John Travolta Criminal activities Crimezine

John Travolta: Criminal Activities.

Criminal Activities, we love them Crimeziners, especially when John ‘Chilli Palmer’ Travolta is involved. Travolta is in full on Elmore Leonard mode for this stylish cameo. But the great man is upstaged in virtually every shot, by his heavily architecturalized hair-helmet. No matter. His crazy dialogue that references Marcel Proust, Macbeth and economic theory 101 will have you snorting so loudly you will be distracted from this spectacle, at least momentarily.

Criminal Activities is the kind of b-grade crime flick that snooty film critics love to hate, but having said that it does have a large number of redeeming features.

The Get Shorty and Usual Suspects reference points are blatant and unashamed. No bad thing. But the collage of reference points often intrudes—threatening to overwhelm the narrative thrust of the movie—drowning out its identity with a deluge of cultural cleverness.

The movie kicks off when four college buddies, Noah (Dan Stevens), Zach (Michael Pitt), Bryce (Rob Brown) and Warren (Christopher Abbott)—reunite at a friends funeral. We never get to know our four foils, but that hardly matters, because pretty soon they are talking over an insider dealing scam that is going to make them rich, rich, rich!

But things go awry, almost immediately and our heroes are in hock to mobster Eddie, played by Travolta. Eddie suggests he will offer the boys a clean slate if they kidnap the nephew of a rival gang leader, who has taken Eddie’s niece hostage.

What could be easier? Unfortunately, Marques [Edi Gathegi] is wayyyy more gangster than our hapless heroes can handle. Yikes, Crimeziners! We have got ourselves a Reservoir Dogs style hostage situation! Sadly, the second act sags as glib verbosity apes Tarantino but over-eggs the Pulp Fiction pudding and quickly descends into the realm of self-parody.

Light-relief and more than a touch of menace is offered in the form of Jackie Earle Haley as hit man Gerry, a journeyman gunsel who is about the only member of the cast who doesn’t over act his way the unfolding shenanigans.

Writer Robert Lowell is to be commended for the Keyser Söze style ending, which gooses up the third act and changes this movie out from being a run of the mill farce into an altogether more stylish mélange of crimetastic set pieces. Derivative sure, but if you dig two-fisted gangster theatrics you will love Criminal Activities.

Robert Crais

Bonzo Bob Crais: America’s greatest detective writer

Crimezine neighbor Bonzo Bob Crais is without question Mulholland Drive’s favorite crime writer come dog walker. The New York Times best selling author and Olympic level BBQer is a legend, not only in the City of Angels but in Crimezine community at large.

It is with great pleasure therefore that Crimezine can announce that the Crais silent- writer—that marvelous machine that fills the Mulholland night with the mellifluous music of mystery— has fallen quiet once again, heralding the arrival of The Promise, the latest installment of the Elvis Cole Saga.

Times have changed considerably since the original 1987 outing of the wise-cracking private eye, in the gloriously named The Monkey’s Raincoat and in the ensuing years Bonzo Bob has been collecting literary gongs faster than a Hollywood traffic cop can dole out parking violations. As the years zip past, the unfeasibly monikered Elvis has come up against just about every kind of criminal conspirator you could name and a few more besides.

Some things remain reassuringly constant however: the grumpy cat, the A-frame house, Falstaff beer and the glittering backdrop of the city of Los Angeles. No one writes about LA like the Craisy one, apart from Raymond Chandler or Crimezines favorite Floridian, the awesome Conners.

Yes, the characteristic Cole wise cracks have been missing in recent years, but readers can be assured they are back in The Promise; a turn of events that has had Mulholland residents cheering in the street.

So what of the plot we hear you ask? Well, there is the nasty Mr. Rollins, a nice lady whose son has been killed and a terrorist bomb plot of the kind that would have the NCIS crew soiling their jockey shorts.

Then on page 76 Joe Pike turns up. He is wearing sunglasses. His lip coils very slightly, but he says nothing. Cole fans go ballistic. Mulholland neighborhood watchers start howling at the moon. Pike is of course the taciturn Yang to Cole’s ebullient Ying and has been for many a long year—since the Vietnam days in fact.

Vietnam? The calculations swirl. Yes, that is right Crimeziners, Cole and Pike are the same age as legendary Connelly creation Hieronymus Harry Bosch; the LAPD veteran who wheezed and stooped arthritically into retirement some years ago. No doubt Harry has many mysteries yet to solve from the comfort of his bath chair. But so do Cole and Pike, because they are now ably assisted by thirty-something Delta force whipper-snapper Jon Stone.

Jon likes guns and technology. He does the stuff the old timers can’t figure, like program the video machine—[Surely video stream from the internet?—Ed] You get the picture. Pike, Cole and Stone are like the Larry, Moe, and Curly-Joe of Crime fiction—

NYUK—Cole drops gags and gets into terrible trouble.
CLANG—Pike screeches up in the red jeep.
SPROING—Stone pulls open trunk full of military grade weapons.

Carnage ensues.

It is a wonder bad guys bother coming to Los Angeles at all these days—they really don’t stand a chance.

It is entertaining stuff of course. The goofball camaraderie and set-piece histrionics never fail to delight. Crais is a master storyteller, whose ligature tight prose never pulls out of the fast lane. It must also be mentioned that The Promise sees a very welcome guest appearance from LAPD dog handler Scott James and his K9 companion Maggie; stars of the awesome Crais standalone novel Suspect. A book that had Crimezine cocktail wrangler Consuela quite literally sobbing into her Chablis. We are Pack Crimeziners. We are Pack.

Bonzo Bob Crais is without doubt America’s greatest detective writer. Get Craisy, Get The Promise. Tell them Crimezine sent you.

Crimezine patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith at home in the village of Moncourt, France 1976.

Welcome once again to Casa del Crimezine. How do you keep a Crimeziner in suspense? Pull up a pool-chair, help yourself to a professionally poured Crimezine cocktail courtesy of Crimezine cocktail-wrangler Consuela and all will be revealed—

According to crime writing legend Patricia Highsmith, the key to writing suspense is the creation of an overwhelming impression of impending violence/murder. The author—who wrote crime suspense classics Strangers on a Train, [famously filmed by Alfred criss-cross Hitchcock] and The Talented Mr. Ripley, is a master of the suspense genre, although she says only half of the books she wrote are suspense stories in the true sense of the word. She also says, book trade typecasting more than any other factor is responsible for her reputation as a suspense novelist. They wanted to categorize me she says—so they called me a suspense novelist.

Highsmith goes some way to perpetuating this myth however; in her short but revealing book Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. One imagines this short novella sized book will dish the secret recipe on suspense writing, sadly it doesn’t; at least not quite—What it does provide, is a series of invaluable insights to Highsmith as person, a writer and her writing methodology.

Laced in-between the kind of tips you would find in all those other books about writing—many of which you will have already, Highsmith explains her love of art and travel; she also uses case-study examples of her writing and explains the hows and whys behind what she does.

Panning through this book, there are many golden tips regarding not only suspense style, but writing in general. Highsmith advises writers to minimize description of surroundings, a couple of salient features in a room only she advises, she also talks of compounding dialogue into dramatic summery and creating the kind of fast-moving suspenseful sentence structures that make her writing so compelling.

As a strictly old-school, pre-word-processing writer, there is also much talk about the laborious process of dupe-sheets, editing to length and re writing every page of every novel up to four times. This is historically interesting, especially for those who have only know the world according to Microsoft Word—it is also rather horrifying—but it does get across the kind of work ethic and attention to detail that is needed to write a novel, of any kind.Crimezine favorite Patricia Highsmith

So aside from the double-sized type in this book, there are few real surprises other than Highsmith’s frequent revelations about her timidity—My heart always beats double time at customs, even though I would never dream of carrying contraband, she chokes. Highsmith is and will remain one of Crimezine’s favorite Patricias. Her admission that she is a devoted fan of Graham Greene only makes us love her more.

Suspense—Is that all there is to it? More next week Crimeziners.

specter of commercialism 007

For the authentic Bond girl aroma—the sweet scent of money is unbeatable 007.

Open to panning exterior of Luxury Grupo Vidata® resort Mexico: thrill to the sight of a $20 million sponsorship deal that you too could be part of, for a low monthly fee. Grupo, inspiring generations of happiness™; for full details visit: Grupo

It was one of those days when it seemed to James Bond that all life, as someone put it, was nothing but a heap of six to four against. He had just poured himself a contractually generous Belvedere vodka, [shaken not stirred] chased with a cool delicious Heineken™ [because all sophisticated international-playboy secret agents love fizzy kraut beer.] Sipping his delicious beverages, he realized that his eighty-five inch Sony® digital flat screen TV with high-contrast super-definition and picture in picture effects was on the fritz. Not to worry, he would have Q send over the Sony product placement boffins with a new one right away.

Bond turned to his Brazilian rosewood Gio Ponti desk rack, where his BOSE® surround-sound home theatre system with wireless XL30V5 speakers and Hideaway Acoustimass® module, incorporating TrueSpace® technology, was hammering out some Shirley Bassey-style tune. The song was unlistenably gruesome, penned by the latest Sony records flavor of the month hit-parade wannabe. The so-called tune was so bad it was even worse than Aha’s “The Living Daylights”. After lingering to run his fingers lovingly in close-up across several sumptuous consumer durables and cast an admiring glance across the semi-nude and still sleeping figure of Fanny Malarky—star player in the MI6 office typing pool, he remembered the Kohler™ rain-shower was still running.

Naturally, Bond’s bathroom routine was both rigorous, and extremely thorough, as marketeers had recognized the seven-figure product placement potential of such scenes and had rewritten the script accordingly.

After slipping on his Ralph Lauren silk boxers with 007 motif [Available in Harrods™ and other selected stores] He applied Mouse A Raiser shaving cream by Pour Hommes™ and pressed a hot towel to his face before unsheathing a twelve bladed Gillette Predator® razor by Proctor and Gamble™® [Multinational manufacturer of product ranges including: personal care, household cleaning, laundry detergents, prescription drugs and disposable nappies.]

Bond then utilized a generous squeeze of Greune nutrient complex natural revitalizing shampoo/conditioner containing D-panthenol and vitamin-B-complex polysorbate 80, a cleansing agent that contains natural herbs and exotic spices. He had no idea what this stuff was for; he used to get his shampoo in the dollar down discount store, but what the hell, corporate marketing had been shipping over this new shit by the truck-load—you can’t get better than free—can you?

Bond was a man who never used cologne on the face, as a Condé Nast beauty advertorial had advised against it. Instead he applied L’Oreal™ branded alcohol-free anti-bacterial toner, with a water moistened cotton ball to normalize his skin Ph levels— before applying emollient lotion and Gel Appaisant again by L’Oreal™ [“because he was worth it”.]

007 James Bond Spectre

Bond: Shaken not stirred by commercialism. Can I get a Heineken with this barman?

Bond liked his knuckle-duster Rolex; but hadn’t worn it on screen since the mid 1970’s when a short-lived Seiko™ sponsorship deal precluded its use. Instead, he chose his “wrist close up” Omega Seamaster 300, because it was near the holiday season and would look good in glossy full page magazine adverts—providing an ideal, if somewhat expensive gift suggestion, for anyone too clueless to work out their xmas shopping ideas for themselves. [N. Peal Xmas sweaters, as worn by Daniel Craig available in the Foyer.]

Realizing the world would not save it’s self from megalomaniacal masterminds, Bond slipped in to a lightweight linen suit by Canali Milano, a cotton shirt by Ike Behar, a silk tie from the Bill Blass Collection, and cap-toed leather lace-ups from Brooks Brothers. He was about to head out the door, when he remembered he was being sponsored by Tom Ford Suits this season, so he rushed back to change. [Yes, the same Tom Ford who sells soap for $195 a pop.]

He had to hurry now; he had to fit in two car chases, a fist-fight and a dive off a snowy mountainside before lunch, not to mention a quick game of Baccarat at the Sheldon Adleson Casino Resort & Hotel™, Las Vegas. He entered the parking garage and a vicious dilemma hit him like an express train [an Amtrak grand-luxe™ American Orient train to be precise.] What car should he drive to day? Should he take the racy but yuppified Range Rover Sport SVR, or perhaps, the implausibly showy Jaguar C-X75 in douche-bag orange? Then there was his favorite, the latest Aston Martin DB10—he wanted to drive it wicked-bad. But ever since those bastards in North Korea had revealed those internal Sony emails showing he had written off $37million in Astons this year alone, those lizard-loving pricks at GEIKO™ had upped his insurance premiums to stratospheric levels. Maybe he would have to switch to State Farm®, or god forbid Triple A™. No, that was unthinkable. Those Whitehall bean-counters at MI6 would have to get on their Sony Experia 25’s and make calls. Maybe they should reconsider the $50million Samsung™ mobile phone deal?

Bond took a dry swallow of pure fear—using a non-Sony branded product on screen—the kind of crackerjack smart-phone that every nerd on the internet was laughing at? The humiliation would be…unthinkable… Still, $50 mil was $50 Mil…

To be continued next holiday season in: “James Bond, Sponsorship Is Not Enough. Crimezine thanks all relevant sponsors. Thanks also to Ian Fleming, and Brett Easton Ellis’ product placement classic, American Psycho.

007 James Bond Spectre

Observe Mr. Bond, the latest lap gadget by Sony. Or/Is that the new Sony Laptop or are you just pleased to see me?

Originally posted on Crimezine:

Tony Bulmer Raymond Chandler, Satre Satre (left) and Chandler (right) Live in peace with your pipe.

Greetings Crimeziners. It has been all stations go on Mulholland Drive recently, with a veritable plethora of crimetastic goings on washing in from every conceivable angle. There have been so many publishers and Hollyweird cinematographers thrusting their shamelessly crime-filled wares in our direction, we are quite literally soiling our collective pantaloons with excitement.

Firstly, however, we are very sad to report the tragic demise of much favored [and aged] Crimezine relative Harry Paratesties of the New Hampshire Paratesties legal and taxidermic dynasty. Famed for his contribution to spittoon development and his many valuable insights into, “Just what the hell is wrong with the younger generation anyway.” Uncle Harry will be sadly missed.

Any road up, dear Uncle Harry, or “Badger” as he was inexplicably called by all who knew him, bequeathed Crimezine his vellum bound collection of the entire…

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Tony Bulmer

Image  —  Posted: October 4, 2015 in Movies Crimezine Film
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George Raft Crimezine

George Raft the gangster’s gangster

Gangsters, everybody loves them Crimeziners. But who or what is responsible for this state of affairs—the Great Depression, Prohibition, or the shoot out sensationalism of 30s and 40s Hollywood? There can be no doubt that a confluence of these notorious times led to the rise of the gangster, but one man more than any other embodied the gangster legend.

Meet George Raft, a man who lived out the fast times and dangerous glamour of the New York underworld—famed for his roles in such classic movies as Scarface, Each Dawn I Die and the 1935 adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s Glass Key, Raft hit Hollywood by a route even more wild and compelling than that told by his success on the silver screen.

Rising out of Hell’s Kitchen New York City in the 1920’s, Raft was a smalltime boxer and baseball player, working his way through tough times anyway he knew how. He was childhood friends with many gangster legends, including Owney “the killer” Madden leader of the ruthless Gopher gang, and Benny—don’t call me Bugsy—Siegel. Always coy about his connections with the mob, Raft confessed to knowing such notorious names as Al Capone and racketeering legend Arnold Rothstein, but maintains he himself did nothing more than run bootleg liquor for the Madden mob.

A slick mover, Raft also made a mint as a dancehall lothario with pal and future screen legend Rudolph Valentino. The dance hall gigs proved a lucky break for Raft leading to a showbiz life several worlds away from his seedy gangster past. He never forgot his roots however and utilized his personal knowledge of the underworld’s most dangerous movers and shakers in his many film roles.

Now I know you are anxious to hear all the stories aren’t you Crimeziners? How Raft met Al Capone and what Capone’s verdict on the movie Scarface was? How Raft made Humphrey Bogart by turning down roles in The Maltese Falcon and High Sierra? How Raft seduced Betty Grable, Marlene Dietrich and Mae West? How despite all these affairs, and being the most sought after male lead in Hollywood he could never marry the woman he loved—how his relationship with Bugsy Siegel came back to haunt him and nearly ended his life?

Teasing Crimeziners. If you want to know all this and more, you will have to read Lewis Yablonsky’s book, George Raft. This excellent tome dishes the dirt on Raft’s crime connections, gives fascinating insights into the birth of Hollywood and the gangster movie; it also sets the social scene for these crimetastic events with perhaps the greatest gangster actor Hollywood ever saw.

So, if you want to get in at ground zero of the American gangster legend and find out how it all started, this is the book for you. The painful demise of Raft is also covered in some detail—but his death from Leukemia in 1980 is omitted Crimezine thinks it is high time for a new edition with an updated conclusion—sadly this update is unlikely, as acclaimed Sociologist Yablonsky died in 2014. Like gangsters? Buy this book today.

Crimezine George Raft

George Raft Scarface, Hollywood’s greatest gangster