Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Godzilla (1998)

Roland Emmerich's reworking of the famous Japanese monster wasn't a critical success (I think it wasn't a success even commercially), but my kids just saw it and they liked it. I believe my son (who's soon to be 9 years old) loved it. He also loves the Jap movies of which he's seen five, including the original one. 

There are some moments I also happen to like ("love" might be too strong a word here): Godzilla's leap into Hudson River, the drive into Godzilla's mouth, when Godzilla fools the submarines, the sequence at Madison Square Garden with the Godzilla babies. I also like Jean Reno's hardboiled character. My son says: "The best moment is the ending." He always feels sympathy for the baddies in the film when they fall. 

More Overlooked Movies here

Friday, July 26, 2013

Steve Brewer: Bank Job

I just finished this hardboiled thriller reminiscent of Elmore Leonard's work the other day. It was the first book I read by Steve Brewer, but I liked it well enough to read more of his books later on.

Bank Job (2005) is one of those books that start rapidly, race along with a good speed and develop into a satisfying climax. Three low-life criminals are on a crime spree doing stupid things. One of them gets hit by a whiskey bottle during an attempt to rob a liquor store. The guys end up in a lonely house with an old couple living in it. The old guy of the house has a secret up his sleeve, and much action and mayhem ensue. There's plenty of violence that really hurts, and there are also some sudden twists and turns.

Brewer creates memorable characters with just few touches, a bit of dialogue, descriptions of how people move, act, keep a book in their hands. It's quite nice that the lead character is someone over 60. The young hoodlums are also depicted very nicely, they are fully human though they are quite worthless and almost evil. The plot moves on with a nice pace and slows down only in the last 20 or 30 pages. Comes highly recommended, even with the very stale front cover.

Edit: Oops! I meant to publish this on Saturday, but I accidentally pushed the Publish button and can't take it out anymore. So it's two book posts on the same day, but I don't really think anyone minds. 

Friday's Forgotten Book: Sébastien Japrisot: The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun

Still suffering from a bad back, I finished lying on a sofa the French writer Sébastien Japrisot's thriller La Dame dans l'auto avec des lunettes et un fusil (1966). I had a beat-up copy I'd found somewhere cheap, and upon noticing I already have a better copy I decided to throw this away - most certainly something I wouldn't normally do.

This is a very good crime novel. I once read somewhere that if you're a male writer, don't try a woman's point of view (unless you're Cornell Woolrich). Japrisot does it and does it very well. Of course some of the stuff in the book depicting a young woman's sexual and social disorientation is dated, but they didn't overrun the reading experience. The book reminded me a bit of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, which I liked to a certain point, but I also got weary of its longevity. Not so with Japrisot's novel, as it clocks at about 250 pages. The book starts in the middle of the woman's noir nightmare of which the characters and the reader can't possibly fathom what's going on. Japrisot likes to toy with the reader's expectations and this is far more exciting and surprising than Gone Girl. Japrisot also writes in a very French style that's both hypnotic and diffuse at the same time. This is a very engaging book and although the prose isn't the most straight-forward one, you can't help but read the book in one sitting.

The book was made into a British movie in 1970 with Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed. Haven't seen it, though. Seems like there's no decent DVD on it. Here's a good blog post on the film.

More Forgotten Books coming up here.

Edit: I forgot to mention it, but I read the Finnish translation from 1967. The title means "The Woman in the Car". Guess this was clear to anyone. Crime Club (with the nice logo) was a quality paperback series from the large Finnish publishing house Otava back in the late sixties. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Hooked Bear (1956)

Suffering from a bad back I watched some VHS tapes with old animations in them and spotted this Disney cartoon previously unknown to me. I don't know how this has happened - the explanation is perhaps that I've seen some of the Humphrey the Bear cartoons, but forgotten all about them. Nonetheless, this was a pretty entertaining little film, directed by Jack Hannah.

 More Overlooked Films here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movie: Cause for Alarm (1951)

I caught this little film noir on a Finnish television just the other night. It's a slightly enjoyable suspense story starring Loretta Young as the disturbed housewife of a crippled man (Barry Sullivan) who begins to think Young is trying to kill him for his insurance money.

There are some implausibilities in the plot, and Loretta Young's behaviour when she tries to get back the letter his husband sent to the district attorney is pretty much all over the place, but this still fits in with the phenomenon I've dubbed "female noir". I think "domestic suspense" used by Sarah Weinman in her upcoming anthology is actually better for this. The images of Loretta Young under her sociopathic and bitter husband are pretty disturbing.

That said, the ending of the film should've been infinitely stronger. The director was Tay Garnett, the screenplay was by Mel Dinelli, who specialized in film noir. See also the Wikipedia article for the film.

More Overlooked Movies here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Book: Dean Koontz: Shattered (1973)

I've never read much Dean Koontz and my impression of his later and longer work (see here) has not been very good, but Shattered proved out to be short, gripping and brisk. It's one of Koontz's early books, published initially under his K. W. Dwyer pseudonym (and later on published as Dean Koontz), and still it tells a full-bloodied tale of full-bloodied people.

The premise is not very different from Richard Matheson's and Steven Spielberg's Duel which is two years senior, so Koontz may have had it in mind. Shattered also differs from Matheson's work in that the chase is personal in tone. A dark, mysterious van is behind two drivers, a young boy and the boyfriend of his older sister, who's a father figure to the kid. They don't know who drives the van, but Koontz shows he's a menace in the chapters narrated through the mysterious driver.

The ending is a bit too abrupt and there are some characters of which I didn't know whether they really were necessary. But Shattered is still a
suspenseful book that feels for its doomed characters.

This came out in Finnish in 1994 from Book Studio under the title Varjostaja. See the Finnish cover here.

More Forgotten Books here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Joseph Rosenberger

When I wrote my first book, Pulpografia (2000), I decided to include some of the better-known men's adventure writers from the seventies and eighties. The genre doesn't do much for me, and Joseph Rosenberger's Richard Camellion books proved out to be the worst of the worst. I can see where the later cult fame rises from, but sometimes I have hard to see beyond those qualities.

Here's a personal letter from Rosenberger, who seems like he wasn't a very nice guy. Some quite interesting takes on politics and race and also some stuff on publishing. If you're into men's adventure genre in general, take a round in the Glorious Trash blog, you might find lots of interest. Here's also an interview with Rosenberger in the same blog.

Monday, July 08, 2013

New book out!

I have a new book out. It's a collection of werewolf stories by Finnish writers (mostly new, but with two old ones thrown in), edited by me. It looks dandy with its 340 pages and a nice cover by Jukka Murtosaari. The title means  "The Dark Side of the Moon", which is the title of Johanna Sinisalo's great story in the book. Here's more info on the book (in Finnish).

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Multiplicity (1996)

I didn't much like Groundhog Day when I saw it, but I've come to realize the film enjoys a bit of a cult following nowadays. I haven't seen it since, but not long ago I read an interesting essay on Ramis's work, so I decided I should dip into an old VHS cassette I found some years ago from the trash bin containing Ramis's later Multiplicity.

Multiplicity is a bit like Groundhog Day, with its idea of cloning a person to make life easier. Having many Michael Keatons is not far away from Bill Murray living one particular day all over and over again. Both films are amiable, but contain some sharp notes on the middle-class way of life. The basic situation in Multiplicity allows many amusing moments and at times the films is a lot like a classic screwball comedy. All in all Multiplicity is an entertaining film, but I'm not sure whether I'd watch it again. Andie McDowell is not very interesting as the female lead, and the overall result is a bit too sweet to my taste.

A word of warning: if you don't like Michael Keaton, you probably won't like Multiplicity. I'm not one of his fans, but I could stand him in this, even when there were four of him on the screen.

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog here.