is what you’d expect, but if you want a few laughs and to see Michael Jai White kick butt, then I say, Welcome to Sudden Death.

I liked Welcome to Sudden Death as well if not better than the JCVD original  I rate it 3 of 5 stars.

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka / Z-View

Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

First sentence…

Tokyo station is packed.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Bullet Train is an international best seller about five assassins on a Japanese bullet train trying to retrieve a mysterious suitcase before one of the others can get to it.  Descriptions of the book that compared it to a stylish modern day yakuza film directed by Quentin Tarantino got my interest.  When I learned that Bullet Train was being made into a action thriller directed by  David (John Wick franchise) Leitch starring Sandra Bullock, Brad Pitt and Zazie Beetz.  I was sold.

I went into Bullet Train with high expectations for a fast moving, exciting tale with interesting characters and action.  What I got was far from that.  The assassins are on the train.  They have names like The Prince, Tangerine and Lemon.  There’s a subplot about a hospitalized boy in danger.  Instead of action we get tons and tons of talk.  Some of the assassins (and the main psychopath) are school children.  Two that work together (Tangerine and Lemon) spend pages and pages talking about Thomas the Train.  The dialogue often seemed forced at best.

I seldom quit a book before finishing it.  I’m usually a pretty good judge of what I’ll like.  Bullet Train sounded like exactly the type of story I’d love.  Sadly it wasn’t.


Love & Bullets Megabomb Edition by Nick Kolakowski / Z-View

Love & Bullets Megabomb Edition by Nick Kolakowski

Trade Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Shotgun Honey Books

First sentence…

Listen.  At some point, a poor sap will look at you and say, “This is the worst day of my life.”

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Bill is a conman on the run from the Rockaway Mob.  They want Bill dead and the two million dollars that he stole from them back.  Lucky for Bill, his girlfriend, Fiona is on the lam with him.  Fiona’s got brains and can handle herself.  As this modern day “Bonnie and Clyde” try to stay alive they find themselves at odds with crocked cops, hired assassins, other criminals, an Elvis impersonator, a government hit man and more.

The Love & Bullets Megabomb Edition is actually a reworking of three novellas featuring Bill and Fiona (A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps; Slaughterhouse Blues and Main Bad Guy), but thanks to some clever re-editing and additional material, it reads like one rollicking adventure.  I absolutely loved the characters, plus the right mix of violence, humor and heart.  Kolakowski has the ability to make all of his major characters not only unique in voice and look, but the feel that any of them could be the “star” of their own tale.  I blazed through Love & Bullets Megabomb Edition loving every page.  I was so impressed by Nick Kolakowski that I immediately ordered three more of his novels.   


“The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story” (1996) / Z-View

The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story (1996)

Director:  Susan Warms Dryfoos

Screenplay: Susan Warms Dryfoos

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Al Hirschfeld lived a long and interesting life.  His career spanned over 80 years and Mr. Hirschfeld continued to create art until his death from natural causes at the age of 99.

At 17, Al Hirschfeld was named the Art Director of Selznick Pictures where he created or oversaw the making of all the company’s movie posters.  In his 20s he traveled the world to study and refine his art style. When he returned to the US a chance conversation led to his art appearing in the New York Times.  After that there was no looking back.

Hirschfeld went on to become one of the world’s most popular and influential artists.  His art appeared regularly in the New York Times (for 70 years), and could be seen in The New Yorker, Colliers, TV Guide, Playbill and Rolling Stone (just to name a few).  This documentary does an excellent job of presenting Al Hirschfeld’s life and art — both of which are extraordinary.  I really liked The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story and it rates 4 of 5 stars.

The video below isn’t a trailer for The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story because I couldn’t find one.  Instead this is a profile from CBS Sunday Morning of a Hirschfeld Art Exhibit.

“The Matrix Resurrections” (2021) / Z-View

The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

Director: Lana Wachowski

Screenplay:  Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, Aleksander Hemon

Starring:  Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Christina Ricci and Freema Agyeman.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

I loved The Matrix.  It was a genre-changing film that’s impact spread throughout pop culture.  The Matrix was well-written, well directed, featured the perfect cast and told a complete story. Any sequel would be hard-pressed to live up to the original.

The two Matrix films that followed were entertaining but didn’t (couldn’t) match what came first.

Eighteen years later we get a fourth Matrix movie aptly titled The Matrix Resurrections.  Thankfully Lana Wachowski (who co-wrote & co-directed the original Matrix trilogy with her sister Lilly Wachowski) returned to co-write (with a new team) and direct The Matrix Resurrections. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, the stars of the original trilogy, also returned.  Surprisingly word leaked out that had not Wachowski agreed to return Warner Bros. was still prepared to create a fourth film.

When The Matrix Resurrections begins we find Thomas Anderson (Neo) is a middle-aged man working for an entertainment company. His claim to fame is that years before he created an interactive video game called The Matrix that revolutionized the industry.  Now the company wants a new version.  (Sounds like film imitating reality, right?)

Wha-?  Wait a minute.  Neo is a middle aged computer gaming programmer?  But? But?  And what about Trinity?  What about -?

Hang on.  All will be explained.

The set-up of The Matrix Resurrections places Thomas Anderson/Neo in a situation where he begins to remember all that came before, but questions the memory’s reality and his sanity.  Mr. Anderson is seeing a therapist to work out his issues, but the therapist may not have Anderson’s best interests in mind.  As Anderson/Neo comes to grips with true reality, he realizes that his decisions will save or kill Trinity… and perhaps the world.

The Matrix Resurrections is very self-aware with in-jokes and nods to the first films.  That along with seeing Neo and Trinity back on the big-screen are the things I liked best about the new film.  There are good action scenes and it’s interesting to see how self-referential they’ve made the movie.

The problem for me is I didn’t want to see a film where Neo and Trinity didn’t live happily ever-after.  We’ve spent three movies watching them fall in love, sacrifice all for the other and finally got the chance to be together in a more perfect world.  In The Matrix Resurrections we learn that sixty years have passed, Neo and Trinity are not together.  That’s a pretty off-putting set-up. At this point after three movies we don’t want to learn that all that came before was for nothing.  Still, the concept, action, love story and good will the characters have developed over four movies keep me invested.

Over all I enjoyed The Matrix Resurrections.  It’s not on the same level as the original, but is as good as the second two films in the series.  I rate it 3 of 5 stars.