Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Notes — Trace Conger And Mr. Finn, Number 3

Not a lot of moss can grow on Trace Conger’s keyboard. His third Mr. Finn book is out.  I’ve commented here before on the first two – The Shadow Broker and Scar Tissue. I have a feeling we’ll be dealing with Mr. Finn’s fourth sooner rather than later.  The Prison Guard’s Son, just out, continues the adventures of the shadowy former private eye, whose lack of license seems to give him license to do what he deems necessary — legal or not and with moral judgment that is, at best, dicey.
Trace Conger

One of the interesting qualities that comes out of the notion of a series is not only getting to know the main character, a worthwhile endeavor in this case, but also those regular characters that surround him or her. I’m especially fond of Finn’s father, and his ex-love, who may or my not be so ex.  

This tale, full of clever twists, introduces us to a man who suffered the loss of a son in a brutal murder many years ago.  The two nine-year-old boys who were convicted of the crime served their sentences and were released into a federal protection program ostensibly because of how young they were when they committed the crime. The father of the victim has not forgotten nor forgiven, and he hires Finn to find the two so carefully hidden so many years ago.
Questions arise, of course.  How does one find people professionally hidden, given completely new and officially sanctioned identities?  Where does one begin?  More important, what happens if they are found? As it was with his previous books, Conger seems to approach his stories from unexpected angles and forces his readers to contend with the complex moral dilemmas that arise when law, justice and pure vigilantism intersect.

Trace Conger’s The Shadow Broker was awarded The Shamus by the Private Eye Writers of America for “Best First Novel.”

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Film Pairing — Off To The Land Of The Rising Sun and Ken Takahura

Tired of American gangsters? Board a jet in the comfort of your own residence and travel across the Pacific to watch American cops track down Japanese criminals in their own land.  Both are older films; but they hold up very well.

Black Rain — In this 1989 Ridley Scott-directed film two New York cops, played y Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia are assigned to take a Japanese criminal back to Japan.  He escapes and the Americans decide they must track him down despite all the language and cultural barriers.  Douglas does well as the ugly American and Andy Garcia does equally well as the charming sidekick as they sink deeper into the world of the yakuza, the Japanese mafia.  The real star is the subdued Ken Takahura who is assigned to reign in the two rowdy and initially out-of-their depth American policemen.  Black Rain makes for a nice evening of quality escapist action.

The Yakuza — Before there was Black Rain there was The Yakuza. Not exactly heralded when it was released in 1974, the film noir directed by Sydney Pollack has more than redeemed itself. The plot is relatively complicated, but introduces the audience to the intricacies of Japanese culture as well as residue from World War II and the ongoing influence of the yakuza. This is an intelligent thriller, with all the violence that goes with it. Robert Mitchum plays a slightly aging, retired police detective who travels to Japan to help an old friend rescue his kidnapped daughter. Paul and Leonard Schrader wrote the screenplay with help from Robert Towne. A younger Ken Takahura is outstanding in a principal role.  Brian Keith and James Shigeta are also featured.

To augment your viewing pleasure – Saki. Cold or warm. For many of us westerners  who have no idea how varied Saki may be, it’s worth investigating.  For those who avoid alcohol, nothing wrong with a plum spritzer. Just remember, it’s a pretty tough night on screen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

On Writing — Decanters of the Dubious

The election season has brought about new words and phrases, or at least a bunch of catch phrases that, in fact, seem to be catching, especially in the news media. None are new, but they are used so often they seem to be worn out. The candidates “double down” daily.  And it’s quite often too late to change because perceptions of them are “baked in the cake.”  There is “push back.”  There is ‘lean in.”  I don’t recall “surrogates” being so common.  But the Trump campaign seems to have cloned them.  The clue, is, if it isn’t otherwise obvious, that they call Hillary Clinton either “Hillary “or “Clinton.”  Kaine is “Kaine.”  President Obama is “Obama” despite the fact he is president. Even Pence is merely ‘Pence.”  However Donald Trump is always MISTER Trump. You know that must be in the contract.
MISTER Trump having trouble with younger voters

Now we have “basket of deplorables.” As a reluctant, but now devoted Hillary supporter, I want to comment on this tempest in a teapot by chastising the absolute feebleness (feebility?) of her slur that half the Trump supporters are a “basket of deplorables.” Her speechwriters must be tired.  I’ve written a speech or two.  Maybe just two.  But I think I could have come up with a better line.  Here are some possibilities:

Box of Dispicables
Bag of Undesirables
Bushel of Dim Bulbs
Bowl of the Duped
Barrel of Dummies
Bottle of Dreadfuls
Blanket of Undesirables
Bundle of Irredeemables

My favorite is:
Decanters of the Dubious

In these cases I favor alliteration. And at least half of MISTER Trump’s supporters wouldn’t know they should be offended. It’s baked in the cake.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rant– No Unsolicited Manuscripts, No Exceptions

I am now qualified to glorify the old days and cast aspersions on the new ones. My first statement is both. At the drugstore soda fountain at 21st and Drexel on Indianapolis’ East side, they served an ice cream flavor called raspberry salad. Raspberry ice cream and nuts. No doubt, the nuts made it a salad. It was delicious. It doesn’t exist today and Wikipedia has no listing for it as an ice cream flavor like chocolate or orange sherbet. A few silly salads with raspberries in it is all.

Now I was victim of old folks like me when I was a kid.  You could go to a movie for a nickel, they said a penny would actually buy something.  And I have my own memories from my childhood.  You could buy a pack of cigarettes, or a loaf of bread or a gallon of gas and have change back from a quarter. None of that really means anything, except for the raspberry salad, of course. 

But what I’m really angry about is that someone could write a book and send it to a publisher.  If you were unknown, your manuscript would be tossed in a slush pile and might not be read right away if you were an unknown.  But there was a good chance your book would get a look at some point; and if they didn't want it, you’d get a letter of rejection.  I have many such letters.  I even have one from The New Yorker rejecting a poem I submitted.  I am grateful they sent a letter, but perhaps more appreciative that they decided not to embarrass me by printing the poem.

The writing community had a name for sending an unsolicited manuscript to a publisher. It was an “over-the-transom” submission.   And it was usually done without an agent. None of that happens anymore now that publishing is in the hands of half a dozen big corporations.

I’ve been dealing with that for the last couple of years. On the other hand, let me start my rant with what really upset me. I’ll get back to the big five publishers and their mimics among the so-called independents.

A few months back, I had a germ of an idea for a story. It seemed to write itself. Oddly though, it came out as a stage play. That’s not entirely silly because that’s how I started writing (and acting)— skits in grade school and plays in high school and college as well as community theatre.  All that happened before I started writing mysteries or helped start an alternative newspaper.

So when I finished my play I decided to send it to a major non-profit theatre company in San Francisco where I had lived for 25 years.  I knew no one at the theatre company, only that it was highly regarded. So I sent a note to the artistic director asking for the appropriate contact.

“We are not allowed to accept unsolicited material,” the director replied, suggesting that they only accept material from those professionally represented (an agent). The phrase “we are not allowed” is bogus from the start. At best, “unwilling” is the word. It also bothered me that a non-profit organization would shut down a member of the community, forcing a writer to go through a for-profit entity to even have a chance for consideration. As many in the book world know, finding an agent is more difficult than finding a publisher.

I replied:

I'm sure this is policy and not necessarily of your making, but the agent requirement is counter-creative and counter community interest.  I'm 71…and have represented myself with Penguin, St. Martin's Press as well as Canadian and London publishers.  It's a bit late for me to find an agent who will take on someone who hasn't a promising future because there's not much of a future left. I think that forced representation (or anyone) is deeply unfair. Again, I'm sure this isn't your doing, so I'm harboring no ill feelings toward you; but policy makers should be reminded how soulfully barren that policy is. It really has no place in the arts.

The theatre company is not alone. I have two novels I’d like to send out, but after the big five closed submissions to non-agented writers, the emerging independents, some of them showing a tremendous spirit and supporting new and old voices embodied a bit of hope that the publishing world was more than James Patterson and the William Morris Agency. However, even many of enterprising newcomers seem to be closing the gates.

“No unsolicited manuscripts.  No exceptions.”

Don’t get me wrong. Over the last 30 or so years, in addition to seeing 18 of my novels published, I’ve accumulated a number of rejection slips. Some, though certainly not all, are variations of form letters.  But the likelihood is that my query, synopsis or a paragraph or two of the submitted manuscript were read or skimmed before the decision was made to reject it. And even if the rejection contained an observation I disagreed with, I did not resent the publisher’s decision, or comments for that matter. That truly is the publisher’s business. What happened was that someone gave it a few minutes and then responded. That’s all any of us are entitled to.

 In the case of the theater company mentioned above it’s a little worse. We have a community–based, nonprofit (tax and grant supported) organization acting like a Monsanto or G.E.   Regarding the book publishers, sadly, the highly spirited folks who set up new, vibrant publishing companies aren’t any different from the big five conglomerate publishers. They are, in too many cases, following in the big guys’ icy footsteps.

“No unsolicited manuscripts.  No exceptions.”

Now it’s true:  I am getting old and grumpy.  It might also be true that my skills, such as they were, are slipping. My days may be numbered, or over.  Then again the play, which prompted this rant, is about getting old and grumpy and irrelevant. And one’s advanced age and history should suggest some level of competence, at least enough for the work to warrant a quick glance.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Film Pairings — Choose Your Own Double Feature From These New Orleans’ Movies

Don’t get around much anymore.  Not only will I miss the Saturday Dance, but I’ll also miss Bouchercon 2016, the biggest mystery conference of the year, and held in one of the most fascinating cities on the continent – New Orleans.   A few years ago, in advance of the annual conference when it was held in held in San Francisco, I came up with a list of crime films set in the City By The Bay.

So, here we go again.  What follows is a list of many of the crime films set in “The Big Easy.” This isn’t an “official “list; but with the help of Wikipedia and my own love of film and of New Orleans I’ve tried to be as comprehensive as my non-academic, erratic mind will allow:

Albino AlligatorAs in most decent hostage films, the drama, directed by Kevin Spacey is about the interaction of those held in close quarters under stressful circumstances.  Reviewers have not been kind to Faye Dunaway, singled out for particularly bad acting. Certainly, there was nothing subtle about her performance. Others also saw the 1997 film wasteful of the talents of Matt Dillon, Gary Sinise, Viggo Mortenson, Joe Mantegna and Skeet Ulrich.  I liked it. Unfortunately New Orleans didn't have much of a role. We spend all our time in a dark cellar bar where we witness the appropriate disintegration of humanity and a genuine noir-style ending. Recommended.

Angel Heart As a scruffy and apparently not too successful P.I., Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke), is made a financial offer he can’t refuse. We move from New York to New Orleans, where the P.I. tries to find a missing person and where, it seems, at each turn there is a bloody corpse. It becomes clear to Angel that he is, in the eyes of the Big Easy’s homicide cops, the most likely suspect in each murder. His client, played by Robert De Niro, is obviously holding out on his young hire, and the Louisiana’s mysterious connections to voodoo makes Harry’s life an increasingly terrifying experience. Lisa Bonet provides enough steamy (and brutal) sexual energy to send a rocket to Mars. Charlotte Rampling also appears. The 1987 film was based on the novel Falling Angel, by William Hjortsberg. Recommended.

Assassination Games – An Action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme released in 2011.  It was directed by Ernie Barbarash.

Adventures of Captain Fabian – Errol Flynn wrote and starred in this film based on the Robert T. Shannon novel.  It was set in 1860s New Orleans, but was actually filmed in France. Some reviewers saw the 1951 film as a comedy, though that was an unlikely intent.  Directed by William Marshall, the movie also starred Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans – New Orleans’ darkest days, the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, are the backdrop for this “re-imagining” of the cult classic, The Bad Lieutenant. Nicholas Cage plays a tough but ultimately heroic cop, whose noble act injures him. It is the residual and unrelenting pain that eventually sends him spiraling into drug addiction and an illegal means to support his habit. The cast is excellent, including Cage who actually lists like a sinking ship, Val Kilmer and Eva Mendes.  Directed by Werner Herzog, the film was released in 2008. Recommended.

The Big Easy – One of my favorites, this 1987 film, directed by Jim McBride, captures the unique and decadent charm of the city.  There is an authentic feel to Affonso Beato’s cinematography. The movie is almost as good as a week’s stay. It is also a top-notch crime film.  Murder meets police corruption. Dennis Quaid, who plays the potentially tainted police detective, must deal with the reform-minded assistant district attorney, played by Ellen Barkin. Ned Beatty and John Goodman are also featured. They do well, as usual.  But it is Quaid and Barkin who provide the electricity.  Highly recommended.

Bending The Rules – The corrupt cop story featuring the wrestler Edge and Jamie Kennedy had a limited release in 2012.

Bourbon Street Shadows — The Shadow knows. Directed by James Wong Howe, the film is essentially two episodes of a television pilot. With telepathic powers, The Shadow, aka Lamont Cranston (played by Richard Derr), investigates a murder.

A Bullet To The Head — Director Walter Hill released this Sylvester Stallone action film based on the graphic novel Du Plomb Dans La Tête.  The film earned Stallone a “Razzie.”  Cops, hit men and police corruption form the backdrop to the 2012 movie. The film also featured Sun Kang, Sarah Shahi and Christian Slater.

Cat People — Paul Shrader directed what Wikipedia calls an “American erotic horror film.”  Released in 1982, the film was successful financially and, considering many films of its genre, did well critically. Nastassja Kinski is the main shapeshifter. However she was supported by a fine cast: Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, John Laroquette and Ed Begley, Jr.

The Chaperone – Billed as a crime comedy, the movie appears to have failed at every level.  The movie stars wrestler Paul “Triple H’ Levesque.                                                                

The Cincinnati Kid — Originally set to film in St. Louis, the movie finally landed in New Orleans.  So what does Cincinnati have to do with it? More confusion; the film was directed by Norman Jewison after Sam Peckinpah left. The screenwriters were solid though — Terry Southern and Ring Lardner adapted the story from the novel by Richard Jessup. The cast was a 1965 dream team: Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson, Ann-Margaret, Karl Malden, Rip Torn, Joan Blondell, and Tuesday Weld. Critics of the day liked it, comparing it favorably to The Hustler. Some suggested that knowledge of poker would be most helpful.

Docks of New Orleans — Described as a comedy crime drama, this is one of the Charlie Chan mysteries. Released in 1948, the movie stars Roland Winters as Chan.

Dragon Eyes — Cung Le and Jean-Claude Van Damme headline this standard martial arts movie about cleaning up a dangerous neighborhood. It was directed by John Hyams and also features Peter Weller.

Drum — Based on the Kyle Onston novel and directed by Steve Carver, this 1976 – some would say sex-ploitation — film is a sequel to Mandingo. Warren Oates Pamela Grier and Ken Norton star in a story about, sex, boxing and slavery.

Escape Plan — Not sure it makes much difference where this was filmed.  Most of it appears to take place in a prison where Sylvester Stallone meets Arnold Schwarzenegger.  One critic suggested the tough-guy prison-break story story didn't do the stars justice (it was below their status as icons, I guess), and that it would have been a better vehicle for Chuck Norris and Jean-Paul Van Damme.  Ouch. An international financial success, this 2013 movie also featured 50 Cent, Amy Ryan, and Vincent D’Onofrio.

Hands of Stone — Too early for reviews and financials on this current release of the Roberto Durán bio pic.  Based on the book by Christian Giudice and directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, the film has an all-star cast: Édgar Ramirez, Robert De Niro, Usher, Ellen Barkin, Rubén Blades and John Turturro.

Hard Target – John Woo directed this 1993 action film starring Jean-Paul Van Damme.

Hell Baby — The haunted-house comedy h-horror film written and directed by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon was released in 2013.

Hotel – A big movie in its day, thievery, blackmail, romance and social issues are investigated in a large hotel symbolic of society at large. Not a whole lot of New Orleans here, but a strong supporting cast in this movie based on Arthur Hailey’s best selling book. Directed by Richard Quine and released in 1967, Hotel starred Rod Taylor, Catherine Spaak, Karl Malden, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Rennie, Melvyn Douglas, Richard Conte, and Merle Oberon.

Heaven’s Prisoners and In The Electric MistHeaven’s Prisoners 1996 is a better movie and a far better rendition of a James Lee Burke novel than In the Electric Mist, which featured amazing Burke look-alike, Tommy Lee Jones as Dave Robicheaux. Burke fans may like neither, but Heaven’s Prisoners is a pretty good movie if you are willing to separate it from Burke’s remarkable series.  Alec Baldwin is not the actor I picture as Robicheaux. He, nonetheless, creates a believable and likable character. Eric Roberts does a great job being a handsome narcissist and sleazy crook. And a young Teri Hatcher is extremely revealing. In The Electric Mist never made it to movie houses in the USA.  Ned Beatty, John Goodman Mary Steenburgen and Peter Sarsgaard appeared in the film that should have worked, but didn't. So far no one has been able to transfer any of Burke’s fine crime novels to the big or little screen.

Interview With A Vampire – Though there were some negative critical comments, mostly about Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, the film was generally praised and was certainly profitable for the studios.  Based on the best-selling novel by Anne Rice, the story is about the transformation of a young girl into a vampire.  The film was directed by Neil Jordan and released in 1994.  Though the “interview” is in contemporary San Francisco, the setting is 1700s New Orleans. The film also features Christian Slater. Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, and Stephen Rea.

Invisible Avenger — See Bourbon Street Shadows.

Johnny Angel — A ship highjacking, secret gold and a mysterious survivor are the ingredients in this 1945 noir film based on Charles Gordon Booth’s novel, Mr. Angel Comes Aboard.  Directed by Edwin L. Marin, the movie stars George Raft, Claire Trevor and Signe Hasso.

Kickboxer Vengeance — Another martial arts film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme is expected to be released next month.

King Creole — Receiving a surprising amount of positive reviews, Elvis Presley plays a young man who flirts with crime but is redeemed by music.  Based on the novel, A Stone for Danny Fisher by Harold Robbins, King Creole, released in 1958, was directed by Michael Curtiz and also starred Carolyn Jones, Walter Matthau, Vic Morrow and Dean Jagger. Presley’s “Hard Hearted Woman” reached number one on the Billboard charts.

Lady From Louisiana — John Wayne headlines this 1941 action comedy, considered to be a well-done movie for its time. It was directed by Bernard Vorhaus.  Dorothy Dandridge appears.

Live And Let Die — Some might say the best thing about this film is the title song by Paul McCartney and performed by Wings. Others criticize the black exploitation aspects of the drama. However, among the James Bond films, this one may have garnered the most attention because it was the first in which Roger Moore replaced Sean Connery as Ian Fleming’s super spy. About drugs and voodoo, the 1973 film was shot in Jamaica and New Orleans with the usual preposterous yet fully engaging chase sequences. Guy Hamilton who did the honors for three other Bond films directed the film. Jane Seymour and Yaphet Kotto also star.

A Love Song For Bobby Long — John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson this is probably more of a drama than a crime film.  Critics disagree about its value, but some give it high marks for being intelligent and literary.  The 2004 film is based on the novel, Off Magazine Street by Ronald Everett Capp and directed by Shainee Gabel
Lulu Belle — The film is an adaptation of the play by Charles MacArthur and Edward Sheldon minus the sex and racial components.  Dorothy Lamour, George Montgomery and Otto Kruger appear in this 1948 celluloid version directed by Leslie Fenton.

My Forbidden Past — “She’s the kind of woman who made New Orleans famous,” reads the movie poster.  Robert Mitchum and Ava Gardner light up the big screen with romance and murder in the film directed by Robert Stevenson and based on the novel, Carriage Entrance by Polan Banks.  The 1951 film also features Melvyn Douglas.

Naughty Marietta — A woman fleeing an arranged marriage is kidnapped by pirates in this 1935 film.  Jeanette MacDonald, Nelson Eddy, and Elsa Lanchester star.  It was directed by Robert Z. Leonard and W. S. Van Dyke. Among the credited screenwriters were the fantastic writing team of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.  Also notable is the music with the credit going to Victor Herbert and Dimitri Tiomkin.

Netherworld – This 1992 zombie movie doesn’t have much of a trail.

Night Has A Thousand Eyes — Edward G. Robinson stars in this 1948 metaphysical thriller.  John Farrow directed the film costarring John Lund, Virginia Bruce and Gail Russell.  It is based on the novel, written by Cornell Woolrich.

Nightmare – In a feature similar to Night has A thousand Eyes, the 1956 Nightmare (there were a few of them) also starred Edward G. Robinson and was also based on a Cornell Woolrich novel.  Directed by Maxwell Shane, the film also starred Kevin McCarthy.

The Ninth Guest – A 1934 curiosity, the film, based on a novel, The Invisible Host by Bruce Manning and Gwen Bristow, predated Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which had a near-identical plot.  The Ninth Guest starred Donald Cook Genevieve Tobin and was directed by Roy William Neil.

No Mercy – In a movie not particularly highly regarded, Richard Gere and Kim Basinger appear in this story about a cop out for revenge.  Richard Pearce directed.

Now You See Me – Not a critics’ favorite, but a big box office success, the hit heist film takes place in New York and New Orleans.  Directed by Louis Leterrier and released in 2013, the film has plenty of big-name cast members: Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Jesse Eisenberg, and Dave Franco.  On my list.

Oldboy — One of those films that filmgoers question: Why the remake when the original was so good? Spike Lee decided to redo the park Chan-wook classic. Lee’s version came out in 2013 starring Josh Brolin and featuring Samuel L. Jackson. While no one damned the film, it seems no one wants to recommend it either, including Lee.

Panic In The Streets – If you like Noir, you’ve probably already seen it; but if you haven’t, this is a unique film worthy of your attention. Visit 1950 when a plague is about to destroy New Orleans.  Richard Widmark is not only up against a deadly disease, but also some deadly human enemies. Elia Kazan directs Widmark, Paul Douglas, Jack Palance, Zero Mostel and Barbara Bel Geddes.  Recommended.

The Pelican Brief   Released in1993, this was another big moneymaker, largely on the popularity of stars Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington as well as prolific author John Grisham. This is a solid feature, more action-packed than many of the other Grisham-based films.  Alan J. Pakula directed with an all-star cast, including John Lithgow, Sam Shepard, Hume Cronyn, Stanley Tucci, John Heard and Robert Culp.  A young law student is in possession of documents that point to the killers of two U.S. Supreme Court Justices.  Big-time crimes and big-time villains can only mean danger for those want to expose the evil doing. Not intellectually taxing, but solid suspense excellently executed.  Recommended.

The Power Of Few – A non-traditional movie, it had no traditional release.  Though information is scarce, the 2013 film uses interconnected stories and an ensemble cast that includes Christopher Walken and Christian Slater.

Pretty Baby — Not technically a crime film, Pretty Baby was nonetheless controversial. The film depicted brothel life in Storyville, the Red Light district of New Orleans. Though prostitution was legal when and where the story took place, objections to the film centered on the love affair between an underage girl and an adult whorehouse patron — and photographer — played by Keith Carradine. Censors also had problems with the screen nudity of then 12-year-old Brooke Shields. Susan Sarandon co-stars, and Louis Malle directed this Louisiana classic released to rave, if not “tsk tsk” reviews. Recommended.

Pretty Baby
Red and Red 2 –Directors Robert Schwentke and Dean Parisot bring a DC comic book series to life with John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman and Bruce Willis. Written  by Jon and Erich Hoeber, the films were released in 2010 and 2013 respectively to financial success. The comic book originators are Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer.

Runaway Jury — By 2003 Grisham’s movies were beginning to trail off at the box office.  And this quite fine film is the last of the film adaptations for the time being.  Director Gary Fleder had fewer per capita big names in the large cast — Gene Hackman, John Cusack, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz  — in a thriller about some dangerous jury tampering.  The verdict in this trial could seriously diminish profits for the gun manufacturing industry.  Recommended.

Safe In Hell
Safe In Hell — A 1931 thriller about a prostitute on trial for murder.  William Wellman directed this pre-code, slightly salacious film based on a play by Houston Branch, starring Dorothy Mackaill and Donald Cook.

Sinners and Saints — Set in post Katrina New Orleans, this is a 2010 action film starring Johnny Strong, and directed by William Kaufman.

The Skeleton Key — Gena Rowlands, Peter Sarsgaard, Kate Hudson and John Hurt star in this 2005 horror film directed by Iain Softley. A box office hit.

Sonny — The story is about James Franco’s character, Sonny, who returns to New Orleans and his brothel-owning mother after a couple of years in the Army. It appears that his military stint helped the young man sort out his life.  However, Mom, who trained her son to satisfy wealthy women for a fee, doesn’t want to let go of her prime earner, even though he’s decided to live a normal life.  He just came by to say hello and goodbye. The story gets steamy and more complicated when a beautiful and sexy prostitute, played by sensuous Mena Suvari, shows up.  Her surprisingly tender, erotic presence muddies what otherwise would be a clear choice for the troubled young man.  This is Franco’s movie.  However, it is Stanton who makes it more than a high-quality student film.  Sonny was released in 2002. Recommended.

Tightrope — This bears the Clint Eastwood stamp.  No only did he co-produce it, he took over the direction reportedly because the original director Richard Toggle, who wrote the screenplay, was “too slow.’  Eastwood is the star of this 1984 crime film. Eastwood’s daughter Alison is also in the cast. Reviewers suggests that Tightrope shows a little more depth than the Dirty Harry films as does Eastwood in his portrayal of the New Orleans cop.  Geneviève Bujold is given high marks as well.

Undercover Blues — A 1993 release this spy comedy stars Kathleen Turner, Dennis Quaid and Stanley Tucci.  Married spies try to leave the life to raise a family. Things don’t work out the way they planned.  It was directed by Herbert Ross.

Walk On The Wild Side – The movie was panned by some as sleazy, cheap and tawdry. What more could you want?  Based on the novel by Nelson Algren and directed by Edward Dmtryk, the film was a bit too much for the audience in 1962. The bordello-themed movie starred Laurence Harvey, Jane Fonda, Capucine, Ann Baxter, and Barbara Stanwyck.

The Whole Truth – Coming soon, this Keanu Reeves film, described as a thriller, is directed by Courtney Hunt and costars Gabriel Basso, Jim Bulushi and Renée Zellweger.

Wild Card – A remake of the 1986 Burt Reynold’s film Heat, Jason Statham plays the lead role in the 2015 movie based on the William Goldman novel. Simon West directed this not particularly popular gambling movie.

WUSA – A film that had a poor critical reception when it was released in 1970 might fare better today.  The name of the movie comes from the call letters of a right wing, white supremacist radio talk show. Assassination, pep rallies and a radio host (who just revs it all up for the money) move this thriller along.  Directed by Stuart Rosenberg and based on the novel A Hall of Mirrors by Robert Stone, the film stars Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins, Laurence Harvey, Pat Hingle, Bruce Cabot, Wayne Rogers, Cloris Leachman and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. It’s on my list.

The Yellow Handkerchief ­ A small but highly polished film released in 2010 has William Hurt as the just-released convict. Kristen Stewart and Eddie Redmayne are the troubled teens. Because of the horrible Louisiana weather, they stumble upon each other. Because of the battered condition of their lonely, lost souls and the need to go somewhere…anywhere… the three slowly bond to discover the road the three of them are now on actually goes somewhere. This is a finely acted movie that seems to have slipped in under the radar. It also stars Maria Bello, and was directed by Udayan Prasad. Recommended.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine – A huge box office success, directed by Gavin Hood, this Marvel comic-to-film, starring Hugh Jackman is the fourth installment of an on-going series. Despite its financial success in 2009, Wolverine has a very targeted audience and doesn’t appear to have the general appeal of other iconic comic book characters.

Zandalee – The 1991 erotic thriller is another movie that never saw the inside of an American movie house. It played in other countries and is available on DVD. Wikipedia says the film was based on Émile Zola’s novel, Thérése Rauqin. Nicolas Cage, Judge Reingold, Viveca Lindfors, Marisa Tomei, and Steve Buscemi round out the talented cast.  It was directed by Sam Pillsbury.

You still have until September 9th to register for Bouchercon.  Click below!

Blood On The Bayou

September 15- 18

New Orleans

Note: Some of the above descriptions are taken in part from previous posts on this site.