Mike's Bookshelf

Currently showing posts tagged 1980s

  • The Art of Ready Player One by Gina McIntyre Book Review

    The Art of Ready Player One by Gina McIntyre

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In arguably Director Steven Spielberg’s most visually dazzling and technologically challenging film to date, Ready Player One invites viewers to a cautionary tale where reality and the limitless possibilities of its virtual counterpart blur beyond belief.  Embracing a pop culture obsessed way  of life, Ernest Cline’s fanboy-loving novel of which the film is based on could only be realized on the big-screen by one of its crowning inspirers.  Without the requirement of VR goggles, Gina McIntyre’s The Art of Ready Player One sends readers on an in-depth journey through the film’s distinctly unique realization with insight from the many makers and creative heads who helped bring this once-thought unfilmable premise into our world.  Set in Columbus, Ohio of 2045, Spielberg’s 3D feature follows Wade Watts’ (Tye Sheridan, X-Men: Apocalypse) struggles, along with his trusted core friends of competitors, to win the late James Halliday’s contest, granting the victor control of the virtual realm known as the Oasis and the latter’s lucrative company.  While Wade expresses himself differently in the Oasis as the avatar known as Parzival, his real-world life is anything less than stellar.  Residing in the poverty-stricken Stacks, McIntyre’s book showcases the production’s challenges in realizing the RV stacked mobile homes and their eventual explosive destruction.  

    Furthermore, the behind-the-scenes account showcases the film’s juxtaposition between its traditional set-built locations and the digital realm of the Oasis where the actors spent months on end performing on motion-capture stages in order for the digital wizards at Industrial Light and Magic to bring their avatars to life.  Showcasing gorgeous pieces of concept art for the wide army of creatures seen in the film, otherworldly locations such as Planet Doom, the variety of familiar vehicles utilized and the futuristic costume designs donning our characters, The Art of Ready Player One is eye-candy galore.  Taking a particularly hefty and appreciated look into the characters’ exploration of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and the film’s equally intense and action-packed racing sequence, McIntyre’s leap into Spielberg’s latest blockbuster easily stands as one of the best art-of books of the year for a film that will leave viewers scratching their heads and pondering “how did they do that?”.

    Available April 17th from Insight Editions, The Art of Ready Player One can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Good, the Tough & the Deadly: Action Movies & Stars 1960s-Present by David J. Moore Book Review

    The Good, the Tough & the Deadly: Action Movies & Stars 1960s-Present by David J. Moore

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In an unparalleled achievement that celebrates the machismo and badassery of the action genre’s impact on cinema, David J. Moore’s The Good, the Tough & the Deadly: Action Movies & Stars 1960s-Present unloads years of extensive research and passion in this masterwork that not only glorifies the men and women that headlined these films but, the very distinctions that make a proper action film what it is.  Recalling his own influential experiences with the genre during the concurrent video store boom of the 1980s and golden era of the action star, Moore rightly fawns over the bullet-blasting rage of Rambo and Michael Dudikoff’s martial arts geared American Ninja franchise while, making strong cases against the likes of Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard) for falling short of bonafide action hero iconography albeit starring in some of the genre’s most influential works.  Collecting upwards of 1,500 reviews on beloved Bronson beat’em ups to contemporary direct-to-video efforts that continue to honor the intense physicality of onset stunt work over CGI tinkering, Moore examines each film with a thoughtful appreciation and balanced overview that brings worthy attention to its stars, many of which never rightly earned their proper due.  Featuring invaluable contributions from Vern (Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal), Mike “McBeardo” McPadden (Heavy Metal Movies: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos & Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big-Scream Films Ever!), Zack Carlson (Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film) among others, the mammoth 500+ glossy paged hardcover edition includes colorful imagery and poster art from the likes of Action Jackson, Death Grip, Pray for Death and many other action favorites.

    Littered with countless, but not limited to, interviews with Carl Weathers (Predator), Michael Dudikoff (American Ninja), Director Cedric Sundstrom (American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt), Phillip Rhee (Best of the Best), Daniel Bernhardt (Bloodsport II), Darren Shahlavi (Ip Man 2), Wesley Snipes (Passenger 57), Taimak (The Last Dragon) and Screenwriter James Bruner (Missing in Action), Moore’s recorded sit-downs with these titans of the genre collects fascinating insight into the making of their respective films and retrospective look backs at their careers that would have otherwise been possibly lost to the sands of time.  Akin to Moore’s essential post-nuke movie encyclopedia, The Good, the Tough & the Deadly: Action Movies & Stars 1960s-Present is a Herculean effort of testosterone-infused depth that deserves a spot on every serious film fanatics bookshelf.

    Available now from Schiffer Publishing, The Good, the Tough & the Deadly: Action Movies & Stars 1960s-Present can be purchased via SchifferBooks.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Three by Gary Gerani Book Review

    Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Three by  Gary Gerani

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Concluding the galactic adventures of George Lucas’ original trilogy, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Three by Gary Gerani continues the comprehensive cataloging of the pocket-sized collectibles celebrating the epic finale between both sides of the Force.  Introduced by and offering additional commentary throughout, former Topps Company wiz Gerani recounts the excitement of reading the film’s screenplay far ahead of release and the incredible transformation of working hand in hand with small upstart company Lucasfilm during the original film to the awe-inspiring enterprise it became by the franchise’s third chapter.  In just several short pages, Gerani’s vivid memories and contagious excitement are expressed in such detail that allows readers to fully appreciate the creative thought process behind Topps’ followup to their successful Empire Strikes Back line.

    Presenting the complete set of both series consisting of a whopping 220 cards and 55 stickers, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Three once again displays the storytelling snapshots of action and adventure in crisp color with additional photos of unopened trading card wraps, vintage display boxes and nostalgic advertisement sheets also included.  As bittersweet as its cinematic counterpart, Topps’ final two series capped off several years of exciting collecting for fans with Gerani’s latest work standing as a fitting farewell and warm companion piece for those yearning to have their commonly bent and damaged vintage cards beautifully honored in one lavish hardcover.  Sending readers off with four limited-edition trading cards exclusively created by Abrams ComicArts, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Three is another must-have for rebels across the galaxy.

    Available now from Abrams ComicArtsStar Wars: Return of the Jedi - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Three can be purchased via AbramsBooks.comAmazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series by Gary Gerani Book Review

    Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series by Gary Gerani

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Compiling all 200 collectible cards from its wildly successful collection, Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series celebrates the iconic imagery of such famed artists as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Mike Mingnola, Boris Vallejo, Joseph Smith and many others as their unique styles realize the world of George Lucas’ iconic saga.  Introduced by and providing running commentary from the series’ original editor, Gary Gerani takes readers back to the early 90s where renewed interest in trading cards ignited the opportunity to join forces with Lucasfilm to commemorate Star Wars’ fifteenth anniversary.  While Gerani had previously lent his expertise to past card series based on the sci-fi franchise, the desire to do something far more ambitious warranted additional time, missing the intended anniversary plans in the process, for a project that proved more than worthy of its wait.

    Spanning three series from 1993 to 1995, Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series beautifully reproduces the imaginative artwork of all its creators on glossy stock with a shimmering dust jacket highlighting Joseph Smith’s incredible portrait of Jedi Master Yoda.  Serving as a bonafide walk down memory lane for fans who grew up actively collecting the series, Abrams ComicArts’ latest volume is another standout effort that allows all generations of Star Wars fans to own and appreciate another niche outlet of the films’ enduring fandom.  Accompanied by a heartwarming afterword by famed movie poster artist Drew Struzan and a pack of four bonus cards, Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series is a visual delight that sends readers into light speed exploring the richly designed and boundless layers of the Star Wars universe.

    Available now from Abrams ComicArts, Star Wars Galaxy: The Original Topps Trading Card Series can be purchased via AbramsBooks.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Knight Rider: Volume 1 by Geoffrey Thorne, Jason Johnson, Shannon Eric Denton and Brian Denham Book Review

    Knight Rider, Volume 1 by Geoffrey Thorne, Jason Johnson, Shannon Eric Denton and Brian Denham

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the 80s hit television show starring David Hasselhoff, Knight Rider makes an action-packed return courtesy of IDW Publishing.  Given a modern facelift for a new generation, Knight Rider focuses on secret agent Michael Knight assigned to protect his girlfriend Dr. Katherine Beachum and her top secret Project: Rider.  After a ruthless team of mercenaries interrupt their plans, Michael and a mysterious ally named Bishop, team up to protect Katherine and the highly intelligent Rider vehicle.  Packed with plenty of thrills and horsepower, Knight Rider, Volume 1 collects the first eight issues of the popular comic series.

    Sticking true to its source material, Knight Rider takes the hokey yet, undeniably cool concept and refashions it for a current, more tech-savvy generation that aren’t so fast to question the believability of a talking Trans Am.  Set in the sunny climate of California, secret agent Michael Knight’s date with girlfriend Dr. Katherine Beachum quickly goes from 0 to 60 after a group of shrouded mercenaries intend on abducting Beachum and her highly desired secret project.  Upon realizing that Knight‘s organization has been compromised, he has no one to turn to except Bishop, a mysterious likeminded agent determined to assist him in keeping Katherine and her technology safe.  In addition, Knight forges an unlikely partnership with the doctor’s life work, the intelligent Rider vehicle capable of immeasurable talents, to bring the mercenaries down.  As a nonstop barrage of high-speed chases and shootouts ensue, conspiracies are uncovered and danger looms at every turn.  Spending the bulk of the collection on this exciting precursor tale, Knight Rider supplies readers with an action-packed backstory on Michael Knight before his more familiar vigilante efforts with KITT, the talking Trans Am, take place by its conclusion.  

    Excellently illustrated and maintaining a tight pace, Knight Rider, Volume 1 keeps the fun and flair of its nostalgic television beginnings while, injecting a contemporary tone where face changes and vehicular A.I. feels more fitting and even cooler.  With its pedal to the metal on high-octane action and adventure, Knight Rider, Volume 1 is a fitting modernization that welcomes Michael Knight and KITT back into the fast lane once again.

    Available now from IDW Publishing, Knight Rider, Volume 1 can be purchased via IDWPublishing.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt Book Review

    John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the first illustrated celebration of the late icon, John Hughes: A Life in Film traces the early beginnings of Hughes’ career at National Lampoon before taking Hollywood by storm with a string of hits including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Featuring new interviews from close friends and frequent collaborators, Author Kirk Honeycutt’s retrospective love letter to the enduring impact of Hughes‘ films is also complimented with rich visuals throughout the auteur’s extensive career.

    Synonymous with capturing the feelings and heartaches of youth like no other, Writer/Director John Hughes defined a generation with his endless streak of comedy hits.  Since his untimely death in 2009, Hughes‘ legacy has only increased with time, influencing audiences and fellow artists alike.  Author Kirk Honeycutt’s John Hughes: A Life in Film guides the reader through Hughes‘ career from his early days in advertising before abandoning ship to write for National Lampoon.  A heavy chain smoker who often worked late through the night, Hughes churned out gold at an alarming pace that  quickly caught the attention of Hollywood.  A devoted husband and father firmly rooted in his midwest surroundings, Honeycutt pulls back the curtain on the generally private family man who just so happened to capture the teenage voice of the 80s.  Detailing his screenwriting efforts on Mr. Mom and National Lampoon’s Vacation before stepping up to the directorial plate, Honeycutt rightfully spends considerable time on the genesis and production of Hughes‘ landmark opuses, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.  From the discovery of his muse Molly Ringwald to revealing behind-the-scenes stories, Hughes‘ ear for music and marketing genius is also well documented.  As the young at heart creator’s popularity increased and his empire grew, more hits including Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Planes, Trains and Automobiles followed, allowing Honeycutt to detail Hughes’ friendship and working relationship with the late John Candy.  In addition, other Hughes productions including Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful are covered that shed light on the sometimes difficult relationship Hughes shared with fellow collaborators.  

    While Hughes’ career achievements are expertly detailed, Honeycutt tends to jump the gun in several areas to discuss films that will ultimately be covered later in the book.  In addition, Honeycutt spends a mere two pages discussing Hughes‘ rejuvenated interest in the Vacation franchise that gave way to 1989’s Christmas Vacation.  Long considered a holiday classic and arguably the best sequel of the series, Honeycutt unfortunately dismisses the charmer as a “tepid affair”.  Fortunately and appreciatively, the later half of the book spends considerable time exploring films under Hughes’ producing eye including Home Alone, Dennis the Menace and the fascinating nightmare production of Baby’s Day Out.  Furthermore, Director Patrick Read Johnson (Spaced Invaders, Angus) provides insight into the rewarding and tumultuous relationship shared with Hughes that makes for some of the book’s most intriguing stories.  Hughes‘ partnership with Disney birthing the live-action redo of 101 Dalmatians and Flubber is also covered along with unrealized and ahead of their time concepts including The Bee leaving readers curious at what could have been.  

    With a heartfelt forward provided by Director Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire), John Hughes: A Life in Film is an excellent companion piece to Hughes‘ cinematic offerings.  Author Kirk Honeycutt provides ample information on the late icon’s works with countless interviews from Matthew Broderick, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Jeffrey Jones, Steve Martin, Jon Cryer and many more.  While high profile titles like The Breakfast Club are covered at great length, lesser appreciated works like Curly Sue and Hughes‘ many producing credits are thankfully given their time to shine much to the delight of film enthusiasts.  Honeycutt’s insight into Hughes‘ loving family life and tearjerking friendship with John Candy make for some of the book’s more humanizing moments.  Bursting with colorful photographs and fueled with genuine passion for its subject, Author Kirk Honeycutt’s John Hughes: A Life in Film nicely captures the complexities and genius of the eternally youthful Hughes.  

    Available now from Race Point Publishing, John Hughes: A Life in Film can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.