“What was Harry Dean Stanton’s best movie: Repo Man or Paris, Texas?”
That was the question that sadly popped up on my Facebook feed with the overnight news that Harry Dean Stanton had passed away, aged 91.
Not to take anything away from Stanton’s other fantastic, memorable work (Twin Peaks et al), delivered by a character actor with his heart on his wrinkled sleeve and his soul on his weathered face, but for my greenbacks his greatest movie was Repo Man.
It never won the Palme d’Or like Paris, Texas. In fact, Alex Cox’s, low-budget cult comedy was underappreciated upon its release in 1984. But it won my heart. I’ve probably watched it more than any other comedy and I enjoy it every time.
“A volatile, toxic potion of satire and nihilism, road movie and science fiction, violence and comedy, the unclassifiable sensibility of Alex Cox’s Repo Man is the model and inspiration for a potent strain of post-punk American comedy that includes not only Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), but also early Coen brothers (Raising Arizona, in particular), Men In Black, and even (in a weird way) The X-Files,” wrote film critic Jim Emerson.
Stanton’s Bud, a veteran repo man with a hatred of hippies, Christians, rival repo men and those with poor credit history, is a masterclass in character acting. The dry bon mots drop from Stanton’s lips like blessed ash from a cigarette.
“See, an ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations … a repo man spends his life getting into tense situations,” Bud tells his young repo man apprentice Otto (Emilio Estevez in what I regard as his best role as well).
Those words stack up as one of the best raison d’etres I’ve ever heard from Hollywood.
And the lives of repo men Bud and Otto ARE hilariously intense, taking in everything from car chases, a lobotomised nuclear scientist with the corpse of an alien in the boot of his Chevy Malibu, the CIA, John Wayne in a dress, sex, drugs, violence and religion.
Stanton is the no-shit nihilistic centre of Cox’s satire on American society: the real deal in a world full of phoniness, his adventures set to a killer soundtrack featuring Iggy Pop, The Circle Jerks and Black Flag.
There is no redemption for anyone in Repo Man. Everyone is out to make a buck; aliens exist; the rules are for suckers; revenge is taken; the government is intrusive and brutal, shitting on the little man and the small businessmen.
Even our hero, Otto, a white suburbanite punk turned repo hustler, remains a reprobate to the end. He is never more hilarious than when he finds his old friend and workmate Kevin, brutally beaten, under a sheet in hospital, then briskly walks away with perfect comic timing.
Yet still we cheer on our repo men. They have a code: something that separates them from the cowardly average consumer, dulled as they are by society, seduced by organised religion, too afraid to break the rules.
“Look at those assholes, ordinary fucking people. I hate ‘em,” says Bud.
We are invited to hate ordinary people, too. And we do.
For all their faults, our repo men were alive. They lived.
So did Stanton.
And he brought it to the screen every time.

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook or paperback.

The news that the genius behind Goodfellas and Casino is taking on the origin story of the Clown Prince of Crime is about the most exciting cinematic news I’ve heard this year.

So let’s get to it – the top 10 things we want to see in Martin Scorsese’s Joker origin film

1. The Joker’s childhood

You know it’s going to be horrible. You know he didn’t come from a happy family.
Although it would be even more shocking if The Joker DID have a stable, happy childhood and exhibited none of the typical signs of a serial killer in his youth.
It would suggest that The Joker perhaps deliberately chose his way of life – chose to view the world as one giant, murderous joke.

2. The adult Joker before he became “The Joker”

Was he really a failed stand-up comedian?
A man driven to crime so he could afford to move his pregnant wife to a better neighbourhood as mentioned in The Killing Joke?
Maybe a street thug with big dreams in the vein of Mean Streets’s Johnny Boy?

3. A living, breathing Gotham City

“The intention is to make a gritty and grounded hard-boiled crime film set in early-’80s Gotham City that isn’t meant to feel like a DC movie as much as one of Scorsese’s films from that era, like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or The King Of Comedy,” says director Todd Phillips.

4. How The Joker got his scars

Because the story is always changing.
Part of the fun for Phillips is going to be to capture how The Joker views the world. In The Killing Joke, The Joker says he constantly remembers his past differently.
Expect this Joker origin story to have a similarly fractured narrative, delivered through the mind of the most unreliable narrator of all.

5. His transformation into The Joker

We’re expecting something big here … Ralph Fiennes’s Red Dragon transformation on crack. And I’m thinking it would be cool to update the Joker and Batman’s first meeting to something beyond opposite sides of a vat of acid.

6. The Joker’s twisted philosophies on life

In particular, that it only takes one really bad day to take someone down the path to becoming The Joker.
And also The Batman.

7. No Jared Leto

The Joker will be a tough role to cast, considering Heath Ledger’s legacy.
I liked Leto’s Joker, but I can’t see him getting up again as the Clown Prince of Crime.
The advance buzz, according to Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr, is that the film “will launch the character with a different actor, possibly younger”.
Better to bet Scorsese will cast either favourites De Niro or Di Caprio in supporting roles.

8. No sidekicks

No Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Penguin or Alfred … and no Robin.

9. A killer soundtrack

From Mean Streets and Goodfellas all the way up to TV show Vinyl, Scorsese has spoiled us with his golden ear.
I’m hoping his Joker soundtrack won’t be just sourced from the ’80s.

10. And the Batman

The yin to Joker’s yang. The light to his shadow. The Control to his Chaos.
I’m thinking more Bale than Affleck.
And a final thought … wouldn’t it be cool if Bruce Wayne and the future Joker had a café scene like Pacino and De Niro in Heat?

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

  1. In the beginning no one believes the internet is coming
  2. Old dudes like the maesters dismiss that the internet is coming because they’re too stuck in their ways (work in legacy media)
  3. Tiny, potentially disruptive start-ups (or “dragons”) aren’t regarded as a threat because they’re too small and no one believes they exist (can make money online)
  4. The people warning that the internet is coming are all millennials
  5. So naturally they’re the disruptive heroes of GOT
  6. The Night King – leader of the white walkers and its key social media influencer – is created by forest millennials
  7. Signs that the internet is still coming are dismissed as Gen X/boomer kings and queens squabble among each other, unable to present a united defence (find a way to “monetise” the net)
  8. The army of the internet grows exponentially, its users becoming mindless zombies
  9. By the time the “dragons” have grown up and ravaged the music, newspaper, entertainment and consumer industries, it’s too late to stop them
  10. The internet arrives and everyone loses their mindsMy new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

For my money, Littlefinger is the smartest man in Game of Thrones: the Sun Tzu of Westeros. I find his quotes full of applicable life wisdom.

Here are my favourite 10 (don’t forget to read them in his voice).

“Fight every battle, everywhere, always in your mind. Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend. Every possible series of events is happening all at once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you.”
Critics of the latest episode found this to be nonsense, but I found it profound. Figuring out all the angles ahead of time is why Littlefinger is still alive when so many others are now lying in the dust.

“Always keep your foes confused. If they are never certain of who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are likely to do next.”
Deception is vital in war.

“You know what I learnt losing that duel? I learnt that I’ll never win. Not that way. That’s their game, their rules.
Don’t fight on your opponent’s terms and rules. Sun Tzu via Littlefinger.

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.”
Perhaps his most famous quote and very true. Crisis equals opportunity.

“When the queen proclaims one king and the king’s Hand proclaims another, whose peace do the Gold Cloaks protect? Who do they follow? The man who pays them.”
Call it the Golden Rule … whoever has the gold makes the rules.

“So many men, they risk so little. They spend their whole lives avoiding danger, and then they die. I’d risk everything to get what I want.”
YOLO meets fortune favours the brave.

“There’s no justice in this world, not unless we make it.”
Evil triumphs when good men and women do nothing.

“It doesn’t matter what we want, once we get it we want something else.”
Littlefinger knows all about the headonic treadmill and the endless nature of desire.

“We only make peace with our enemies. That’s why it’s called ‘making peace’.” Littlefinger channelling Don Corleone: keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

“Which is more dangerous, the dagger brandished by an enemy, or the hidden one pressed to your back by someone you never even see?”
Fear the enemy who isn’t in front of you.
Littlefinger’s talent is to defeat his enemies – Ned Stark, Joffrey – without open warfare ever being declared.
To quote Sun Tzu: “To win 100 victories in 100 battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”

My new thriller The Spartan: Game Of Killers is out as an ebook and paperback.

UK Robotics Professor Kevin Warwick said: “This is an incredibly important milestone, but anyone who thinks this is not dangerous has got their head in the sand.

“We do not know what these bots are saying. Once you have a bot that has the ability to do something physically, particularly military bots, this could be lethal.”

Here’s the full piece.

I interviewed Warwick about 10 years ago in a piece about the rise of the machines.

“I think some of the time people like to write books with Hollywood endings and the Hollywood ending is that humans will be all right because robots can’t make a cup of coffee,” he said.

“If you say in the book that humans will all die off, no one wants to read that. Even Terminator gets crushed in the end. In reality it’s not the Terminator that gets crushed – it’s the humans that get crushed.”

Here’s my piece.

And for an exciting read in a world not yet dominated by machines, try Game Of Killers: The Spartan as an ebook or paperback.