Archive for the ‘Murder Mystery’ Category

Winter: Season 1

March 16, 2018

Watched an episode of Winter on Acorn TV via hoopla from my public library. Winter embodies an Australian police procedural which finds a female detective mid-career looking for a quieter life who gets drawn into a series of murders which span over a decade. Rebecca Gibney in the title role as Eve Winter creates a fine performance. Other actors don’t fare as well. In the end, this felt like an Australian version of a decent network TV show. Certainly not something I could commit to but I get the appeal. Easy to follow, simple murder mystery with the usual suspects: angry middle-aged male detectives, earnest young female detectives, competent, sick-of-having-to-prove-herself middle-aged female detective. I give Winter a 2.5 out of 5.


Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

February 27, 2018

Finally saw the Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Agatha Chrisite’s glorious novel, Murder on the Orient Express. I realize there’s a lot of telling in the book (and film) rather than showing, but the cast of characters is so much fun and having them marooned on a luxurious train makes for some great suspense and solidifies the book as a beloved classic.

The opening of the most recent adaptation got me so excited. The pace, the cast, the special effects, the food styling – all made me feel like I was entering a Harry Potter-esque adult world – a film that uses special effects for something other than blowing people up or showing us some cowboy western in space. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos’ (Mamma Mia!, Eye in the Sky) beautiful shots adds to the excitement I felt entering Poirot’s world of mystery. Unfortunately once the actual murder is discovered, the film fell flat. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t shoulder-shiveringly good. I mean it’s Agatha Christie! Changes towards the end felt like Branagh was caving to the studio execs rather than being true to Christie’s original intention. Too bad. Still parts of it were splashy and fun. Just lacked consistency.

This latest incarnation ranks in the middle of the other two:
2 out of 5 for 1974.
4 out of 5 for 2010.
3 out of 5 for Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express.

Check out Reel Charlie’s review’s of
Murder on the Orient Express (audiobook)
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Murder on the Orient Express (2010)

Murder on the Orient Express (Audiobook)

February 25, 2018

I rarely discuss reading on Reel Charlie simply because the blog focuses on my film and television viewing experience. I actually read much more since starting my job at the public library five years ago which should impress a few of you who may wonder if I spend all my free time in front of my television. I have been averaging three new books per month. I’m a slow reader.

Book reading comes in many forms these days – print and digital, reading and listening. Today I share the wonder of audiobooks. Like many of you, I’ve discovered audiobooks over the past few years – sales of the format continue to grow according to Publisher’s Weekly. There are many ways to access to these books. You can go to Audible (owned by Amazon) and buy them. You can add the audiobook version to your eBook purchase. Or you can go to your library and check them out physically or digitally. Audiobooks come in many formats – traditional CD sets, Playaway (think old school iPods with only one book per machine), as well as several choices for digital audiobooks depending on your public library’s budget. We use Overdrive, hoopla, and RBdigital, all of which play through your smart phone or tablet.

In anticipation of watching the new Murder on the Orient Express on Blu-ray from the library, I decided to first listen to the audiobook. I found it on hoopla through the library – that means FREE! I had access to two versions, the Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey‘s Matthew) and the Kenneth Branagh (director of the new film) version. I chose Dan and boy am I glad I did. His voice sounds like grade A maple syrup as he gives us believable character voices, drawing us deep into the story.

I highly recommend audiobooks. The reader can make or break them, obviously. But once you find something you connect with, you can play them while exercising, cooking, commuting, traveling, walking the dog, almost anywhere. Digitally they can all be played through apps on your phone.

Read more about the book, Murder on the Orient Express on Goodreads.
Read a review of the Dan Steven’s Murder on the Orient Express on AudioFile Magazine.
Happy listening!

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

January 13, 2018

Sat down the last two evenings with the 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I stayed with it for more than half of the film. Honestly I could not get into it. The pacing too slow, actor’s delivery dull, sets looked cheap. Lauren Bacall overacted. Ingrid Bergman atrocious. Anthony Perkins reusing his Psycho persona. I’ve heard fun things about this incarnation from Steve Hayes. It’s as if he watched a completely different movie. I simply could not finish it. I really enjoyed the 2010 version from the Brits. And am looking forward to seeing Branagh’s newest addition when it arrives on Blu-ray in the library. Meanwhile 2 out of 5 for Sidney Lumet’s lackluster film, Murder on the Orient Express. Better go back and re-read the book.

Alan Cumming Makes History As First Gay Lead In A U.S. Network Drama (Logo)

January 12, 2018

From Logo,

Alan Cumming is returning to television this season in Instinct, a police procedural with a groundbreaking twist.

Based on a James Patterson novel, the CBS drama stars Cumming as Dr. Dylan Reinhart, a former CIA operative lured back into law enforcement after becoming a professor and authoring a best-selling book on abnormal behavior.
But Dr. Reinhart is also gay and married, which makes Instinct the first hourlong broadcast series in the U.S. with a gay leading character.

Read the full article on Logo.
Visit the CBS show page.
premieres March 11, 2018 on CBS.

Best of luck to Cumming and CBS. Hoping for a great series like Cumming’s The Good Wife.

Broadchurch: Season 3

December 7, 2017

My love of Broadchurch and has waxed and waned. I gave Season 1 a 5 out of 5. Then I gave Season 2 a 3.5 out of 5. Season 3 redeemed itself solving yet another crime and finally making peace with Danny’s murder from Season 1. David Tennant and Olivia Colman are back and in top form. Colman is a force to be reckoned with. I look forward to watching her career post-Broadchurch. This time, Season 3 investigates a rape. Because of the nature of the crime, the series focuses most of its attention on gender and a woman’s place in the world. There are lots to digest and consider. And in the middle of it all, Danny’s murder from Season 1 finally finds, if not some closure, a bit of peace for his parents and siblings. Jodie Whittaker (the new Doctor Who) and Andrew Buchan share outstanding acting moments as Danny’s estranged parents Beth and Mark Latimer. Heavy stuff. The beauty of the landscape helps temper the seriousness of this crime drama. I’m leaving Broadchurch with a 4 out of 5 for Season 3.

Read Reel Charlie’s review of Broadchurch: Season 1.
Read Reel Charlie’s review of Broadchurch: Season 2.

Murder on the Orient Express (2010)

November 14, 2017

In anticipation of the new Branagh 2017 Murder on the Orient Express, I ordered the British television 2010 version for the library. I had a blast watching this adaptation. It stars David Suchet as Poirot and includes a strong supporting cast featuring Eileen Atkins, Jessica Chastain, Barbara Hershey, Hugh Bonneville, David Morrissey, Brian J. Smith, and Samuel West. Without even seeing the remake, I know it’s a simpler film than Branagh’s big budget release. As a result, the film relies on the talents of the director, writer, and cast. Murder on the Orient Express offers real comfort food whodunit excitement. 4 out of 5 for this Agatha Christie classic adaptation.

Lone Star

November 4, 2017

A classic independent film comes to Fairfield Public Library. Click on the image below to read Reel Charlie’s updated review of Lone Star.

Series Novels That Would Make Great TV & Film Adaptations

October 23, 2017

I’ve read a number of series novels over the past few years I know would make great television. I got to thinking of that recently after hearing Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City is being picked up by Netflix for at least a ten-part installment of more than likely one or all of the final three Tales novels since Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis are on board to reprise their Mary Ann and Anna roles respectively. Three of Richard Stephenson’s Donald Strachey Mysteries were adapted for HereTV about 10 years ago. And of course Barbara Wilson’s first Cassandra Reilly novel, Gaudi Afternoon turned into a Susan Seidelman spectacular romp through Barcelona. And we could sure use a sequel with an equally outstanding director and cast.

All of this got me thinking. If I had the power of the green light, which series would I produce? Here is my incomplete list of some of my literary favorites:

Michael Nava’s Henry Rios’ Mysteries’ produced perhaps the most sophisticated gay male sleuth ever. Henry’s actually a lawyer and a drunk and then in recovery. The seven books take us through the worse of the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s to the final installment in 2001. Can’t say enough about this essential must-read series which would make for some outstanding television.

My second choice without a doubt goes to Greg Herren’s Scotty Bradley Mysteries. Herren’s lead character is adventurous, goofy, humpy, lives through Katrina in New Orleans, boasts a set of pot-smoking parents and not one but two emotionally monogamous boyfriends – a thrupple. Scotty is a former go-go boy who solves crimes with his retired FBI agent primary partner Frank and their mysterious international gun for hire third, Colin.

An even dozen novels comprise Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan Mysteries. Lippman’s books revolve around a former newspaper reporter who turns private eye. Many lists mention Tess Monaghan if you’re a fan of The Wire and crave more gritty Baltimore drama. Lippman delivers.

Years ago, I served grand jury duty in NYC. This was pre-smart phones, pre-ereaders. I found the first three Wraeththu books in one volume. Plopped the bible-sized book in my lap and proceeded to devour Storm Constantine’s magical world. Wraeththu are another species superior in many ways to humans with mostly male characteristics, but intersexed so they can reproduce. Fascinating reading especially in today’s world of transgender visibility. These books would make for a magically sexy adaptation. Think a Sense8 goes sci-fi pagan/wiccan sort of mystical reality.

If vampire movies ever come back in vogue again, and you know they will, Jourdan Lane’s Soul Mates series would make for some kick ass sexy gay male entertainment. Peter and Lucien would be the perfect other worldly follow-up to Queer as Folk‘s Justin and Brian.

Marshall Thorton’s Boystown series take place in 1980’s Chicago. The ten novels (as of 2017) are classic private eye with a twist. Nick Nowak is gay and unapologetic about it. He’s a man’s man character finding his way in a post-Stonewall world where his biological family has rejected him because of his sexuality. He is forced off the police force – a family business but refuses to leave Chicago. Nick becomes a private eye and solves cases like the best of them.

Jordan Castillo Price’s Mnevermind series follows Daniel Schroeder in the near future as he tinkers around as a memory specialist stalled in life until he meets the mysterious Elijah, a young man living on the spectrum. Outstanding romance future tech mash-up with great fleshed out characters. Price has an extremely popular 8-part PsyCop series, which I also enjoy but Mnevermind continues to be her series I return to with a smile.

‘Nathan Burgoine’s Triad Blood series involves “a vampire, wizard, and demon (who) form a bond in Ottawa, Canada that leaves them both a part of—and apart from—those in power in the supernatural world around them.” Burgoine’s addictive stories are begging to be adapted for the screen. Casting Anders the arrogant, sexy, demon would be the most fun.

So far I’ve only read the first book of Aleksandr Voinov’s Witches of London seriesLars which I absolutely adored. Voinov’s books are pagan romance stories which fascinate me to no end. “Lars Kendall is a solitary pagan on the Northern Path, loyal to the gods of the Norse pantheon.”
Rhys Turner hires Lars to renovate his house. Magic of all sorts ensue. Witches of London could easily be a very modern, sophisticated, more realistic Bewitched romance for the early 2020’s. Makes me imagine my own life taking off in an earth religion direction.

Also only read the first book of Charlie Cochet’s THIRDS series, a (so far) 10-part novel series based in the future where humans and therians live side-by-side. THIRDS would make an outstanding LGBTQ super hero futuristic action film franchise which could easily turn the tired Hollywood super hero trope on its head. Fun, action, and a bit of romance.

And finally I vote for making the graphic novel Wuvable Oaf into a feature film or a bizarre, niche television series. Everyone I know who reads this novel falls in love with its crazy cast of characters. “Oaf is a large, hirsute, scary-looking ex-wrestler who lives in San Francisco with his adorable kitties and listens to a lot of Morrissey. The book follows Oaf’s search for love in the big city, especially his pursuit of Eiffel, the lead singer of the black metal/queercore/ progressive disco grindcore band Ejaculoid.”

I’m sure there’s more series out there. What would you like to see turned into a television show or film?

Tin Star

October 20, 2017

Amazon Prime airs the British-Canadian crime series, Tin Star featuring Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks. I love the play between the family members. The bad guys creep me out and not in a good way. Over the years I have enjoyed many inappropriate laughs from bad guys doing bad things ala Fargo. For some reason, the back and forth between good and evil in Tin Star doesn’t work for me. 2 out of 5. Yes, I stuck around for the big death. I still wasn’t convinced. Next.

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