I Still Miss Hayley Atwell

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Lesson learned: Never get hooked on a TV show. The damn networks will just cancel it once you’re fully invested.

Some handsome artwork above by Arne Ratermanis of Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter, complete with that wonderful red hat of hers.

Farrah & Friends

Farrah Fawcett

It might look like a publicity still from the first season of Aaron Spelling’s kitschy 70’s ABC TV series Charlie’s Angels. But it’s actually Farrah Fawcett (RIP) in a Halston fashion photo from ’round about that same time. Almost reminds me a bit of the edgy images shot by Helmut Newton for the 1978 film Eyes Of Laura Mars. Below are the three original Angels themselves: Kate Smith, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith, elegantly attired and fashion-shoot ready, even if they are armed with purse-size pistols and what must be a pre-cell phone era walkie-talkie. Talk about ‘stiletto gumshoes’.

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There’ll soon be three more Angels to add to the growing mix with the Elizabeth Banks directed Charlies Angels reboot due in November. Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska are the new trio, with Banks herself not only directing but playing agency manager Bosley.

 

 

Easter Bunnies

The Playboy Club 2

Femmes fatales and stiletto gumshoes simply don’t mix well with Easter.

Molly Odintz explains (somewhat tongue in cheek) why Passover is the most ‘noir’ of all Jewish holidays in a 3.20.19 CrimeReads.com article, “10 Reasons Why Passover Is The Noirest Holiday”, though she winds up concluding that, after all, most Jewish holidays can be summed up as “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.” Go to Crimereads.com for some serious thoughts along with a seasonal chuckle.

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While Odintz managed handily, I’m stumped trying to find anything remotely connected to both Easter and noir culture. Springtime, marshmallow eggs or coconut covered lamb cakes just don’t belong with dark alleys, gunsels and gun molls or shadowy hot-sheet hotel rooms. The best I can do is to riff on the Easter Bunny, or ‘bunnies’ of a sort…so, alas: Playboy Bunnies.

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NBC’s short-lived 2011 series The Playboy Club only aired three episodes before it was cancelled, though seven were started, with five in the can. Apparently network execs assumed the popularity of AMC’s critically acclaimed Mad Men meant that everyone wanted more of that early 60’s vibe, so ABC brought out the similarly short-lived Pan Am and NBC launched The Playboy Club, set in 1961 and shot on location in Chicago.

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The show wasn’t even on my radar at the time, but I have since seen the pilot or first episode online (everything is online somewhere, isn’t it?) and have to say that A) it wasn’t nearly as offensive as religious conservatives and irate women’s groups contended and B) it was actually pretty good, sort of an eye-candy soap opera melded (much to my surprise) with a healthy dose of neo-noir-ish flavored Second City mobsters and Chicago political corruption (the two going more or less hand-in-hand in real life). But I suppose the few folks who tuned in did so to ogle Amber Heard in a satiny corset and bunny ears, but not enough of them to keep the show afloat for more than three weeks.

Well, I sure as hell wasn’t going to tempt fate with any Easter-related religious noir, and couldn’t come up with any legit Easter-Noir, so bunnies it is, even if only from a cancelled TV series.

Tinsel Town

Masthead

I never saw this five-issue series from Alterna Comics which apparently ran last year, and just happened to stumble across it recently at a blog. I’ve looked for it since with no luck. But a trade pb collecting the whole series is due out this summer, though not till the end of July (which could just as easily mean anywhere from August through Autumn). I suppose I’ll pre-order now.

 

Tinsel Town 1 Cover

 

Sure looks interesting: David Lucarelli writes a story drawn by Henry Ponciano set in the silent film era, when Abigail Moore dreams of becoming a police officer. Of course, women weren’t welcome then, but she takes a job as a studio security officer, where soon enough she’s mixed up in a noir-ish behind the screen mystery. Well, that cover art’s a little bright for ‘noir-ish, but I’m still eager to check this out.

Running In Heels

in time

Science fiction never was my thing, but while I’ll usually pass on aliens, rocket ships and robots, I’m easily sucked in by a nice, dark dystopian noir.

Producer/director Andrew Niccol’s 2011 In Time may not have spent much time in theaters, and might not get ranked with Blade Runner or even Dark City, but it’s a reasonably good film, and the two leads do a good and earnest job throughout. Justin Timberlake’s naturally a likeable sort, but manages some real intensity here once the tensions rise. Amanda Seyfried may not be the first actress that comes to mind for what turns into a pretty tough gun-toting role, but she pulls it off with style. And what style. Long blonde tresses may be Seyfried’s trademark, but she gives a short reddish bob some badass panache.

In TIme 1In TIme 2

In Time’s 22nd century is a familiar looking yet unpleasant world in which people are genetically engineered to stop aging at 25, when a one-year countdown (digitally displayed on their forearm) commences till they ‘time out’ and immediately expire. But time can be bought and sold, setting up the ultimate have’s and have-not’s, with laborers slaving away at menial jobs in dreary blue collar cities while the well-heeled buy, steal or wager for (and horde) time credits to live in luxury and for as long as they want. When Timberlake’s character is robbed/tricked out of nearly all his time, he abducts Seyfried as a hostage to get his life back. No surprise, they fall for each other, she goes rogue, and the pair ultimately rob the wealthy’s time banks, literally stealing from the rich to give to the poor. A top-notch cast includes Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser, Olivia Wilde and Johnny Galecki in various good, bad and a-little-of-both roles. There’s some nifty gunplay and a lot of well-shot/edited chases and running around. In fact, I hope Amanda Seyfried got a bonus for all of the running in heels. Location candids show the actress in killer shoes. I always thought the moment a director hollered “Cut”, it was time for Uggs or bunny slippers.

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Oscars all around for In Time? Well, no, I’m not going that far. And it’s not Blade Runner. But it is darn good, it is stylish-looking with a noir-ish flair even if much of it is brightly lit, and Amanda Seyfried ought to get signed for more roles where she can wave a gun around. She does it well.

In Time 2011

 

Tonight: 99 River Street

99 RIver Street

I’ve read better lobby card tag lines: “One did it with sheer stockings…One did it for sheer excitement!” But the more I think about it, it does have a rather perverse ring to it.

99 River Street 4

Diligent hard work all day Saturday earns downtime later Saturday night, as in Eddie Muller’s Noir Alley on TCM at 11:00 PM CST. Tonight: John Payne, Evelyn Keyes and Peggy Castle in 1953’s 99 River Street, directed by low budget noir-ish crime film maestro Phil Karlson, who did three such movies with Payne in the lead. John Payne plays a washed up prize fighter reduced to driving a cab, with a wife who’s none too pleased with cutting coupons in dumpy flat. Which may be why she’s having an affair with a smooth talker, who also happens to be a thief, and who knocks off the the unfaithful wife and then tries to pin the murder on boxer-now-cabbie.

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99 River Street didn’t earn rave reviews when released but its reputation has increased in the years since, thanks in large part to film noir experts like Eddie Muller himself. I was sure I’d seen this movie before, but now I’m thinking I’ve mixed it up with a different film altogether (a few of them do start to look the same after a while), so I’m doubly anxious to shut off the computer a few hours from now and settle in at 11:00 for Muller’s intro and an hour and half of some prime viewing. Thank you once again to TCM and Eddie Muller for Noir Alley!

Noir City

Carla Gugino: A Femme Fatale Princess

Carla Gugino by Greg Williams 2Carla Gugino by Greg Williams 3Sure, she’s done goofy comedies, wholesome family films and television series going back to the 1980’s.

But for me, Carla Gugino is a member of contemporary noir royalty. With memorable performances in Sin City, the so-weird but so-cool Sucker Punch, then Hotel Noir, and nominated for Best Actress by the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival for Greg William’s and Sebastien Guiterriez’ indie short Tell-Tale (see preceding post), Gugino rightfully belongs in the ranks of cinema’s most notorious (and therefore utterly loveable) femmes fatales. Whether browsing darkly stylish fashion editorials or film stills from selected projects, one could almost fill a mini-blog just with Gugino in various dangerous dames roles. I won’t, but I will include these three here as a glimpse of her work.

carla gugino by greg williams

8 Minutes Of Noir Bliss

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Can a deliciously dark neo-noir film be nearly perfect, even if it’s less than ten minutes long?

Venezuelan writer, director and filmmaker Sebastien Guiterriez is an inventive artist and clearly a fan of classic Hollywood film noir. Not a name popping up on TMZ and People magazine? No, Guiterriez is not, but he creates some unusual work, like the screenplays for films like Gothika and even the over-the-top Snakes On A Plane. He directed the 1998 blink-and-you-missed-it neo-noir crime thriller Judas Kiss, and wrote and directed a truly unusual blend of horror and neo-noir, Rise: Blood Hunter in 2007 with Lucy Liu and Michael Chiklis, a movie I hope to chat up here later at some point. (I mean it’s definitely a horror film, but it’s also a pretty darn good neo-noir crime film in its way.) But Guiterriez is quite the entrepreneurial sort, writing and directing one of the first wave of regular ‘feature type’ films intended exclusively for online distribution, 2011’s Girl Walks Into A Bar, and then turned to Kickstarter to launch the great Hotel Noir, a faithful homage to classic Hollywood film noir and sundry genre classics, which later saw limited theatrical release, renamed City Of Sin.

Definitely more about that one later.

tell-tale 1Carla Gugino by Greg Williams 4telltale1

But it’s his 2010 internet short Tell-Tale, directed by Greg Williams, that intrigues me. Short? How about really short, as in eight minutes short. Yet to me, it’s practically perfect. Dark. Claustrophobic. Steamy. Relentless. Surprising.

Carla Gugino, Guiterriez’ one time and maybe still partner, works alongside Alan Arkin and others in Tell-Tale, and as the title suggests, the film’s kind of a riff on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. Carla Gugino plays a dangerously alluring woman accused of murdering her lover, while her husband’s grilled for the same crime in the adjoining interrogation room, the questioning interrupted by flashback cuts to a torrid love scene. Yet, there’s much more happening here than a love affair gone bad, or something simple like a jealous spouse’s rage. But it would be unfair of me to spoil it, and c’mon, it’ll only take you eight minutes to see for yourself at YouTube or wherever.

tell-tale 2tell-tale 3

Sets, camera work, wardrobe, acting, dialog (brief as it is)…all dead on, so a big round of applause to director Greg Williams, and to Guiterriez…and to all involved.

Also worth pointing out, Tell-Tale demonstrates something I’ve always contended: sex on screen can literally sizzle till the film melts even without gratuitous nudity. Creative cinematography, artful editing, wardrobe, sets, and of course, the actors’ performances can all work together to generate memorable scenes likely to make you squirm in your  seat. Yet, once they’re done, you realize that it all happened through the sheer magic of crafty filmmaking.

I stumbled across this gem by accident. Then I watched it again. Then returned to it a couple more times, and expect I will do so again. After all, it’s only eight minutes long. You could knock it off during a coffee break (not that I’d advise doing so at the office). As movies go, it’s more of a sketch than a fully fleshed out film. But if you’re in the mood for a quick shot of delectable darkness, go look for Tell-Tale.

 

8 (Not ‘Eight’) Million Ways To Die

8 Million Ways To Die Poster

(See the preceding post about Lawrence Block and John K. Snyder III’s excellent graphic novel of Eight Million Ways To Die.)

The way to look at 8 Million Ways To Die, Hal Ashby’s 1986 film adaptation of Lawrence Block’s hard-boiled Matthew Scudder novel Eight Million Ways To Die, is simply to forget that the movie has anything at all to do with Block’s novel. Which is pretty easy to do, since so little of the book was retained. The Oliver Stone script (with an assist by Robert Towne) transplants an ode to 1980’s New York to Los Angeles. Oh, some character names are retained, former cop Scudder struggles with his drinking, and there is still a prostitute who comes to the unlicensed P.I. to help her escape the life, yet winds up dead. But that’s about where it ends. As Lawrence Block has noted in interviews, he did cash the check, and film studio dollars can pay mortgages the same as publisher’s royalty checks. All writers can learn from Block’s experience, and he’s not the only big name to offer wise counsel about the perils and pluses of dealing with Hollywood.

Montage

8 Million Ways to Die can be lumped together with a whole series of neon-lit and sun-drenched So-Cal neo-noir-ish action and crime thrillers, like To Live And Die In L.A., Tequila Sunrise and others from the 1980’s-90’s. The film was done by top-notch talent, and featured excellent actors, including Jeff Bridges, Rosanna Arquette and Andy Garcia in his first major role. Block’s dark and brooding murder mystery is gone, as are the shadowy Manhattan streets, dingy bars and grimy walkups.

Rosanna Arquette

Still, Garcia is delightfully slimy (his little pony tail a constant visual treat), no one does troubled-but-stoic like Jeff Bridges, and Rosanna Arquette…well, lets just say there’s kind of a crush there. A good movie? Apparently reviewers didn’t think so, nor did movie-goers, since it was a box office flop. That said, if it popped up unexpectedly late at night during a final once-around-the-channels with the cable remote, I’d stay up and watch it again.

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