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From The Blog
March 28, 2017
Q&A with Laura Caldwell & Leslie S. Klinger
John Valeri, Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger
March 23, 2017
Review: Personal Shopper (2017)
Peter Foy
March 21, 2017
Q&A with Gretchen Archer, Author of Double Up
Crime HQ and Gretchen Archer
March 17, 2017
Passionate About Pulp: A Conan Double-Feature (Is What Is Best in Life)
Angie Barry
March 16, 2017
Research Ride-Along
kristen lepionka
Showing posts by: Peter Foy click to see Peter Foy's profile
Mar 23 2017 5:00pm

Review: Personal Shopper (2017)

It’s rational to think that one hasn’t fully matured as a human until they’ve come to understand death. No matter how much one has been told about the taxing toll of losing a loved one throughout their life, it’s really impossible to know what grief feels like until you’ve actually experienced it. The turmoil and soul-crushing despair that one must go through isn’t comparable to anything else in life, and that’s often the case for why ghost stories tend to be so personal yet universal. For that reason Personal Shopper, the new supernatural thriller from French filmmaker Olivier Assayas, finds comfortable footing in a semi-familiar template while also refusing to give into clichés.

The film’s story is about Maureen (Kristen Stewart), an American working in Paris as a personal shopper for a wealthy celebrity. Currently struggling after the death of her twin brother Lewis (from an ailment that she also possesses), Maureen tries using her background as a medium to see if she can communicate with her brother from the hereafter. Close while alive, the two siblings had made a pact that they would send each other a sign if either one of them died. After several occurrences where she interacts with spirits, she begins to receive anonymous text messages, which heightens both her fear and hope of reaching out to Lewis again.

[Brother from another ... plane of existence]

Mar 20 2017 12:00pm

Review: Raw (2017)

When your debut feature film receives attention for containing materials that causes audience members to faint, one must wonder what that says about your capabilities as an artist/provocateur. This did indeed happen when French director Julia Ducournau screened her film Raw at The Toronto Film Festival last fall, and it’s an ugly fact that’s been latched onto the film up to its wide release in the States (premiering ahead of its release in Europe). 

Ducournau went on to say that she was shocked to hear of this and also dismayed because she felt that cinema shouldn’t be something that can possibly inflict harm on viewers. Regardless, there’s little doubt that the press headlines helped Raw get a distributor, and hopefully it will attract horror fans to catch a movie that’s leagues more subdued than your standard gorefest. In fact, in many ways Raw is anything but a shocker.

[Read more about the movie on everyone's lips!]

Mar 6 2017 2:00pm

Review: Get Out (2017)

Social thrillers are hard to pull off. While, sure, there have been numerous genre films that have managed to satisfy as entertainment while still being potent allegory, there are exceedingly more instances where filmmakers get bogged down with their ideas, resulting in a half-baked execution (The Purge franchise, anyone?). For Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, however, the comedian has turned out an imaginative comedy-horror that’s socially prescient in an unpretentious manner and very often very well-made (albeit a little rough in its 3rd act). The film is Get Out, and it may have just become the first sleeper hit of the year.

A young African-American man named Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) finds himself on a trip to meet the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams). Upon coming to the rural town where her parents live, however, both our protagonist and we the viewers apprehend that this community has some seedy secret. Other black people in the town seem to have some robotic mannerisms to them, and Rose’s parents (and neighbors) seem all too interested in Chris’s physical attributes. Needless to say, Chris eventually finds himself in a fight for his life that may cost him both his freedom and his sanity.

[Get out ... get out, get out, get out!]

Feb 13 2017 2:00pm

The Player: Why Robert Altman’s Hollywood Satire Is an Even Better Film 25 Years Later

Screenplay writers hate Hollywood! It really is as simple as that.

There's a good chance you would too if you had to go through all the studio bullshit (i.e., studio rewrites, budget cuts, lame-brain producers) just to see a version of your project reach theaters that barely resembles what you had in mind.

Just ask Michael Tolkin, who came to Holywood in the 1980s with aspirations of writing scripts that felt like Steven Spielberg meets Reiner Werner Fassbinder (Ha! Like that’d ever happen.) and eventually found it to be a lost cause. Instead though, Tolkin decided to use his hardships of working in Hollywood as a basis for a crime novel, The Player, and it ended up being his bridge towards finally having a fruitful career in the cinematic world. In 1992, the book was adapted into a film, with Tolkin supplying the screenplay and Robert Altman helming it as director.

[In the name of all writers ... I'm going to kill you]

Dec 8 2016 5:30pm

Point Blank (1967): The Only Neo-Noir that Matters

I’ve been a consumer of countless crime fiction novels, films, and television for most of my life now—from eras ranging from Raymond Chandler to Elmore Leonard to Dennis Lehane—yet still I find myself pausing to ask this bleeding question: what the hell does neo-noir ever mean?

Most commonly, people refer to neo-noir as anything that follows the template of the classical film noir era, which occurred in the 1940s and '50s. For that reason, films like Chinatown and L.A. Confidential often get labeled as neo-noir, but I find it difficult not to see this as a misnomer. Those films carry an authenticity that makes me feel that they were really part of the classical era.

Other people take the word more literally and feel it applies to noir-esque films with science-fiction elements in them, such as Blade Runner. But, more often than not, the noir themes in these films tend to be overshadowed by the spectacle.

Even some filmmakers seem to be less than privy to the term (don’t count on the Coen Brothers or Quentin Tarantino ever describing their films as neo-noir). And when I talk about film in my favorite genre of cinema, you best believe I drop the “neo” in most cases. That said, there are still a handful of films I feel are best described by the aforementioned term. For that reason, I believe John Boorman’s 1967 film Point Blank ranks as the best neo-nor ever made.

[See why Point Blank is the only neo-noir that matters...]

Dec 5 2016 2:00pm

Review: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Nocturnal Animals opens with a credits sequence that may very well go down as the most visceral and unexpected of the year. It’s a sequence that showcases obese naked women dancing and performing strange acts of jubilation, all while a dramatic orchestral score plays. It’s imagery that’s morose and comical at the same time, and at the end, it’s revealed to be a video piece for an art opening that protagonist Susan is curating. This opening certainly gains the viewer’s undivided attention with ease, but like Nocturnal Animals itself, the opening is duplicitous eye candy and confused towards its own artistry.

Yet, it also is a fitting setup for the film’s plot. Susan (Amy Adams) is a gallery operator in Los Angeles who dresses in elegance and modern art, which also seems to mask her unsatisfying marriage and financial woes. Susan, however, soon receives a surprising gift from her ex-husband Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal). Tony has written a novel that is going to be published, but he’s sent his manuscript to Susan as well as dedicated the book to her.

[Aww, how sweet...]

Nov 18 2016 5:30pm

Stray Bullets: Why You Should Be Reading One of the Best Crime Comics Around

Crime comics are among the most popular genres in mainstream comic books (perhaps only second to superheros). For generations, comic readers have eaten up hardboiled goodness like Sin City and 100 Bullets, titles that have proven there’s much more mainstream appeal in comic books than just seeing grown men wear homoerotic tights. What’s more though, the genre has shown real artistic merit, particularly in one long-running series that is sorely under-read and left off too many contemporary must-read lists: David Lapham’s Stray Bullets.

First published in 1995, Stray Bullets was the bleeding edge of independent comics for its time. Not only did Lapham write and draw the comic entirely himself, but he published it through his own El Capitan Books, allowing him to put out the series the exact way he wanted to. A non-linear crime story that was entirely printed in black-and-white and favored a hefty degree of realism, the series was unlike any other American series at the time (hell, even the design of the TPB’s looked closer to the European standard).

[Read more about your next comic obsession...]

Oct 27 2016 1:00pm

Don’t Look Now: The Best Horror Film You’ve Never Seen

When mainstream publications make best-of lists pertaining to horror films, there are always a number of mainstays you can expect to see in the perceived top ten. These films include The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, Night of the Living Dead, Alien, and Psycho, and even some slightly less-lauded entrees like David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly and The Omen are likely to show up, too.

There is one particularly great horror film, however, that is sorely left off many of these lists—largely because it was out-of-print for a small eternity. What’s more, the film has also been massively influential on other filmmakers and has aged better than most of its contemporaries.

[Actually, we'd really like you to look...]

Sep 22 2016 4:30pm

Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter: A Lost American Classic

When literary laureates list their picks for great American novels, rarely are crime novels brought up in the same breath. Sure, there were plenty of bestsellers in the genre that led to more acclaimed film adaptations (Mario Puzo’s The Godfather being perhaps the most obvious), and certain authors like Jim Thompson were even lauded for how transgressive they were able to be with the genre, but, as a whole, the genre was collectively seen by reviewers as pulp, shallow, and ultimately disposable. A shame, too, as at its strongest, crime fiction can eclipse preposterous ideas and represent something undeniably human. Perhaps the most indispensable example of this is Don Carpenter’s first novel: Hard Rain Falling.

A generation-spanning story set in America’s West Coast (primarily in Oregon and Northern California) in the mid-20th century, the book recounts the lives of two street-raised kids and their tribulations into adulthood. We’re first introduced to Jack Levitt, an orphaned teenager in Portland who spends his rebellious days seeking sex and booze and partaking in crimes with his local gang. His life takes a real turn-around, however, when he meets Billy Lancing, a light-skinned Negro from Seattle who has run away from home to try and make it as a billiard champ. Levitt forms a strong bond with Lancing that takes them from the dingy pool halls of Portland to a tumultuous prison sentence—and an unexpected happiness that follows.

[Read Peter Foy's review of the lost American classic, Hard Rain Falling...]

Aug 15 2016 5:00pm

Citizen Soprano: Why the HBO Series Can Never Be Replicated

It’s been nearly a decade since The Sopranos concluded. On June 10, 2007, HBO aired “Made in America,” the final episode of David Chase’s gangster opus, and it was met with both rage and befuddlement from millions of viewers—but the show’s last scene has certainly expanded in clarity in the 9 years since.

It’s more lucid than ever to comprehend that we’ll never have another show quite like The Sopranos. The thought of a show having the same impact on the television landscape or the same amount of artistic integrity is nigh unfathomable, even considering how influential the show was. Yet, despite its seminal aura, The Sopranos’s most distinct and cerebral moments still remain inimitable in the current television milieu, and the show is still closer to being artwork than any other semblance of prestige television to arrive before or since.

[Read Peter Foy's take on The Sopranos...]