Book Review: Lowdown Road – Scott Von Doviak

Hixploitation! Scott Von Doviak is a genre man par excellence. What he did for multigenerational heist mysteries in Charlesgate Confidential he does for murderous road movies in Lowdown Road. This is the sort of book designed to be read in a day, if not a single sitting. It’s Hard Case Crime, so you know you’re there to, at the very least, bask in the cover.

Book Review: With Love, From Cold World — Alicia Thompson

Workplace romance, enemies to lovers, locked in overnight … it seems that the romance novels that litter the pop fiction landscape these days are designed to hit certain keywords for maximum SEO. With Love, From Cold World is a refreshingly uncynical entry in the genre, with a warning at the beginning that it features “Christmas content”. It lines up its targets and knocks them down, but one wonders if one of the enemies has to be so unthinkingly cruel for so much of the lead up. Nothing inside can quite match up to the cover and title, both of which are inviting, but this is a fine enough example of a genre that grows ever more inclusive.

Book Review: The Black Echo — Michael Connelly

When you take on a project to read a detective who’s been going for thirty years, it can be daunting at the beginning. In 1992, when Bosch debuted on the page, the Vietnam War was still providing residual trauma to a nation that had nothing to show for their pointless incursion, and fictional law enforcement was allowed to be actively homophobic and more than casually transphobic into the bargain.1 Michael Connelly’s The Black Echo introduces one of the better named policemen to the criminal milieu, but the man and the author are, at the outset, very much products of their time.

When Detective Harry Bosch is called out to inspect a body in a drainpipe, what was initially discounted as a simple overdose immediately becomes apparent as a murder. Bosch identifies the victim as someone he knew back in the tunnels of Vietnam, and almost immediately finds himself deeply embroiled in a case spanning jurisdictions, departments, and decades.

Movie Review: M3GAN

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the mainstreaming of new horror cinema in the last twenty years is at least partially driven by Australians, with James Wan (Malignant) and Leigh Whannell (The Invisible Man) throwing everything on the bathroom floor in 2004 and building from there.

Wan’s fascinating career continues with a story credit on M3GAN, an Antipodean collaboration with New Zealand born director Gerard Johnstone (TV’s The New Legends of Monkey) and American writer Akela Cooper (TV’s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds). For the low, low, price of $12 million, you can get a dancing robo girl with a lust for blood – but not too much blood, because you can clearly see the seams where her punches were pulled.

Movie Review: Bullet Train

Japan has its fair share of bombastic action films and novels, but it also has many mannered and cleverly compartmentalised stories that unfold like so many origami cranes. Director David Leitch (Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) is not one for subtlety and never has been. In Bullet Train, Leitch has taken the puzzle box of author Kotaro Isaka’s superbly titled Maria Beetle and shot it, smashed it, poisoned it, and ran over it with a train. It’s quite a different experience to the book, but it’s not the worse off for it: Bullet Train is a literal high speed breakneck action comedy that keeps the audience engaged right up to the largely superfluous third and a half act.

Movie Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

With over 12 million copies sold, Where The Crawdads Sing is considered one of the best-selling novels of all time, written by a naturalist who is wanted for questioning in Zambia for her connection to the murder of an elephant poacher. One of the breakout titles of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club, Where The Crawdads Sing is a borderline racist mid-twentieth century adventure that can be read in the space of one day. As a film it’s come out as more Nicholas Sparks than its own movie, and cut-rate Nicholas Sparks at that, no matter how good the cast or scenery may be.

Movie Review: The Black Phone

If you know anything from horror, you’d know that Stephen King has two sons, both of whom are also authors. One of them, Joe Hill, made his name in shorts and comics before revealing his identity. Hill’s 2005 collection 20th Century Ghosts featured a twenty page story called The Black Phone that was, among other things, about a haunted telephone. Twenty pages can fit a lot of detail but, as a film, The Black Phone is proof positive of the power of converting short stories rather than full novels into movies – there’s a lot more room to breathe. Apart from the basic concept, The Black Phone is made up from near whole cloth. There’s so much going for it that it’s difficult to feel bad for Scott Derrickson’s (Doctor Strange) unceremonious ouster from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: some men were meant to not only play, but thrive, in the world of small budget horror.

Movie Review: Morbius

Despite what Sony keeps trying to tell you, there is no such thing as the “Sony’s Spider-Man Universe”. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man was clearly part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe the whole time, even with the up in the air nature of No Way Home’s conclusion, and Tom Hardy’s Venomhasn’t had much to do yet. But Morbius, one of the most deserving victims of the multiple COVID-19 influenced delays, has finally been born. It adds nothing to the cinematic canon, the comic book movie canon, or the Marvel cinematic canon. It can’t add nothing to the Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, because that does not exist.

Movie Review: Uncharted

Long ago, back in the mists of time, the Playstation 3 had no games. This all changed in 2009, when Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was released and packed in with the console — admittedly a paradox when Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was released on the same platform two years earlier — and Sony was saved. In this series, which is like a modernised Indiana Jones (or, more cynically, “a boy version of Tomb Raider”), a man with a gun and preternatural ability for climbing globetrots for treasure and gets involved in a dizzying series of betrayals, triple crosses, and flirtations with the supernatural. 

Movie Review: No Time to Die

Few tentpole films have suffered more from the privations of the last two years than No Time To Die, which has been slated and reslated so many times that one could have been forgiven for thinking it would never see release. Star Daniel Craig, famous for his exhaustion with the productions, had to follow the promotional trail far longer than any mere multimillionaire actor should reasonably be expected to. Somehow not the Craig Bond film burdened with the most meta-narrative (a title owned by the largely forgotten Quantum of Solace, brung low by industrial action), No Time To Die is nonetheless the end of an era: Craig's swan song, a Bond vehicle that hits so many of the right notes that the ones it muffs are both glaringly obvious and largely forgivable.