True Detective Season 2-What Went Wrong?

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I don’t have H.B.O., so I had to wait 6 months for the Blu-Ray release of Season 2 to get a chance to watch this. In that 6 months I have seen reviews from critics and other looks at the series from novelists and fans. All of these reviews were negative, I did not read one thing about this second season that was positive. Some of these looks where things like how Ray Donovan was the better show on Sunday nights or how Fargo Season 2 got it right and True Detective got it wrong, etc. Needless to say, I had low expectations of this when I started watching it.

Season 1 of True Detective may have been the best first season of a television series in history, it maybe the best season of television ever. I really was amazed by Nic Pizzolatto story and the acting was second to none.  Here is my look at Season 1:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/04/23/re-watching-the-best-of-2014-true-detective-season-1/

Season 2 is a totally new cast, story and location, the only thing that is the same is Pizzolatto is in charge again and we are going to cover another story of crime. From this alone Pizzolatto was set up to fail. How could he ever match his masterpiece of season 1? How could he create a completely new world with no connection to season 1 and make it just as good?

I don’t believe Pizzolatto failed at all! Where Season 2 fails is only when it is compared to something else. Stop comparing this 8 hours to something else and just enjoy it for what it is.

For me Season 2 was a great modern take on California’s noir world, a homage to noir of the past. I think Pizzolatto took cues from past greats and put them in a big stew and threw them into modern Southern California. I seen hints of Chandler, Hammett, Macdonald and a lot of Ellroy in the story. I seen scenes that looked a lot like scenes from High Sierra, Mulholland Drive, L.A. Confidential, and others. The best thing I liked about this series is he took some of classic film noir tropes and characters and threw them into a modern setting and gave them an original spin.

Lets break down each of the four main characters:

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Colin Farrell is Detective Ray Velcoro

Ray is our classic hardboiled detective for this story. He takes a bit of the cop looking for revenge, and a pinch of dirty cop, add a man that has lost his way and his family. The twist here is we learn what set this good guy into a downward spiral of evil.

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Taylor Kitsch is Officer Paul Woodrugh

Woodrugh is a motorcycle cop who is part of a tabloid news story involving a famous actress. Woodrugh maybe the most classic film noir style character of the group. He is back from the war and that war has effected him. He is trying to fit into a society, he no longer recognizes. He is trying to hide his homosexual tendencies by making a nice family life everybody expects of him.

 

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Rachel McAdams is Detective Ani Bezzerides

Ani is the cop with the dirty mouth. The cop that uses the opposite sex and throws them away. The cop that is as hard as nails and you want by your side in a knife fight. In today’s world this is the cop that needs to go to sexual harassment meeting for their affairs with co-workers. Pizzolatto flips the scrip here and makes this cop a female.

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Vince Vaughn is Frank Semyon

Frank is a gangster who has worked his way up to the top and used his life savings to go legit with a land purchase. Frank is our classic gangster getting out, but never really does. He made it to the top by surrounding himself with loyal guys he trusts, and that may be his downfall.

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Kelly Reilly and Abigail Spencer play opposites. One will do anything to stay with her husband and the other will do anything to get as far away as possible from her ex-husband.

Pizzolatto uses a lot of classic film noir tropes in this basic 8 plus hour movie. We see the heist film, the gangster film, the hardboiled cop film, and the revenge film all rolled into one. There is a couple McGuffins, one in the form of some rare blue diamonds and another in the form of a hard drive with some compromising films on it. We have double crosses, corrupt politicians and police, a prostitution ring, a freaky psychologist(played by an almost unrecognizable Rick Springfield), a dark and dingy bar, a night club where it is easy to get whatever you want, a semi legit casino and it goes on and on.

Pizzolatto’s plot is not easy to follow and doesn’t take you on simple A to B trip. This series takes some thinking and may even need to be watched more then once to get everything out of it. Some didn’t like how all the questions are not answered, but I think it is more like the answers they got are not the ones they wanted. This may upset the average viewer, but is right up the noir fan’s alley. Not having a clue on how a show is going to end is half the fun of the ride. So what went wrong with Season 2? Personally I don’t think anything went wrong. I really enjoyed this season. I think what went wrong is when it is compared to the first…or a totally different show. No Season 2 is not as good as Season 1, but it is still very good. I look forward to a third season and hope Pizzolatto takes on some different film noir tropes, like a really interesting femme fatale, maybe a location in New York, Atlantic City and Philadelphia. How about taking on the subject of drug dealers and using the Canadian/American border as a focal point? Whatever you do, Mr. Pizzolatto, I look forward to watching it.

Film vs. Film: M(1931) vs. M(1951)

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Here we look at the German Expressionist all time classic M and the 1951 Hollywood film noir remake M. A story about a serial killer of children and vigilante justice. Can a re-make hold a candle to one of the all-time greatest films ever? Well let’s step into the cage for an all out noir brawl.

Round 1: Direction and Cinematography

M from 1931 is directed by one of the all time greats, Fritz Lang. Even Lang has said this is his favorite film of his career. Released in 1931, this film broke new ground in so many ways. This movie also used filming techniques that all film noir would crib from over 9 years later.

M from 1951 is directed by one of film noir’s favorites as well, Joseph Losey. This was Losey’s third film and one he didn’t want to do. He didn’t figure he could re-make a work by Lang, but was broke and took the job. He would go on to make many more classics after this film. The cinematography of this film is very good looking. The street scenes of Los Angeles are a great time capsule to see. Some of the scenes might even be more creepy then the original, like the mannequins scene. Though there is nothing wrong with Losey’s direction, we are talking about Lang and one of the most influential films ever, so we need to give this round to the original. M(1931) 1-M(1951) 0

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Round 2: Screenplay 

M(1931) is written by Fritz Lang and his then wife Thea von Harbou. They really wanted to make a film about the most horrifying criminal they could imagine. Loosely based on a real case of a serial killer targeting children, Lang and Harbou could not think of anything more scary to make a film about. Still to this day, this subject mater is fairly taboo in film and television. Can you imagine how shocking this story would have been in 1931?

M(1951) Leo Katcher, Norman Reilly Raine and Waldo Salt took the original script and revised it for an American setting and audience. They added another dimension to the script with the drunk lawyer character played by Luther Adler. They did take away the element of the beggars union hunting to find the killer, which did take a bit away from the story.

I have to go with the original again in this round. Though the remake made some interesting changes, those changes are not enough or good enough to sway the judges. M(1931)2-M(1951)0

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Round 3: Male Lead

Peter Lorre became a household name around the world from this film. He is so scary, yet you feel sorry for him at the same time, it is a brilliant performance from one of the all time greats.

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David Wayne steps into some big shoes and bravely does the character totally different then Lorre. It is a great performance where he actually seems a bit scarier then Lorre in a few scenes. Maybe the scariest part of Wayne’s performance is that he looks a lot more normal then Lorre when he is hunting for his next victim.

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This round has to go to Lorre, though I liked Wayne’s performance. Lorre just has that it factor that makes him so watchable in almost anything. M(1931)3-M(1951)0

Round 4: Supporting Cast

The original film used real life criminals and the beggars had some amazingly interesting looks. Small people, men with wooden peg legs, and the blind are very interesting to watch.

The 1951 version has Raymond Burr, Howard Da Silva, Jim Backus and Norman Lloyd just to name a few of the cops and gangsters that appear in this film. Though this is a close one, but I have to give the round to the remake. M(1931)3-M(1951)1

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Though the remake showed a bit of brilliance in the last round, the fight goes to the original by a landslide. Though both films are good in their own right and the remake is a very good film noir the original is a masterpiece. Both are worth your time to seek out and watch. Now that a remastered version of the 1951 film is available, look for a copy.

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Favorite Tidbit: Both of these films where banned at one time or another. The original was banned a few years after its release in Germany by the Nazi party. Both Lang and Lorre fled Germany because of their Jewish heritage. The remake was basically shelved after some of the crew was put on the Communist Blacklist. Losey would soon flee to Europe after this film.

 

 

Review: Too Late for Tears

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Too Late for Tears is a classic film noir from 1949 from director Byron Haskin. The film is based on a “Saturday Evening Post” serial and screenplay by Roy Huggins. This film had fallen into public domain and good copies of this film where hard to come by. Thanks to The  Film Noir Foundation we got a restored version that took 5 years to complete. The restored version debuted on Turner Classic Movies this summer and has been shown fairly regularly on TCM since.

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This film has two of noir fans favorites in it, Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea.

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This film starts with Jane Palmer(Lizabeth Scott) and her husband,
Alan Palmer played by Arthur Kennedy, driving down a back road when Jane wants to go back home. They argue and the car swerves back and forth. When they pass an oncoming car, somebody throws a bag full of money into their car.

Jane always wanting to have money, wants to keep the cash. Alan wants to give the money to the police, knowing it will cause problems. Jane talks him into keeping it for two weeks before they make a decision. Things turn worse when Danny Fuller( Dan Duryea) comes looking for his money. Things get out of hand fast for Jane, who does whatever it takes to keep the money.

Things get even more dire when Alan’s sister Kathy played by  Kristine Miller and a strange man Don played by  Don DeFore both suspect something is a miss.

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If you get a chance to see a restored copy of this film, jump on it. If you are a Lizabeth Scott fan, it is a must see. Scott’s Jane maybe one of the deadliest ladies in film noir. She isn’t just a femme fatale, using her charms to get what she wants, she is not afraid to get her hands dirty herself.

 

Review: A Lady Without Passport

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In 1950, the same year Joseph H. Lewis’ classic film noir Gun Crazy was released, he also had a lesser known film noir released, A Lady Without Passport.

This film starts out with a man hunting down another man on the street. When the hunted man is on the run, he is hit by a car. The police find some interesting clues in his pocket that lead to Cuba. This leads to John Hodiak’s  U.S. Immigration Service Agent Peter Karczag going undercover in Havana to bust a human smuggling ring.

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All things seem to be going by the book until he meets the beautiful Marianne Lorress played by Hedy Lamarr. Lorress is trying to get to America where her father is. Now Karczag is torn between helping Lorress and busting the human smugglers. Though this film tackles the subject of illegal immigration, a subject still relevant today, this is not the most complex or compelling story line. The film takes us from Havana, Cuba to some great scenes in the Florida Everglades. The shoot locations and Hedy Lamarr do make this an entertaining film.

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This is another well directed and great looking film by Joseph H. Lewis and should be watched by fans of his. If you are new to Lewis, I would start with the more classic Gun Crazy or The Big Combo from 1955.

News: Noir Classic ‘Kansas City Confidential’ is Coming to Blu-ray

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Kansas City Confidential is coming to bu-ray! Read the full article here:

Noir Classic ‘Kansas City Confidential’ is Coming to Blu-ray

Here is Everythingnoir.com’s review of the film:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/08/21/review-kansas-city-confidential/

Review: Seven Thieves

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You ever notice how two films seemingly are filmed and released at similar times with more then a passing resemblance of each other? Whether it is a film about an asteroid hitting earth or two bio pics about the same subject coming out within a few months of each other. I’m not sure if this is some weird coincidence or counter measures from rival studios. This must have been the case when in 1960, two films with similar plots and even similar names came out. Seven Thieves was released five months before Frank Sinatra’s Ocean’s Eleven. Ocean’s Eleven is a star studded comedy about a group of thieves who plan to rob a big casino. Seven Thieves is a star studded film with a more noir flavor, about a group of thieves who plan to rob a big casino.

The film starts out with Edward G. Robinson recruiting Rod Steiger for a casino heist. Steiger is reluctant, but agrees to join the group as long as he can be in charge. Robinson is the brains and money man behind this heist and agrees to Steiger’s demands. The rest of the group is not as happy about the addition.

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Part of the existing team is femme fatale Joan Collins. Her job is to seduce the man that will be able to get them into the casino.

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She is a dancer at a club and her target is her number one fan. Collins is good friends with Eli Wallach, who has taken care of her since she was young. Another noir notable is Michael Dante as the safe cracker.

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This film is based on a book by Max Catto and is directed by Henry Hathaway. This has to be influenced by the film Bob le Flambeur. If you are a fan of Ocean’s 11, but would like something a little darker, check out Seven Thieves. This film is nothing ground breaking, but is a fun movie worth watching.

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Book Review: Nine Toes In The Grave by Eric Beetner

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Nine Toes In The Grave is “A Hard Luck Novella” by Eric Beetner. I have seen Beetner’s previous novel Rumrunners on more then one “Best of 2015” list. This, and with the folks over at All Due Respect sending me a copy of Nine Toes In The Grave, put this book to the top of my “To Read” list. This book is short, at just over 100 pages, but packs quite a story.

Beetner starts this story with a bit of a “The Postman Always Rings Twice” vibe. Our protagonist Reese is working at a greesy spoon as a short order cook. He is having an affair with the owner’s wife to start his downward spiral of bad luck. She tries to convince him to kill her husband so she will inherit the restaurant. Reese has always done the right thing and been a good guy and refuses to do this. The wife kills her husband anyway and looks to frame Reese. Reese figures his best bet is to run for it.

Reese makes it 50 miles to the next county and hits up a bar. Out of money and nowhere to go, Reese meets two guys willing to pay him $500 for a repo job on a car. It seems like easy money and Reese agrees to do it. His luck does not get any better is all I have to say.

Beetner tells a good story and it is well written. I will be looking for more from Beetner in the future. If you want to read some good modern pulp, Beetner is as good a place to start as any.

You can pick up a copy of this book and others from All Due Respect here:

http://allduerespectbooks.com/

Michael Connelly Chooses ‘The Long Goodbye’ for WSJ Book Club

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The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler is the Book of the Month for the Wall Street Journal Book Club. The selection was made by one of today’s greats, Michael Connelly. After reading this article, I have decided I have been putting off reading this noir classic long enough. Who wants to join me in reading this with the WSJ Book Club?

Here is a link to the article:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/michael-connelly-chooses-the-long-goodbye-for-wsj-book-club-1452097505

Also you can join the Book Club on Facebook here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1378607315732948/

 

Article: The Movie Star, the Gangster Boyfriend, and the Daughter With a Knife

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Lana Turner is one of film noir’s favorite femme fatales, but she found herself in a real life film noir in 1958.

Karina Longworth has a great article about Turner’s life and the incident in 1958 that changed Turner’s and her daughter’s lives forever. Here is a link to that great article over at Slate.com:

http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/you_must_remember_this/2015/12/you_must_remember_this_lana_turner_cheryl_crane_and_johnny_stompanato.html

Here is a great short documentary from the old television series, Mysteries and Scandals, covering Turner’s life.

 

Book Review: Dog Eat Dog by Edward Bunker

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Dog Eat Dog is a novel by Edward Bunker. Bunker is an interesting character. His past involves a criminal career, a horrible childhood, a very high I.Q., becoming an author in prison and acting in some of the most classic neo noir films of the last 40 years. This book was released in 1995 and should be read by any crime fiction fan and especially any fan of noir fiction.

This story is about 3 ex-convicts who have been friends since juvenile hall. Mad Dog lives in Portland with his girlfriend and young daughter. Diesel has been working with a union in Sacramento and does the odd job for the local mob boss from time to time. He has a nice house, a wife and a brand new Mustang. Troy is our third man in this trio. Troy is a smart man that most criminals love. Troy has just got out of prison and is already got a plan in place to make some money.

This journey takes us to the underworld of Los Angeles in the 1990’s. We have drug dealers, crooked lawyers, kidnapping, murder, drug addiction and robbery just to wet your appetite for the dark corners this book goes to.

You can tell Bunker cribs from his own experience in crime for this book. There is a lot of parallels between Troy and Bunker. Bunker also covers some social issues in this book. One thing he covers is the disappearance of the middle class in Los Angeles. Something that continues to happen in many areas of the country today. Another topic is the Three Strike Law that went into effect in California in 1994, a year before this book was released. The law basically states that after your third felony you where going to go to prison for life. This book basically tells us that with this law, we are making people with two strikes willing to do anything not to go back to prison. This maybe a very good point and is something that has been changed in 2012, now it has to be a serious or violent felony for your third strike. I am no lawyer and don’t get into politics much, but for example, in one case a 2 time felon was caught stealing a set of golf clubs. He was sent to prison for life because of the 3 strike rule. Though he is a 3 time felon, and I have no idea what his previous 2 felonies are,(and he did already serve his time for those) life seems a little extreme for stealing golf clubs.

This is an amazing book and I could not put it down. Knowing a little bit about Bunker’s background made me interested in reading him. I was not expecting such a well written book. You will not be disappointed in this book! I highly recommend reading this before the movie is released later this year.

This movie could be amazing or it could be very disappointing. Lets look at the information we have so far. First off the material is second to none for a neo noir film. Second is the talent involved. Paul Schrader wrote the screenplay and is directing. His movie writing credits are some of the best neo noir films in the last 40 years. On the other hand his directing credits have been hit and miss, some are very good and some are unbelievable bad. Our main star, playing Troy is Nicolas Cage, if there is ever an actor in modern film that can be absolutely brilliant in one film and then over act and go totally campy in the next, it is Cage. Schrader promises a return to form for both him and Cage in this picture and I really hope he is right. Here is a link to a couple articles about the upcoming film:

http://deadline.com/tag/dog-eat-dog/

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One thing this film has me excited about is Willem Dafoe as Mad Dog. This casting should be worth the price of admission.