Death Wish, Old and New

Death Wish poster

After seeing commercials for the upcoming Eli Roth remake, I rewatched the original Death Wish from 1974. I was really surprised by how different Death Wish was from what I remembered, and how Roth’s remake, to judge from the trailers, totally misses the point. Yes, Charles Bronson becomes a vigilante after his family is brutally attacked, but that’s just the skeleton … Read More

Tobe Hooper: the Kids and the Chainsaw


The recent death of director Tobe Hooper has me, and millions of others, thinking about his landmark third film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In 1974, Massacre presented three major innovations. One, it was both set and made in Texas, and wore its non-Hollywood pedigree on its bloody, tattered sleeve. Two, it was (or seemed to be, which I’ll get to) gratuitously … Read More

Why I Want WONDER WOMAN to be Awesome

Wonder Woman

So the advance word on the Wonder Woman film is good, and that’s a relief. I’ve found every other DC movie to be heartless and cruel, so I was seriously concerned that they’d screw this one up as well. But, as I said, the advance word is good. And that same advance word comes with a now-typical response from crying … Read More

The Same River Twice: Tender Mercies and Crazy Heart

Crazy Heart poster

Recently I finally caught Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning performance in Crazy Heart. And while he was certainly very good, I couldn’t shake the sense that I’d seen this movie before, when it starred Robert Duvall and was called Tender Mercies. Naturally, I’m not the first viewer to notice that. The similarities are striking. Even the protagonists’ names are similarly short, sharp, … Read More

The Idiocies of Genius


Recently I watched Genius, the 2016 film about the relationship between Southern novelist Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) and his editor, Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth). There are also cameos by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West). The moral of the story: genius comes in different packages, and sometimes it isn’t recognized until it’s too late. Or something. I … Read More

Some Halloween thoughts on NotLD

Halloween 2016

We had a breakthrough this past weekend: I finally convinced someone in my family to watch a zombie movie with me. My elder son, age twelve, joined me for the original Night of the Living Dead. It’s hard to imagine, in 2016, seeing it with no preconceptions, and since I’m his father, the boy certainly didn’t. I’ve sung its praises … Read More

Some Thoughts from Down at the Crossroads


WARNING: Contains spoilers for the 1986 movie Crossroads (not the 2002 Britney Spears film). If you haven’t seen it, I wholeheartedly recommend it. I recently rewatched Walter Hill’s movie Crossroads, and was surprised by how much I had internalized its depiction of the relationship between music and magic, and how that had influenced my own Tufa novels. I first saw it … Read More

Ode to Billie Joe: the value of the hidden

ode to billie joe single

Yesterday was June 3rd, or as Bobby Gentry describes it: It was the third of June, another sleepy dusty delta day…. That is, of course, from her magnificent ballad “Ode to Billie Joe,” a song as much about what’s unsaid (or unsung) as it is about what’s said. Billy Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge; the singer, a young … Read More

Rocky IV: Electric Bugaloo


Every Thanksgiving, I have a Rocky-thon. Starting whenever I get up, it’s all Rocky, all day. Except it’s a curated marathon. It includes Rocky I-III, Rocky Balboa, and now Creed. There’s no Rocky V, which no one seems to question. But how, folks ask, can I leave out Rocky IV? Well, lemme tell ya. I reviewed Rocky IV for my … Read More

The Truth About Writers on TV and in the Movies

Modern Family Crazy Train

Last night on Modern Family, a show I love thanks to the entire cast’s impeccable comic timing, regulars Phil and Cameron met a famous novelist on a passenger train. Said novelist, Simon Hastings (played by Simon Templeton, whose real name sounds like a pen name), is writing a mystery novel about a murder on a train, and of course he’s writing … Read More