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    Thursday, July 01, 2004

    Miscellaneous: Half-Done Is Well-Begun

    183 days down, 183 to go. Time to assess the year to date. I’ll focus on what’s been released in the past six months, so I won’t wax rhapsodic about older films I’ve finally gotten around to watching, or the Ross Thomas reissues I’ve read, or the Gold Medal paperbacks I’ve been acquiring since I started taking pointers from experts like Bill Crider and Ed Gorman. I’ll try to roll with the new.

    Best Movie: SPARTAN. A gripping political thriller from David Mamet, where the biggest shocks come from startling displays of emotion. Val Kilmer has never been better. The bad news is this died a horrible box office death. The good news is it’s already out on video. Get it now and improve your 4th of July weekend.

    Other winners in no particular order:

    ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. Charlie Kaufman’s most fully-realized script and Jim Carrey at his career best.

    INTERMISSION. A terrific Irish film, with many plot threads weaving together into a funny, off-kilter whole. Colin Farrell finally delivers on the hype. Featuring my favorite line of the half-year, when Farrell tries tea that’s been doctored with steak sauce: “That’s fookin’ delish.”

    BON VOYAGE. A comic version of an Alan Furst novel. Lush and romantic.

    HELLBOY. The best summer movie so far, and it came out in the spring.

    SUPER SIZE ME. If I still ate at McDonald’s, I’d have stopped eating at McDonald’s.

    I’M NOT SCARED. A low-key Italian thriller that perfectly captures the feeling of childhood summers.

    The Steve Coogan/Alfred Molina segment of COFFEE & CIGARETTES.

    THE LADYKILLERS and THE TERMINAL. Tom Hanks racks up a string of box-office bonanzas that I can take or leave. He makes two movies that are perceived as failures and I enjoy them both. Go figure. Forget FORREST GUMP. If I run into Hanks at a party, all I’ll want to talk about are DRAGNET and JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO.

    Best Book: BLUE BLOOD, by Edward Conlon. This epic memoir of life on the NYPD is one book I know I’ll return to again and again. It’s all here: the politics, the history, the boredom, the occasional triumphs that make the Job worthwhile. Conlon can toss off details like the different types of addict walks and the wisdom found in THE THIN MAN. Plus he writes like a dream.

    And don’t forget:

    COTTONWOOD, by Scott Phillips.
    HARD REVOLUTION, by George Pelecanos.
    THE BURGLAR ON THE PROWL, by Lawrence Block.
    THIEVES’ DOZEN, by Donald E. Westlake.
    THE 37th HOUR, by Jodi Compton.
    WHERE THE TRUTH LIES, by Rupert Holmes.

    OK, that last one’s a ringer. It came out in 2003. But it’s the most entertaining novel I’ve read in ages, and the new trade paperback is dated this year. I review it in the current issue of Mystery*File. Look for that column here soon.

    Best TV Show: HBO’s DEADWOOD. Nothing else is worth mentioning.

    I’m not going to do a worst list (TAKING LIVES). I will say that the biggest disappointment of 2004 thus far is KILL BILL, Volume 2. Maybe when I watch both movies together I’ll change my tune. Bring on the rest of the year.


    Always glad to see that someone else likes JOE AND THE VOLCANO (I always try to buy good luggage). And I thought HELLBOY was great. Maybe SPIDERMAN 2 will be better, but I have to wait till the crowds thin out.


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