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Alien Next Door Book Review: The Softer Side of the Perfect Killing Machine

It's an express elevator to laughs.
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In a most unexpected crossover, Joey Spiotto combines murderous monsters with children's books in Alien Next Door: In Space, No One Can Hear You Clean. In the introduction, Spiotto describes how original alien-designer H.R. Giger saw some of Spiotto's work and reached out to collaborate on a collection of lighter-themed art, something that reached Giger's inner child -- something I became recently acquainted with -- but Giger's penchant for creating gothic, industrial, often phallic art wasn't well suited to making art for kids. Unfortunately, Giger passed before the collaboration could commence, but Spiotto moved forward with the project, and has

Book Review: The X-Files FAQ by John Kenneth Muir

Each chapter feels like a lecture in an X-Files course that Mr Muir should be teaching.
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I have been a confessed horror and science fiction TV show fan my whole life. It's a tradition that came from being part of the Star Wars Generation that clung to Battlestar Galactica and Space:1999 to get our fixes. I loved Frankenstein and Dracula but on TV I could only find that same subject matter on Kolchak: The Night Stalker and The Twilight Zone. I was a huge fan of The X-Files from 1993 through the bitter end (almost - I mean, ratings don't lie, most of us didn't watch that last season). The end of the show left me

Book Review: Beyond Mars: The Complete Series by Jack Williamson and Lee Elias

Beyond Mars is beyond awesome.
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If you’ve never heard of Beyond Mars, don’t feel too bad; the strip was only featured in one newspaper, the New York Sunday News, and it only ran for three years (1952-1955). So there are probably a whole lot of fans that have overlooked the strip and some of them might even be pretty knowledgeable folks. But what it might lack in notoriety, Beyond Mars certainly made up for with pedigree. How many Sunday comic strips can boast one of the architects of the Golden Age of comic books and a Grand Master of Science Fiction as its creative team?

Book Review: Walt Disney's Donald Duck: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics Volume 1 (1938-1940) by Al Taliaferro

Readers who get their hands on this may find themselves in the sweetest disposition.
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Starting out as a supporting character in the 1934 Walt Disney short “The Wise Little Hen,” Donald Duck went on to become renowned and beloved the world over thanks to the talents of many skilled writers and artists. In addition his numerous animated appearances, Donald’s vast popularity is due in part to the comic strips and comic books he was featured in over the years. Author and animation historian David Gerstein reveals in his introductory essay, that the character made the leap to newspapers thanks to Disney staff artist Al Taliaferro, who drew the strip for over 30 years, from

Book Review: Turner Classic Movies Presents Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide (Third Edition)

Maltin makes film buffs happy once again with a new, complete guide of classic movies from the Silent Era through 1965.
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Although some books on cinema should be taken with a few grains of salt, not just because of some ways that movies are described, but also the movies that were chosen as well. As with the late great Roger Ebert, whose books on cinema are still the standard for anyone who wants to study movies and loves them, beloved film critic Leonard Maltin has also written his fair share of successful and sometimes infuriating books on film culture. Fortunately for us, his newest book on classic movies should enlighten and infuriate once again, which is great because it allows for

Book Review: Sherlock Holmes - The Thinking Engine by James Lovegrove

Two "thinking machines" face off in this excellent pastiche that pits Sherlock Holmes against a Victorian precursor to the computer.
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Early in the third season of Elementary, one of its episodes offered an intriguing premise: a sentient computer was suspected of killing its creator, and Holmes’ job was to perform a Turing test in order to ascertain whether said machine could really have the intelligence to intentionally kill a human. Of course, the answer was an unsurprising “no,” because the universe of a procedural just doesn’t have space for sentient machines. Nonetheless, the episode was possibly the most interesting one of the show, as it offered an intriguing and deeply relevant theme for Sherlock Holmes: that of man vs. machine.

Book Review: Underground:The Subterranean Culture of DIY Punk Shows by Daniel Makagon

It covers the history, and future, of backyard and basement punk-rock shows.
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Pure punk rock, regardless of a band’s popularity or the decade in which they’ve performed, has pretty much been an underground form of music. Long associated with violence, destruction, and all-around malfeasance, young punk bands have always had a hard time getting gigs in normal, clean-cut venues. Daniel Makagon’s book, Underground: The Subterranean Culture of DIY Shows covers the scene in cities and towns of all sizes across the U.S., proving that punk is alive and well in places other than New York and Southern California. This informative, 192-page book is packed with interviews and histories of the DIY punk

Book Review: LOAC Essentials Vol. 7: Tarzan of the Apes

Highly recommend for fans of adventure stories and comic strips.
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Volume 7 in the Library of American Comics Essentials series focuses on the comic strip starring Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan. The Lord of the Jungle debuted in 1912 when Tarzan of the Apes appeared on the pages of All-Story Magazine. It was such a sensation Burroughs wrote numerous sequels, and allowed the story and character to appear in other medium. Tarzan of the Apes also became the title of a 1918 film and a 1921 Broadway production. Harry G. Franke III, editor of The Burroughs Bibliophiles, writes a very informative introductory essay explaining how advertising executive Joseph H. Neebe of

Book Review: The Shining: Studies in the Horror Film, Edited by Danel Olson

A deep dive into every aspect of The Shining combines academic analysis, technical explanations and fun facts for fanboys.
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For a director whose output totaled only about a baker’s dozen of feature films, Stanley Kubrick embraced a remarkably wide range of genres during his nearly half-century career. There was a heist movie (The Killing); war movies (Paths of Glory and Full Metal Jacket); a big-budget swords-and-sandals epic (Spartacus); highbrow literary adaptations (Lolita and Barry Lyndon); the blackest of black comedies/satires (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb); foundational sci-fi (2001: A Space Odyssey); and Eyes Wide Shut, a YGIAGAM (Your Guess Is As Good As Mine). Then there’s his scary/funny take on the

Book Review: Superman: The Atomic Age Sundays 1949-1953

Super shenanigans, madcap hijinks and tomfoolery... they sure don't make Men of Steel like this anymore.
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At the risk of sounding like that old guy down the street wearing black socks with sandals and shaking a rake at those darn neighbor kids who just won’t get off the lawn, today’s comic readers just don’t know how good they’ve got it. In my day, if you wanted to take part in the classic adventures of your favorite superheroes, you had to embark on a quest to find the old issues and pay an exorbitant price, then live the rest of your life in fear that this highly priced item would become ruined and useless and your investment

Book Review: The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road by Abbie Bernstein

It is sure to illuminate and inspire.
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One of the most anticipated films of 2015 was Mad Max: Fury Road. After 30 years since the uneven Beyond Thunderdome, and with Tom Hardy taking over the lead role from Mel Gibson, there was understandable trepidation from fans about returning to the apocalyptic future that is Max Rockatansky’s Wasteland. However filmmaker George Miller, who has overseen the entire series, proved the doubting Thomases wrong with a sensational action film for the ages that is arguably the best of the series. Fury Road finds Max entering the fiefdom of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Bryne), a cruel ruler who controls the region’s

Book Review: Bravo For Adventure by Alex Toth

Bravo for Alex Toth!
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Legendary artist and noted curmudgeon Alex Toth never made a secret of his continued frustrations with editorial interference, bad scripts, and the continued trend toward gritty anti-heroes in mainstream comics. So when given the opportunity to create his own comic series, he took a look back in time to the halcyon days when dashing film heroes like Errol Flynn and comic adventurers such as Terry and the Pirates buckled swash and took part in all manner of high adventure and derring-do. The end result was Bravo for Adventure, a throwback adventure that many consider to be Toth's seminal work -

Book Review: The Ultimate Woody Allen Film Companion by Jason Bailey

It's a book to be savored, yet it's so good one may rush through to discover all it offers.
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The first thing I thought when I got a hold of this book was that if there was any filmmaker who would quickly make a book like this incomplete because of how fast he works it would be Woody Allen. Author Jason Bailey obviously had the same thought because the Prologue offers a link to a website "for a discussion of Magic in the Moonlight and other future Woody Allen projects...for updates and new essays." Seeing as we had similar concerns, I figured I was in good hands as a reader and I was right. Each film (from What's Up,

Book Review: The Amazing Spider-Man: The Ultimate Newspaper Comics Collection Vol. 1: Black and White and Read All Over

Collection provides ideal format for cohesively enjoying the long-form stories.
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Let’s face it: daily newspaper comic strips have never been a great way to follow serialized stories. When a story is doled out in just a few panels a day, it’s difficult to follow and even more difficult to appreciate as a whole. Thankfully, IDW Publishing is here to save the day with their latest archival comic strip project covering the first two years of Spider-Man’s daily adventures. This comic strip wasn’t just handed off to junior hacks; it was written by the character’s creator and architect of much of the Marvel universe, Stan “The Man” Lee. Likewise, the art

Book Review: Secret Agent X-9: 1934-1936 by Dashiell Hammett & Alex Raymond

Sometimes a "Dream Team" is better left to the imagination.
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Everyone loves a dream team. Who can forget Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage joining forces to form the Mega-Powers or Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison coming together as the musical Voltron known as The Traveling Wilburys? Much like the magical combination of chocolate and peanut butter, a dream team represents a union of the good, the great, and the totally sweet, and not only lays to rest the question of “What If?” that lurks inside the hearts and minds of all fans, but also threatens to tear the very fabric of the

Book Review: Star Trek: New Visions Volume 2 by John Byrne

These new voyages fit right alongside the old ones.
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In Star Trek: New Visions, John Byrne tells of the lost missions of the starship Enterprise under the command of Captain James T. Kirk. Through the use of images from the Original Series combined with new material such as characters and dialogue, Byrne creates adventures that have an air of authenticity because we see the familiar faces of the actors. Volume 2 collects issues #3-5 and contains an all-new story with something for those who read Gold Key's Star Trek comics. "Cry Vengeance" tells the origins of the Doomsday Machine from the episode of the same name. "Robot" is a

Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 18: 1957-1959 by Chester Gould

Gould's writing entertains because of the unpredictable twists the stories take along the way to their expected conclusions.
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As the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing continue to collect The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould, Volume 18 presents the dailies and Sunday strips from December 15, 1957 through to July 11, 1959. The opening few panels are a little heavy handed and preachy as Tracy's adopted son Junior explains he and some friends want to go into law enforcement and gives a slightly nauseating speech about how much better things would be "if parents stayed at home more with their kids and helped teach them good manners - taught 'em to pray, and tanned their little

Book Review: Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips, Volume Four: 1974-1979

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.
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With the Library of America Comics releasing the fourth and final volume in the Eisner Award-winning series, they have published the complete collection of Russ Manning's Tarzan newspaper strips. As Henry G. Franke III, editor of The Burroughs Bibliophiles, explains in his informative introduction of the strip and its author, Manning was only creating Sunday strips at this point in the run, having given up the dailies in order to add Tarzan graphic novels to his workload. However, interest in the strip and the character had waned by the end of the decade. In February 1979, Tarzan "was appearing in

Book Review: Madeline Kahn: Being the Music, A Life by William V. Madison

The unique comedic chameleon gets a bio that contextualizes her career but comes up short on the person behind the performer.
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There are a handful of uniquely talented performers for whom, once or twice or maybe three times in a career, the stars align into a magical combination of the absolutely right role in the absolutely right play, film or TV show. Everyone will have their own favorites: mine include Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker; Zero Mostel in The Producers; Angela Lansbury’s Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd; and maybe a dozen or so more. Madeline Kahn had the fortunate misfortune to hit this kind of bulls-eye an amazing four times within a span of just three years in the early 1970s,

Book Review: Bravest Warriors: Things to Doodle and Do!

Expand your mind and let your creativity run wild with games, puzzles, and inter-dimensional activities.
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I wasn’t really familiar with Emmy Award-winning creator Pendleton Ward’s Bravest Warriors when I requested a copy of Bravest Warriors: Things to Doodle and Do! (published by Viz Media’s Perfect Square imprint) for review. Sure, I knew Ward was the guy behind Adventure Time and I had a vague notion that Bravest Warriors was something sci-fi related; but neither I nor my children knew anything about the premise or the characters. What we did know, however, is that doodle books are awesome and Adventure Time is awesome so by extension, this doodle book was likely pretty awesome. And indeed, what

Book Review: Usagi Yojimbo: Senso by Stan Sakai

It contains the expected exquisiteness one associates with Sakai's work.
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After a two-year break from his long-running Usagi Yojimbo, time spent working on the Eisner-nominated limited series Ronin 47, Stan Sakai returned to it with the six-issue miniseries Usagi Yojimbo: Senso. Originally published from August 2014 through January 2015, Dark Horse has now collected them in one book. Sakai introduces the collection with a comic strip where he explains to his main character, the rabbit ronin Usagi, and the reader that Senso's premise deals with the questions "what if the Martians had sent scout ships 200 years before the events chronicled by [H.G.] Wells, and what if they had landed
Paul Shaffer is best known for being the bandleader on David Letterman’s late-night talk show, both at NBC and CBS, from February 1, 1982 to May 20, 2015. He demonstrates his great sense of humor through his bantering with Letterman and the songs chosen to play on guests. He also exudes a love of show business, past and present, and appearances by celebrities he has met are sprinkled all throughout the book. With the assistance of David Ritz, both Shaffer’s traits are on display and make for a very entertaining read. As Shaffer reveals his life to readers, his anecdotes

Book Review: Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout Records by Kevin Prested

A thorough look at the rise and fall of one of the 1990s great indie labels.
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You hear a lot of praise about punk rock in the 1970s, but the ‘90s had a burgeoning punk scene, too. Bubbling just under the big alt-rock banner, punk bands proliferated mainly on the West Coast - Portland, Seattle, LA, San Francisco - and you usually didn’t see or hear of them unless you were into the scene or read Maximum Rock and Roll or other underground zines. San Francisco’s Lookout Records was at the forefront of that scene, releasing EPs, albums, and vinyl singles from ska punk band Operation Ivy, Mr. T Experience, the Donnas, Avengers, Rancid, Bratmobile, Screeching

Book Review: Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Records by Bob Suren

Crate Digger tells the story of the Florida punk scene over the past 30 years through the favorite records of the author.
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In Crate Digger: An Obsession with Punk Rock Records, Bob Suren attaches the story of his life to 50 of his favorite records. Punk records, to be precise. For music geeks like myself, it is an interesting idea. I imagine that everyone has that certain song or album that defines a period in their life. The only problem with this method would be in choosing the records. Perhaps a bigger question is who would read such a book, unless they knew you. Suren lays out his credentials as a player in the Florida punk scene, and it sounds like he

Book Review: Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I by Shinobu Hashimoto

The screenwriter for some of Kurosawa's best films discusses their collaboration and more.
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Shinobu Hashimoto wrote the screenplays to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Ikiru and The Seven Samurai. If you are keeping score, that’s three of the greatest films in the history of films. He wrote several more films with Kurosawa including Throne of Blood and The Hidden Fortress plus dozens more for other directors. Originally published in 2006, Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I is finally being made available in English by Vertical Inc. Having not heard of the book (or to be honest, the writer though I’m a great lover of Kurosawa) until about a week ago, I can’t say it was

Book Review: In the Company of Legends by Joan Kramer and David Heeley

Classic-film fans are very fortunate they took the time to create this book.
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For 25 years, the award-winning filmmaking team of Joan Kramer and David Heeley lived a classic-film fan's dream many times over, as they met, produced documentaries about, and in some cases became friends with stars of the silver screen. In this mutual memoir, they reveal the wonderful stories about what it took to tell the wonderful stories about their famous subjects. Joan and David began working together in 1978 on Skyline, a local arts program produced by New York PBS affiliate, WNET. As the series was coming to an end after three seasons, they attempted to move on with a

Book Review: Chappie: The Art of the Movie by Peter E. Aperlo

Gritty, realistic sci-fi doesn't exactly translate to stunning pre-production design.
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A few weeks ago, Chappie, writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s latest film, arrived in theaters to mixed reviews. A few days ago, Chappie: The Art of the Movie arrived on my doorstep in a similar fashion. Taking inspiration from the creator’s short film "Tetra Vaal," Chappie contains all the typical elements of a Blomkamp film: gritty science fiction grounded in a hard reality, ultra-violent action, and a sharp satirical wit. Oh yeah, and Sharlto Copley too. Anyway, on to the book. Big hardcover coffee-table art books are pretty much a no-brainer, especially when they deal with robots, and if you’re reading this

Book Review: Quentin Tarantino FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Original Reservoir Dog by Dale Sherman

Covering Tarantino's body of work and his rai·son d'ê·tre for each film.
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Author Dale Sherman’s newest FAQ book, he previously wrote Armageddon Films FAQ and KISS FAQ, was published this month, and it’s a work dense with trivia, factoids, and much more. But does it answer the big question? (At least my big question?) What is Tarantino’s fascination with an out-of-sequence narrative? We will get to that. Sherman’s writing comes off as a bit awkward at times, but mostly it’s fine, although quite familiar, as the book was intended to be a series of blog posts. But the overall voice throughout the work has the feel of someone who is jazzed to

Book Review: The Art of the Films: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes by Sharon Gosling and Adam Newell

An enjoyable for read for those fascinated by how modern movies are made.
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This book takes readers behind the scenes of the first two films of the revived Apes franchise, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and reveals what Dawn director Matt Reeves describes in the Foreward is the "astonishing work" of the crewmembers. Led by Rise's production designer Claude Pare and director of photography Andrew Lesnie and Dawn's production designer James Chinlund and director of photography Michael Seresin, the combined imaginations and talents on each film created realistic locations and believable characters on screen. The latter accomplishment also owes a debt to the

Book Review: American Titan: Searching For John Wayne by Marc Eliot

Feels more like a history book than a biography.
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John Wayne is one of the most legendary actors to come out of Hollywood, but most of us don’t know much about him other than what we’ve seen on the big screen and with his passing in 1979, over 30 years ago, his films have been regulated to DVD views and classic television stations. Even with his enormous catalog of nearly 150 films, a number of them have been lost over the years because film was considered disposable and there was no reason to save it. But in this latest biography, author Marc Eliot gives us a look not only

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