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Kansas City

USA / France 1996
produced by
Robert Altman, Scott Bushnell (executive) for CiBy 2000, Sandcastle 5 Productions
directed by Robert Altman
starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, Michael Murphy, Dermot Mulroney, Steve Buscemi, Brooke Smith, Jane Adams, Jeff Feringa, A.C. Tony Smith, Martin Martin, Albert J. Burnes, Ajia Mignon Johnson, Tim Snay, Tawanna Benbow, Cal Pritner, Jerry Fornelli, Michael Ornstein, Michael Garozzo, Joe Digirolamo, John Durbin, Gina Belafonte, Nancy Marcy, Buck Baker, Dorothy Kemp-Clark, Edward Pennington, Robert Elliott, Marlon Hoffman, Patrick Oldani, Philip Trovato, and on-set musicians James Carter, Craig Handy, David Murray, Joshua Redman, Jesse Davis, David 'Fathead' Newman jr, Don Byron, Olu Dara, Nicholas Payton, James Zollar, Curtis Fowlkes, Clark Gayton, Victor Lewis, Geri Allen, Cyrus Chestnut, Ron Carter, Tyrone Clark, Christian McBride, Russell Malone, Mark Whitfield, Kevin Mahogany
written by Robert Altman, Frank Barhydt, music coordinator: Eimear Bradbury

review by
Mike Haberfelner

Available on DVD !

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Kansas City, the 1930s: Johnny (Dermot Mulroney) has really picked the wrong man when he, together with cabbie Blue (Martin Martin), robs black highroller Sheepshan (A.C. Tony Smith), as Sheepshan is an acquaintance of local crime kingpin Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte), and Seldom Seen is quick to identify the perpetrators and has them brought to him. Blue is quickly killed off, but since Johnny's white - in a time when racism was mainstream -, it's much more dangerous to just kill him, so Seldom Seen decides to physically and mentally torture him while trying to figure what to do with him.

Johnny's wife Blondie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is of course worried sick about what might happen to Johnny, especially after she learns where he's held, so she has the somewhat eccentric idea to kidnap Carolyn, the opium addicted wife of powerful politician Henry Stilton (Michael Murphy), to try and get him to intervene, as in rescue Johnny in exchange for his wife's life. Thing is, that's not as easy as it sounds - and it doesn't sound easy to begin with -, as Carolyn is completely doped up and has little idea what's going on, Stilton's currently travelling to Washington and cannot be reached easily, Blondie hasn't thought through her plan as to where to hold her nor accomplices to guard her, so she drags her round the city with her walking from one blunder into the next, plus it's election day, and the whole city's in a frenzy. And while Blondie's merely trying to save her husband and keeping her own head above water, the wheels are turning in the background, and not necessarily in her favour ...

Steve Buscemi plays the hot-headed husband of Blondie's sister (Brooke Smith).


Now I will say this, even if Kansas City has plenty to go for it, it's not one of Robert Altman's best movies, it just seems to meander between comedy and drama, hommage and social interest flick a bit too undecidedly to give its plot the needed urgency. But that said, at the same time Kansas City is anything but bad, it's beautifully crafted with an eye for detail and much love for the period it's set in, the acting's spot on, the direction is elegant and shows Altman at top form. But it's really the music that makes this movie, probably one of the best scores ever, with some of the  finest jazz musicians of its day playing 1930s style improvisational jazz live on set, and the result is truly fantastic.

Again, not one of Robert Altman's best, but well worth a look (and listen).


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD