Sunday, March 29, 2009

No Noose is Good News

We're back and somehow escaped being lynched. Thanks to Jimmy Moore and the Truman State University film society for putting together yesterday's event and bringing Mosquito Kingdom out to stretch its legs. I was afeared the unruly Film Neshui crew was going to sully the delicate sensibilities of Kirksville, MO. but it turns out that they'd hosted a porn debate with legend Ron Jeremy squaring off against Pastor Craig Gross the night before... We found some great home made signs from the event in the trash. And may I say, it was an honor to play alongside Hooch & Daddy-O, Box Elder and Jacob's Room, some fine examples of what ballsy, creative folks are doing with a lot of talent and no money these days. We also found that we shared a link with Hooch - actress Amy Elz is the cousin of MK's co-director Derek Elz - that's right. I think we scandalized the other film maker's with our ribald accounts of movie making in the muck and probably wont be invited to take part in their future projects, (look for The Bloodfest Club coming soon - for fans of Chuck Norris, John Hughes and zombies - good luck to Oscar Madrid and Jim Ousley). Over the weekend I ate more fast food, drank more bad beer and got less sleep than I have since we shot the movie three years ago. (Photos courtesy of Hooch & Daddy-O btw). Back to the grindstone.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Missouri Loves Company

Anybody in Kirksville, MO. Saturday the 28th, I cordially invite you to stop by the Truman State campus for a free screening of Mosquito Kingdom. I'll be on hand with co-directors Brad Hodge and Derek Elz and star Chad Bockholdt for some Q&A, (at first I thought they wanted me for T&A, but this makes more sense) following the show. Apparently we're part of an afternoon dedicated to nitty-gritty independent film making with three other films, (I've yet to see the titles) and film makers. If any one of them had half as many close calls with the law or pissed off retirees, (we shot a lot in Florida), I can't wait to hear their stories. And if any retirees are looking for us, I'm not one of the naked ones you kicked outta your hot tub at 5 a.m. and most certainly did not steal your precious lawn ornament. I may have been in your swimming pool, but I cleaned up after myself. And uh... You have a beautiful and comfortable lawn, thanks for letting me sleep there. This week I'm mentally preparing myself for the trip with said film makers and this time I'm bringing my own food. Anybody in attendance can ask me why it didn't turn out anything like Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia or William Friedkin's Sorcerer, (the two films I was consciously ripping off while writing it) and I will buy the first round while we talk it over later. See ya there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Green Day

Recommended viewing for St. Patrick's Day: State of Grace. Solid Irish mob tale from Phil Joanou about a hoodlum, (Sean Penn) returned to Hell's Kitchen after a disappearing act years ago. He hooks up with his best friend Jackie, (Gary Oldman before he was the go to unbalanced villian guy) and his old flame, (Robin Wright - before she too was a Penn). Plenty o' drinkin, fightin, screwin and cussin with a great supporting cast including John Turturro, Ed Harris and John C. Reilly. Watching it makes me realize how much better Joanou's take on James Lee Burke's Heaven's Prisoners could've been. Hurts. It really hurts. Speaking of Burke adaptations, I've got some hope for In the Electric Mist, just out on DVD. Mostly because Tommy Lee Jones looks like hell and Frenchie Bertrand Tavernier has got at least one great American crime adaptation under his belt, (Coup de torchon - based on Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280). Happy Pat's.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Belgium Awful

"Bruge is a shithole." "Bruge is not a shithole." This succinctly wraps up the arguments of the two hitmen "cooling off" in Martin McDonagh's profane, comedic thriller from last year, In Bruge. It was the freshest blast of foul-mouths since Deadwood wrapped and possibly the thing Colin Farrel can later thank for saving his career, (let's hope London Boulevard - based on Ken Bruen's book - based on Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard - lives up to the promise of its considerable credits). In the story, Ray and Ken, (Farrell and the always great Brendan Gleeson) are hitmen in the employ of Harry, (Ralph Fiennes - funny - who knew?), a gangster with a strict and odd moral code. After a big job is pulled with some serious complications, Ray and Ken are sent to the titular town to lay low until word comes from Harry. Ken is pleased with the little tourist town and the chance to sight-see while Ray hates every moment spent in cathedrals, canals and cobble stone streets. McDonagh said he'd come up with the opening dialogue, "Bruge is a shithole...etc." based on his own experience there years ago and does a fine job rounding out the argument so both sides seem reasonable. I enjoyed the flick and now know a little something about Bruge, (it's in Belgium). Last week, I watched the curiosity, JCVD, in which The Muscles from Brussels, Mr. Jean-Claude Van Damme plays himself in a cheeky send up/plea for props. I was expecting a rather Being John Malkovich experience or the equivalent of an extended Entourage cameo where the actor has the opportunity to puncture their personality a bit, but JCVD wasn't going to be either, (quite). Instead, after an amusing, if rote, opening in which JC is introduced as an aging B-movie star with a career problem, image problem, drug problem and domestic problem, he is placed into a classic situation for an action hero, in this case the middle of a bank heist. I don't want to go too far into the plot because there are some nice moments I might ruin. Something struck me, though. Numerous times the locals refer to Belgium as "a shithole" to no one's dissent. I come from the mid-west and hear locals deride their homeland all the time, (let alone all you smug coastal dwellers and foreigners with your hygiene, fancy coffee drinks, statues and such), and it always bothers me. I wonder how much tourism is being scared up for Belgium from these films. Do folks step off the train now and begin to argue the shithole thing immediately? I'd like to see Belgium some time. Could it really be all that bad? (For further fun from McDonagh and Gleeson, hunt down the aprox. 30 minute short Six Shooter. It rocks.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Will it Suck?

The news of Will Smith and Steven Speilberg's intentions to remake (or as they insist, make another film from the same manga material), Chan-wook Park's Oldboy, the second and most stunning chapter in his revenge trilogy, (see also, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance), gives me a baaad feeling. Anybody who's seen the original, has likely not forgotten its blend of stylish ultra-violence, blackest humor and plot acrobatics, (for those who haven't seen it think The Count of Monte Cristo blended with Memento and uh... Angel Heart). A baaad feeling because Mr. Smith has got one of the most carefully managed images in the business and I just can't picture him sticking to the gruesome acts and consequences depicted in the original. Instead, I imagine a happy ending or at least a less devastating one. I pause now to reflect on the history of trans-cultural remakes.

- to start things off on a good note - this Christopher Nolan remake of Erik Skjoldbjaerg's tale of a compromised cop trying to solve a murder in the land of perpetual sunshine, which along with a grated conscience produces the titular condition. Stellan Skarsgard is, shall we say, a little more reserved than Al Pacino, (no WhooAH!) and the casting of Robin Williams as the killer with leverage on the cop probably hurt the perception of the remake, but really... not bad at all. In fact, the English language version provides slightly murkier motives for the cop.

La Femme Nikita/Point of No Return
- Luc Besson acheived a wide international audience with his tale of a government assassin trying to take control of her life and was offered the opportunity immediately to remake it for and American audience. Though he turned down the offer, Point of No Return was made and kept the story of the junkie thief who is mixed up in a robbery where folks is killed, then arrested, tried and executed in record time. Only... she hasn't been executed, she's been recruited by a black-ops agency of the government to be an assassin. And she's got no choice, really 'cause the world thinks she's dead and if she doesn't cooperate she'll be made so. Nikita is easily the better experience. Anne Parillaud kicking off her high heels and prepping her first hit, a surprise no less, in the kitchen of the chic restaurant she thinks she's being treated to a birthday dinner at is such an enticing figure. It was powerful enough to inspire a whole sub-genre, (seems anything Joss Whedon has had a hand in owes something to this ground-breaking flick and we'll go ahead and say Tombraider and anything Besson's ex-wife, Milla Jovovitch has done in the last ten years belongs here too). Point, is Hollywood in all the ways you'd expect - a little glossier, a little softer, big stars, (Bridget Fonda, Gabriel Byrne, Harvey Keitel), bigger action, but just can't eclipse the original for impact.

Mou gaan dou, (Infernal Affairs)/The Departed - It's a simple concept and a wonder why it felt so fresh - there's a gangster "undercover" on the police force and his doppelganger infiltrating the crime organization he works for. Both know the other exists, and both are working to discover who the other is. Layers of misdirection and betrayal peel away and by the end of both films, the body count is high and you've been highly entertained, but jeez, these are different pictures. Everybody was glad to see Scorcese finally take a statuette home on Oscar night though I haven't heard anybody call it his best picture. The Departed was flawed. Where Infernal Affairs was a stiletto slipped between your ribs that you never saw coming, The Departed hacked away at you starting with your feet. It went out of its way to please Jack Nicholson fans, (don't get me wrong - he's enjoyable, just ham handed and almost completely unnecessary)and chromosome counters, (again - love Vera Farmiga, but her role was a detour from the heart of the film - I don't think there was any female lead in Mou gaan dou). It was a gas to watch Scorcese and company have fun, and it's an amazingly satisfying movie while feeling like a toss off at the same time. Infernal Affairs has a leaner run time and plot line and delivers greater, Hong Kong style thrills in the gunfights. It also spawned a trilogy, (Mou gaan dou 2&3) and deserves to make western stars out of Tony Leung and Andrew Lau. In the end... I'm gonna go with The Departed.

Ju-on/The Grudge, Gin gwai/The Eye - Don't get me started on the English versions. Just see the originals.

Ringu/The Ring
- Where Ringu was spare, The Ring inflated, though, in a rare exception, improved the original too. Both are worth seeing, as much as the sequals are not.

I'm tired now. Which did I miss/skip?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Putz With a Gun... And a Sword... And a Bikini

The latest quarterly issue of Plots With Guns is up on-line and it's a corker. Friends of Hardboiled Wonderland, Greg Bardsley and Keith Rawson have stories there as well as Frank Bill, Anonymous 9, Jason Hunt, Mark Raymond Falk, Neil Richter and Jonathan Woods. The PWG Winter 2009 edition also marks the return of Mr. Manners himself Trev Maviano and a welcome return it is. Find out what he's been up to... then try and forget. Forget with a story like Crazy Larry Smells Bacon in which Bardsley delves further into the creepiness across the suburban street. Nevermind Blue Velvet, CLSB will have you closing the blinds and checking out the neighbors with your lights off and if you smell bacon... lock the doors, sit in your closet with your eyes screwed shut and hands over your ears chanting "The neighbors are good people the neighbors are good people." Apologies to the other authors as I've yet to get to their stories, especially you, Keith, but I promise to asap, (Bardsley actually sent me a sneak preview some time ago). But Anthony Neil Smith has promised a "barfight" of an issue, so dig in. And anybody out there with an idea of what crime fiction will look like in 500 years, get busy with a story for the next issue, the first ever themed PWG - Plots With RAY Guns. Can't wait. By the way, if you're curious about the handsome book cover featured up top, get thee to a website and track down a copy of the Plots With Guns Anthology published by Dennis McMillan which features some of the best stories from the original incarnation plus contributions from top names in crime fiction.