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Book Review: Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas by Alonso Duralde

A guide to Christmas movies, from best to worst and everything in between, including Brazil.
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Christmas time is a time for many things, and one of the things that I most enjoy are the movies. We all know such classics as It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947), but in Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas author Alonso Duralde stretches the definition of “Christmas movies” to include all sorts of non-traditional flicks. To find homes for the 122 movies discussed in this book, Duralde has grouped them in nine chapters, with such headings as “Putting the Heist Back in Christmas: Crime and Action Extravaganzas,” “There’ll Be Scary Ghost Stories: Holiday Horror,”

Book Review: Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Strips 1944-1945 by William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peters

IDW and the Library of American Comics give us a wonderful collection from the Golden Age.
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Superheroes had only been in existence for a handful of years when Wonder Woman burst on the scene in 1940 with the one-two punch of All Star Comics #8 and Sensation Comics #1. She wasn’t the first female superhero, but she was definitely the most notable and it was only a matter of time before the Amazon Princess followed her male counterparts Superman and Batman from the four-color world of comic books to the hallowed halls of the daily newspaper strip. Thanks to the backing of the powerful Hearst publishing empire, the Wonder Woman strip reached a much larger audience

Book Review: Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ by Tom DeMichael

The choice of films makes the usefulness of this book…well, not very useful.
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The author purports to make a relatively comprehensive guidebook to sci-fi films since the '70s- with the caveat, of course, that he gets to choose which sci-fi movies are significant, and which to include. That’s his prerogative, of course, but it makes the book a bit unhelpful. This book (which isn’t really an FAQ - it’s not in a question an answer format) - is divided into several sections: an introduction, which includes biographies of important science fiction writers, and then a number of chapters about movies of various types (space travel, time travel, virtual reality, etc.) Though some sections

Book Review: Popeye: Classic Newspaper Comics, Volume Two 1989-1998: A Surprisingly Modern and Adult Take On The Classic Character

If you think Popeye is some silly kids comic from a bygone era, think again.
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Popeye is not something I’ve ever cared about. No wait, scratch that, I loved the Robert Altman movie starring Robin Williams as the Sailor Man. But all the other incarnations were nothing I was ever really interested in. I do remember watching the cartoon at my grandmother's as a kid. I don't remember seeing it at home which means it must have been on a cable channel we didn’t get and that I only watched it because it was boring at Grandma's. We used to pretend to be Popeye every now and again but there is really only so many

Book Review: Hope: Entertainer of the Century by Richard Zoglin

Yes, there is Hope for the holidays.
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In 1993 the legendary entertainer Bob Hope and his wife Delores welcomed TV viewers, and some celebrities of the time, into their home to share some memories of the many Bob Hope Christmas specials in a show entitled Bob Hope's Bag Full of Christmas Memories. The show would later be edited down to an hour and released on DVD as Hope for the Holidays. The editing was somewhat merciful in that Hope, at ninety years of age, had little participation in the special due to his limited eyesight and hearing. In 1995, a musical release Hopes for the Holidays featured

Book Review: Superman: The Golden Age Sundays 1946-1949

Sometimes goofy, occasionally deadly, and always exciting, it's Superman as you may not have seen him before.
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It wasn’t long after his 1938 debut in Action Comics #1 that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s most famous creation began appearing in his own daily newspaper strip, followed shortly thereafter by a separate Sunday strip. Back in those days, funny books were a stepping stone to the big money and prestige found in the funny papers. Curiously, a large number of these Sunday strips have never been reprinted, a wrong that The Library of American Comics valiantly continues to set right with the second volume of their Superman Sundays series. Collecting over 170 sequential Sunday pages from August 11,

Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 17: 1956-1957 by Chester Gould

Gould delivers entertaining, action-heavy crime dramas once again.
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The Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing are publishing The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould. Volume 17 is their latest release and it collects the dailies and Sunday strips from May 14, 1956 through to December 14, 1957. Dick Tracy would reach its 25th year on October 4, 1956, and Gould showed no signs of losing the strips' high standards. The book opens with Joe Period and Flattop Jr. in hiding from crimes readers witnessed in Volume 16, but rather than running away, they head back to town because Joe seeks revenge against "Nothing" Yonson, who tried to

Book Review: DC Comics Super-Villains: The Complete Visual History by Daniel Wallace

They are bad no matter how they are drawn.
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With its origins in National Allied Publications, which was founded in 1934, DC Comics has had a long and varied publishing history over 80 years and has been one of the top two comic publishers for decades (Which company has held the top spot at any given moment has been argued by fans for just as long). Its success has not only come from the superheroes in its stable, such as Superman and Batman, but also its super-villains, such as Lex Luthor and the Joker. Author Daniel Wallace claims the bad guys are “one of the driving forces behind the

Book Review: Star Trek: Gold Key Archives, Volume 2

This is not your daddy's Star Trek.
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On its way to becoming a multimedia franchise, Star Trek first entered the world of comics by way of Gold Key, who sporadically published 61 issues between July 1967 and March 1979 before the license was obtained by Marvel. Earlier this year, IDW reprinted Gold Key's first six issues in a hardcover collection and now the second volume of Star Trek: Gold Key Archives, which collects issues #7-12, is available. Fully re-mastered with new colors, the first two stories are written by Dick Wood (Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom), the rest are by Len Wein (co-creator of DC Comics'

Book Review: Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show: Documentary Turned Book

This book relies too much on quotes from famous names and not enough on imparting facts.
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It’s been said that we’re living in the Golden Age of Television - a fact that’s easy to believe. While Hollywood seems to be cranking out an endless number of sequels and remakes, television has truly mastered the art of storytelling - making some cutting edge stories of science fiction, fantasy, history, and human drama. Behind each of these marvels of storytelling stands one person: the Showrunner. Or so we’re told, at least. In an age when television has reached perhaps its greatest potential, the Showrunner is that powerful, mysterious person in charge of every aspect of telling a story.

Book Review: Puck: What Fools These Mortals Be!: Political Cartooning at its Finest

A collection of historic, important, and just a little bit esoteric political cartoons from a bygone era
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Political cartoons have been around since the early 1700s though they didn’t really come into their own until the later part of the 18th Century with the advent of the French Revolution. It took Punch, a weekly British magazine to firmly establish the medium as something that could have a real impact on the culture and political landscape. Now at the beginning of the 21st with newspapers, editorials, and the comics pages disappearing all together it's difficult to understand what great influence the political cartoonist wielded. But wield it, they did. In 1884, at the height of its power, Puck

Book Review: Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips, Volume Three: 1971-1974, Edited by Dean Mullaney

Manning's talents continue to impress in this volume.
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Volume Three of the Library of American Comics' Eisner Award-winning, four-part collection of Russ Manning's complete run of Tarzan newspaper strips reveals Manning continued to deliver a high quality of work in both story and art during this time. This book is notable for containing the final two daily strips stories. Henry G. Franke III, editor of literary society The Burroughs Bibliophiles, returns to write another introduction. He explains how Manning creation of Tarzan graphic novels led to him only able to focus on Sunday strips, resulting in the end of his dailies. Franke also tells a great anecdote about

Book Review: Voltron: From Days of Long Ago, A 30th Anniversary Celebration by Brian Smith

If you love Voltron, you'll love this book.
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I struggled for what felt like an eternity with the opening to this review. It would've been easy to paraphrase the press release that accompanied this book and simply state that Viz Media, the largest distributor and licensor of anime and manga in North America, is marking the 30th anniversary of one of the most memorable animated series of all time with a fancy hardcover commemorative coffee table book. But that just felt sort of flat and given the subject matter, I felt that I needed an opening that was majestic and legendary in its grandeur. Something that would really

Book Review: Ripley's Believe It or Not!: Daily Cartoons 1929-1930

For those of us who were once hooked on Ripley, this book is a real treat.
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The new Ripley’s Believe It or Not!: Daily Cartoons 1929-1930 from the Library of American Comics is a fond look back at the first years of the iconic cartoon series. As Ted Adams notes in his Foreward, it may be hard for a younger audience to understand the appeal of Ripley. With the answer to nearly every question available on their smartphones, the allure of the arcane facts Ripley specialized in may not impress them. But for those of us born before 1980 or so, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! holds a special charm. As always, the Library of American

Book Review: Star Trek: New Visions Volume 1 & Issue #3 by John Byrne

Byrne's work is like watching a long-lost episode play before our eyes.
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John Byrne and IDW Publishing are presenting the lost missions of the Original Series Enterprise crew in the form of photonovels. That format uses photographs instead of drawings like the Star Trek Fotonovels of the late '70s, which allowed fans to revisit episodes before they could watch them on demand through home video and the Internet. Byrne maniuplates images of characters and backgrounds from the series to set the scene. He then uses word balloons to tell his stories. Volume 1 contains three previously released books and the collection will be available on Oct 21, 2014. Star Trek: Annual 2013

Book Review: Lit Up Inside: Selected Lyrics by Van Morrison: You've Heard the Songs, Now Read the Lyrics

Have I told you lately that I love Van Morrison?
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That Van Morrison is one of the greatest singer-songwriters in the whole of pop music there is no doubt. That he is also an old soul Irish poet few would argue against. He is a true legend. One of the most unique and brilliant voices of rock and roll the world has ever known. Don’t you know, he’s got soul? And heart. And pure genius. For over 50 years he’s been making some of the most remarkable music in just about any genre. From rock to jazz, blues to gospel, skiffle to Celtic - Van Morrison has played them all.

Book Review: Percy Crosby's Skippy: Daily Comics 1931-1933: Long-forgotten Magic

With any luck this collection will bring Skippy back to the public consciousness - it certainly deserves it.
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Skippy was created by Percy Crosby and ran from 1923 to 1945. In its time it was hugely popular, highly acclaimed, and adapted into movies, novels, radio shows, and even got its very own postage stamp. Crosby got fabulously rich off of syndication rights and merchandise (though Skippy peanut butter never paid him a dime even though they completely ripped off the name and his art work). They say he made more money than the President of the United States in his prime, which was apparently a popular metric at the time. The comic is widely considered one of the

Book Review: Owsley and Me by Rhoney Gissen Stanley: An Insider's Guide to the '60s

Making music, love, and enough LSD to get the whole world high.
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Owsley Stanley is not a household name, but he probably should be. He was financier and soundman of the Grateful Dead in their early, transformative years. As a sound engineer he was revolutionary. In the primal days of rock 'n' roll, bands tended to plug into whatever crappy sound system the venue had and just made do. Usually, these places weren’t intended for rock concerts and the sound sucked. There weren’t even monitors on stage so the band could hear themselves play. Owsley changed all that. He invented systems that are still in use in concert venues all over the

Book Review: The Art of John Alvin by Andrea Alvin

You know his work. Now get to know the man.
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I consider myself a serious cinephile, so much so that I don't mind describing myself with the pretentious word "cinephile." I have been captivated by movies for as long as I can remember, and to such an extent that my interest goes beyond what plays on the screen. I am just as fascinated by the "business" of show business as I am the "show." In addition to actors and directors, I also appreciate and study the work of other artistic contributors to the medium, such as writers, cinematographers, and composers. Which is why I am disappointed I wasn't aware of

Book Review: The Wizard of Oz FAQ by David J. Hogan: Over the Rainbow and Beyond

It covers all aspects of Oz, from Garland's recording of "Over the Rainbow" to costumes to casting, to fan reaction to the film - and yes, even includes stories about Ebsen and the Munchkins
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The Wizard of Oz is an enduring and endearing classic. Who hasn't seen it, perhaps even multiple times? It made a star out of cultural icon Judy Garland and has held up remarkably well over the years since its 1939 release, enchanting generations of young and old alike. There have been stories over the years about what went on behind-the-scenes of making the film. The most familiar factoids center around Buddy Ebsen, who was originally cast as the Tin Woodman, but had such a terrible reaction to the silver make-up that he had to quit. Another popular story concerned the

Book Review: The Art of Greg Spalenka by Greg Spalenka

It is a tribute to the artist and to the liberating freedom of art itself.
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The name Greg Spalenka may or may not be a familiar one to you, but once you have seen his work in The Art of Greg Spalenka, you will never forget it. The new, oversized hardback collection features his creations in many different styles over the past 30 years, and is a tribute not only to his talent, but to the liberating freedom of art itself. I first discovered him as the creator of some of the more memorable fantasy film images I have seen. While his work on The Ant Bully (2004), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of

Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide Book Review: The End of an Era

The book is very substantive, and full of information
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Leonard Maltin appears in the movie Gremlins 2: The New Batch, lampooning his own negative review of the original Gremlins. He was also in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but that's not relevant from a cinematic perspective. This is brought up to illuminate how long Maltin has been a prominent film critic, and not just because of Doug Benson's movie podcast where they play the Leonard Maltin Game. However, an era is coming to an end. In addition to his Leonard Maltin app going out of commission, the most recent edition of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, the 2015

Book Review: Alfred Hitchcock's America by Murray Pomerance: Not for the Faint of Heart

My suspicion is unless you are a frenzied scholar this book might notoriously turn you psycho.
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In 1939, at the age of 40, Alfred Hitchcock moved to America. He’d had huge success as a filmmaker in Britain, but Hollywood was calling, and as so many others before him and after, Hitchcock answered that call. As scholar Murray Pomerance writes in Alfred Hitchcock’s America, the famed director loved America and was both highly influenced by and greatly influenced it himself. Certainly he made his greatest films while living in America, many of which have come to represent the very ideals of this country. Pomerance comes to these films from a cultural and political standpoint and this book

Book Review: The Art of Neil Gaiman by Haley Campbell

A fantastic accounting of his life and career.
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I was first introduced to Neil Gaiman through his Sandman comics at a time when most people were introduced to Neil Gaiman through his Sandman comics. I read the collected trade paperbacks of The Sandman at end of the millenium while working at a Barnes & Noble, a few years after the series' monthly run had ended. I hadn't been a comic-book reader since 1985, deciding to take a stand and quit cold turkey when the prices went up to a whopping 65 cents an issue, which was more than my limited budget could stand, as gasoline and women became

Book Review: Brainquake, Samuel Fuller's Lost Novel

Samuel Fuller's "lost" noir novel finally gets published in the U.S.
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Best known for provocative films such as Shock Corridor, The Crimson Kimono, or The Big Red One, Samuel Fuller spent his life making inescapable art. He was a filmmaker’s filmmaker and a writer’s writer, whom director Wim Wenders—Paris, Texas among others—once called “one of the great movie directors of the 20th century, most certainly its greatest storyteller.” Fuller had spunk and punch, and very little of what drags most artists to the ground, excess. His ideas were straightforward and to the point. Take for example his most controversial work White Dog, the tale of a virulent racist German Sheppard and

Rip Kirby: The First Modern Detective: Complete Comic Strips: 1962-1964 by John Prentice

The first modern detective meets a master of modern storytelling and finds a convert in this reviewer.
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I can’t remember a time when sequential art didn’t play a huge role in my life. Whether it was riding my bike to the local 7-11 to pick up comic books filled with colorful superheroes or tearing apart the Sunday paper to get to “the funny section” before my siblings, I’ve always been enamored of this unique form of storytelling. As time has gone by, my appreciation for the medium has led me down many avenues and I’ve done my best to educate myself on various styles, genres, and methods of telling stories through pictures. But there was always one

Book Review: Steven Spielberg's America by Fredrick Wasser

A really great read about a really a great director.
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There are tons of books about film and film directors that actually miss the mark, but Fredrick Wasser's Steven Spielberg's America gets it completely right. It is one of the best books about one of the best directors of all time. Not only does it explain in great detail Spielberg's rise in television, but it also talks about the reasons why he would go to become one of the biggest names in film history. Spielberg redefined the term "blockbuster" with his still heart-pounding summer sensation Jaws (1975); he brought us to tears for life with his masterpiece E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Book Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago

A must-have for fans and highly recommend for pop-culture aficionados.
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Regardless of what one may think about the vast assortment of various products that have been spun off, it's amazing that 30 years ago this past May the pop culture world was forever changed when two men (Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman) realized a dream by publishing their own comic book, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1. In this outstanding book, Andrew Farago documents the franchise's history from how the creators met, how the turtles made their big splash when they transitioned from the comics to an animated television series, and how the Turtles have evolved in different mediums, up to

Book Review: The Killing: Uncommon Denominator by Karen Dionne

A prequel novel every bit as addicting as the TV show.
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Fans of AMC’s The Killing who are jonesing for more are in luck: as Stephen Holder, the skinny strung-out-looking undercover cop would say, they can “get a taste of a little sumthing-sumthing” to tide them over with this prequel novel, The Killing - Uncommon Denominator. An original novel based on the AMC series developed by Veena Sud, the book The Killing faithfully captures the tone and characters of Holder and his partner, Detective Sarah Linden (played by Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos) perfectly. The book’s author, Karen Dionne, has a good ear for dialogue and a director’s eye for setting

Book Review: Overlooked / Underappreciated: 354 Recordings That Demand Your Attention by Greg Prato

Relive the days of leafing through a friend's record collection by reading the rock journalist's new guide.
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Writing a book entitled Overlooked/Underappreciated: 354 Recordings That Demand Your Attention is fraught with difficulty. The selections are based purely on personal taste, and are begging for readers to argue with the author. Yet rock journalist Greg Prato has tackled this challenge in his twelfth book, a work packed with suggestions for your music collection. Remember the experience of leafing through a friend’s records, CDs, and tapes, analyzing albums and recommending bands that (you think) no one knows? That memory mirrors the experience of reading Overlooked/Underappreciated. Covering mostly rock, jazz, R&B, and blues, Prato analyzes each listing using the following

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