Mike's Bookshelf

Currently showing posts tagged Mike Kenny

  • Sweet Dreams, Jack-Jack by Meredith Rusu Book Review

    Sweet Dreams, Jack-Jack by Meredith Rusu

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Inspired by Disney/Pixar’s anticipated Incredibles 2, Sweet Dreams, Jack-Jack snuggles up with the youngest of the heroic family as Mr. Incredible attempts to read him bedtime stories to sleep with hilariously unsuccessful results.  Returning to the living room only to continuously find the toddler out of his crib, Jack-Jack’s fascination with a crime movie eventually motivates him to use his own super-powered skills to take on a trash stealing raccoon.  Surprised and giddy by the adorable baby’s seemingly limitless powers, Mr. Incredible struggles to contain his excitement while searching for a way to explain this unexpected development to his wife.  An excellent sidekick to any child’s before bedtime rituals, Meredith Rusu’s Sweet Dreams, Jack-Jack is indeed a sweet and funny mini tale for the adorable, pointy-haired character with gorgeous illustrations from the artistic team of Gurihiru whose talents truly standout in this sleepy time tale.

    Available now from Disney Press, Sweet Dreams, Jack-Jack can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers. 

  • 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. 

  • Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Read-Along Storybook and CD by Suzanne Francis / Olaf’s Frozen Adventure - Olaf’s Journey: A Light-Up Board Book by Brooke Vitale Book Reviews

    Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Read-Along Storybook and CD by Suzanne Francis

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Adapting the anticipated return to Arendelle scheduled to premiere before Pixar Animation’s Coco this Thanksgiving season, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure finds reunited sisters Queen Elsa and Princess Anna ringing in the holidays by prepping an extravagant surprise event for their kingdom.  Surrounded by friends and loved ones, Elsa and Anna are just as quickly perplexed when the townspeople scurry home to enjoy their own family traditions, leaving the girls saddened by a lack of their own holiday customs.  Determined to bring joy back into their lives, the adorable snowman Olaf and the faithful Sven chart a journey to learn of others’ seasonal practices in hopes of introducing them to Elsa and Anna.  Marking another heartfelt chapter in the Frozen saga, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure will warm the hearts of all who fell in love with these memorable characters several years ago while the short storybook’s colorful illustrations and delightfully cute recorded narration will keep young readers returning to its text many times this holiday season.

    Available now from Disney Press, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Read-Along Storybook and CD can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

    Olaf’s Frozen Adventure - Olaf’s Journey: A Light-Up Board Book by Brooke Vitale

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A far more truncated take on the animated short film, this rhyming rendition of Olaf and Sven’s pursuit to bring the heart of the season back into Anna and Elsa’s lives is tailor-made for particularly young tikes who will find the illuminating lights in glowing windows, the eyes of the ferocious wolves Olaf encounters on his journey and the crystalized Christmas tree created by Elsa most enjoyable.  Furthermore, the enchantingly unique illustrative work by Griselda Sastrawinata-Lemay makes the brief read a lovely sight for the eyes.

    Available now from Disney Press, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure - Olaf’s Journey: A Light-Up Board Book can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant by Simon Ward Book Review

    The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant by Simon Ward

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Journeying back into the bowels of space where no one can hear you scream, Simon Ward’s The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant details the development and detailed execution of Ridley Scott’s followup to his franchise rebirther Prometheus.  Welcoming readers aboard the spacecraft known as the Covenant, Ward introduces each of the film’s crew members and their personal significance throughout the narrative with enlightening commentary from costars about tackling their respective characters.  Exploring the many chambers and artistic excellence of the ship itself, Ward exposes readers to early concept renderings of the vessels nursery, hypersleep chamber, the bridge where key interactions amongst the crew occur, among many other quarters and their finished appearances in the film with noteworthy insight from the artists behind them.  Following the crew’s dangerous expedition to the dreaded Dreadnought, the vastly impressive approaches bringing the Xenomorphs to life and H.R. Giger’s continued artistic influences on Scott’s bleak sci-fi world, The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant is a near 200-glossy paged lost paradise for audiences and readers alike intrigued by the crafting of all its deep space terror.  Featuring a brief forward by its director, The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant will only enrich one’s appreciation for this mature extraterrestrial saga.

    Available now from Titan Books, The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Disney Pirates: The Definitive Collector’s Anthology by Michael Singer Book Review

    Disney Pirates: The Definitive Collector’s Anthology by Michael Singer

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Delving into the high seas of piratical entertainment created by Walt Disney and his enduring company, Disney Pirates: The Definitive Collector’s Anthology charts a course through history and the Mouse House’s lengthy relationship with a pirate’s life and all the adventure with it.  Long before Captain Jack and his precious Black Pearl won the hearts of audiences worldwide, Singer’s expertly researched work delves into Walt Disney’s own boyhood captivation with the scurvy rebels through the works of Robert Louis Stevenson before bringing that same enthusiasm to his own productions.  From Disney’s first live-action feature, an adaptation of Stevenson’s own Treasure Island, to 1960’s beloved family adventure film, Swiss Family Robinson and beyond to the animated classic Peter Pan, populated by a siege of memorable pirates including the one and only Captain Hook, Singer provides excellent insight into the respective efforts and their unique makings.  Also voyaging into lesser remembered works such as 1997’s Beverly Hills Family Robinson, the underrated Treasure Planet to the more contemporary Jake and the Never Land Pirates and ABC’s Once Upon a Time, every Disney effort bearing the sight of the hellions of the seven seas receives their proper due.  

    No stranger to the rum-filled ways of the tide having helmed previous efforts on the making of the Pirates films, Singer sets his sail on the early desires and eventual executions in bringing Disney’s original groundbreaking attraction to Disneyland in 1967.  Through gorgeous concept designs and illustrations, mostly from Disney legend Marc Davis, fans receive firsthand insight into one of the final attractions overseen by Walt himself that continues to dazzle park visitors and keep them coming back for more.  Ahead of the much anticipated fifth installment’s release, Singer naturally takes readers through the history of the box-office smashing franchise with considerable insight into its latest sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, with interviews from countless cast and crew members including, but not limited to, Co-Directors Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg.  Fitted with a humble foreword by Captain Jack himself, Johnny Depp and a gorgeous photo gallery of production stills from Producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s personal collection, Singer’s exceptional effort concludes with a lengthy chapter on Shanghai Disneyland’s impressive Pirate Cove, the first-ever pirate themed land found in a Disney park befit with the expected magical quality and showmanship fans have come to expect but have yet to fully experience until now.  A perfect appetizer for Jack Sparrow’s next cinematic adventure and a wealthy resource for everything pertaining to Disney’s historic ship of sword-wielding misfits, Singer’s latest work lives up to its definitive moniker, giving readers a fine first mate to travel into the horizon with.

    Available now from Disney Editions, Disney Pirates: The Definitive Collector’s Anthology can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars Widevision: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One by Gary Gerani Book Review

    Star Wars Widevision: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One by Gary Gerani

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fashioned for the serious cinephile, original card series editor Gary Gerani offers his insightful memories and commentary once again on this game changing run of cards based on George Lucas’ original sci-fi blockbuster.  Deemed the most groundbreaking Topps project of the hundreds involved with, Gerani’s Star Wars Widevision: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One republishes the entire 120 base card set of the elongated 1995 line for the first time.  Culled from their original 35mm film negatives, the lavish cards are offered in an astonishing 2.35 aspect ratio to honor the entirety of the film’s gorgeous photographic compositions.  In addition to the stunning high-definition fronts of the cards featuring the massive Imperial Star Destroyers, the heroic Millennium Falcon and the many characters that populate the original Star Wars, the card backs, remaining true to their more sophisticated approach, offer film facts, correlating storyboards and other rarely seen shots.  

    Additionally featuring 60 base cards from 1997’s Special Edition Widevision series that coincided with the original film’s theatrical re-release of the same year, spotlights the digital alterations made to the film that continue to be a controversial topic amongst fans of the franchise.  Graciously including four bonus cards for collectors and an affectionate afterword from Rancho Obi-Wan museum operator Stephen J. Sansweet, Star Wars Widevision: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One is the latest and flashiest installment of Topps’ continued preservation of their prized intergalactic cards with exceptional background information on their making.  With even more volumes planned for the future, card collectors and Force wielders alike will take delight adding this latest hardbound edition of wide-reaching mini murals into their collections today.

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

  • Lead the Way by Ace Landers Book Review

    Lead the Way by Ace Landers

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Inspired by Disney/Pixar’s upcoming high-speed installment of the popular Cars franchise, Lead the Way takes young readers along for an inspirational ride with Lightning McQueen as your guide as he makes pitstops on cherished moments gone by.  Sharing wonderful life lessons acquired from mentor Doc Hudson about the true meaning of winning, working hard and appreciation for those who helped you along the way, Lead the Way encourages all to believe in the impossible.  Introducing Cars 3’s Cruz Ramirez as McQueen’s latest protégé, skilled Pixar artist Garrett Taylor provides colorful illustrations of Radiator Springs’ favorite talking cars as they take to the open track of their adventure-filled lives.  Ultimately learning that the friends and memories made along the way in any situation are the greatest rewards, Lead the Way is a charming storybook urging passengers to put their pedal to the metal in following their dreams.

    Available now from Disney Press, Lead the Way can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.  

  • Aladdin: A Whole New World - The Road to Broadway and Beyond by Michael Lassell Book Review

    Aladdin: A Whole New World - The Road to Broadway and Beyond by Michael Lassell

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving as a spectacular backstage pass into the creative making of Disney’s broadway hit, Aladdin: A Whole New World - The Road to Broadway and Beyond charts the painstaking journey begun in 2009 that would magically bring the production to New York’s New Amsterdam Theatre in 2014.  Inviting readers and theatre enthusiasts alike into the many layers that makes a show as extravagant as Aladdin come alive nightly, creative heads from Scenic Designer Bob Crowley and Costume Designer Gregg Barnes to Lighting Designer Natasha Katz, Illusion Designer Jim Steinmeyer and many others, provide insightful takeaways into their inspirations, unique technical challenges and evolving changes presented with ample production sketches and digital renderings of their work prominently displayed.  Cutting into the show’s memorable musical tunes, Lassell’s glitzy text covers the difficult yet, creatively rewarding process involving reimagining beloved songs from the film, reintroducing originally discarded selections and conjuring entirely new cuts for the stage.  Original film composer Alan Menken, Lyricist Tim Rice,  Book helmer Chad Beguelin and Director/Choreographer Casey Nicholaw all offer their own unique experiences in getting the music just right while, tirelessly applauding the timeless work of the late Howard Ashman.  Climbing aboard a magic carpet ride through the show’s rigorous casting process, its experimental Seattle and Toronto showcases before its thrilling Broadway debut plus, its countless international productions in such countries as London, Japan and Australia, Aladdin: A Whole New World - The Road to Broadway and Beyond is a wish come true for stage junkies.  Befit with a shimmering purple cover and gold sparkling paper trim, Disney’s detailed account of their animated smash turned glamorous theatrical effort is a true diamond in the rough for those swayed by the marvel of the stage.

    Available now from Disney Editions, Aladdin: A Whole New World - The Road to Broadway and Beyond can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book by The Topps Company & Lucasfilm Ltd. Book Review

    Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book by The Topps Company & Lucasfilm Ltd.

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Arriving just in time to celebrate the home video release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the original franchise starter’s 40th anniversary, Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book marks the first-ever collection of its kind, repurposing many of the popular stickers that sent anxious fans on the hunt to collecting them all several decades ago.  Packed with over 250 stickers featuring the beloved characters of the original trilogy and memorable scenes from each film, Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book also includes several pages of alphabets with images encased in them for young fans to create their own intergalactic phrases.  Ensuring maximum nostalgia for first generationers, five reversible pullout pages displaying mock backgrounds for readers to create their own sticker collage are presented, with their flip sides donning the completed puzzle posters best remembered from the original card series lines.  Rounding out with 18 bonus stickers displaying many of the saga’s newest characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens including, Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren, Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book is tailor-made for young ones yearning to decorate their walls or school binders with the heroes and villains of the galaxy while, elder diehard fans of the Force will be equally appreciative for the trip down memory lane.

    Available now from Abrams, Star Wars Topps Classic Sticker Book can be purchased via AbramsBooks.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray & Cole Horton Book Review

    Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia by Tricia Barr, Adam Bray & Cole Horton

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    An impressive display of every artifact and event taken place in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia leaves no stone left unturned in its 200 pages that catalogs and descriptively details the map and geography of the series’ many planets, the vast array of creatures inhabiting its aquatic and dry lands plus, an extraordinary breakdown of the franchise’s extensive timeline.  Presented with striking visuals across every glossy page, major and minor examples of Star Wars’ culture exploring the unique attires, armor, music and food consumed gets notice while, every character from marquee players like Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and Han Solo are prominently spotlighted with more overlooked creations from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels also rightly earning their place.  The combined efforts of Barr, Bray and Horton do sensational work giving readers deeper looks into the leisurely activities such as, gambling games and holochess that our favorite characters indulge in with equally intriguing looks at the currency from Republic credits to Wupiupi coins that they deal in.  Meanwhile, a personal favorite section of the pictorial tome tours the technological tools that populate the series ranging from its many different droids and cyborgs to comlinks, bio-equipment such as Luke Skywalker’s mechanical hand and of course, the multitude of weapons from blasters, lightsabers and mammoth destructors like the Death Star that the forces of good and evil do battle with.  Befit with a foreword by Industrial Light & Magic’s Senior Creative Director Dennis Muren, Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia is an intergalactically fun and flashy overview of everything that makes the series a sight for the ages and essential for all fans’ coffee tables.

    Available April 4th from DK Publishing, Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Disney Parks Presents Pirates of the Caribbean by George Bruns & Xavier Atencio Book Review

    Disney Parks Presents Pirates of the Caribbean by George Bruns & Xavier Atencio

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the ghoulish storybook interpretation of The Haunted Mansion, Disney Parks Presents Pirates of the Caribbean submerges readers into the boisterous depths of the famed attraction where dead men tell no tales.  Led by lyrics to the beloved song “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)” by Disney legends George Bruns and Xavier Atencio, Mike Wall’s stunning new illustrations capture the adventure and magical anarchy of those treasure-hunting scoundrels, reformatting the thrills of the ride for a new medium with no line waiting required.  Similar to its previous entry in the Disney Parks Presents series, a bonus CD containing the famed track is also included for young deckhands to play as they read along.  Yet another imaginative way to relive Disney’s one-of-a-kind park experiences with hopes of many more volumes to follow based on other popular attractions, Disney Parks Presents Pirates of the Caribbean marks the spot on bookshelves where riches of enjoyment can be dug up.

    Available April 11th from Disney Press, Disney Parks Presents Pirates of the Caribbean 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.

  • Mike's Bookshelf Spotlight: Disney's Moana Book Reviews

    With Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 56th feature continuing to make a splash in cinemas, we set sail on a series of Moana based books well worth exploring ahead of its home video release.

    The Story of Moana: A Tale of Courage and Adventure by Kari Sutherland

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Adapting the animated film with equal heart, The Story of Moana: A Tale of Courage and Adventure provides young readers with a wonderfully constructed version of the film and the Pacific Island folktales that inspired it.  Spanning 300 pages and gorgeous cover art, this hardback edition, accompanied with bonus tattoos familiar to those seen on the brave Maui, will make Moana’s adventures a treasured source of reading for those in love with its feature.

    Available now from Disney Press, The Story of Moana: A Tale of Courage and Adventure can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

    Art of Coloring Moana: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Perfect for young artists and artists young at heart, Art of Coloring Moana: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity is tailor-made with art of your favorite characters from the film, tribal patterns, tattoo designs and other beautiful imagery based on the Pacific Island setting awaiting their black-and-white pages to be brought to life.  Both for fun and relaxation, countless pages of creativity awaits those hungry to add their personal touch of color to them.

    Available now from Disney Editions, Art of Coloring Moana: 100 Images to Inspire Creativity can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

    Read-Along Storybook and CD: Moana by Bill Scollon

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Condensing the film version for ages 3-6, this charming storybook interpretation of Moana recalls the spirited teenager who along with demigod Maui dares to trek the ocean to restore the heart of Te Fiti.  Joined by a CD counterpart narrated by Rena Owen and featuring thrilling sound effects, this perfect nighttime read and its lovely illustrations will easily capture the imaginations of young dreamers.

    Available now from Disney Press, Read-Along Storybook and CD: Moana can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

    Moana and the Ocean by Heather Knowles

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Told from the perspective of the sea who has watched over the titular character since birth, Moana and the Ocean is a lovely picture book that celebrates Moana’s enduring spirit and courageousness.  Featuring gorgeous illustrations by Annette Marnat, this simplistic storybook, although brief on text, is an essential addition for its inspiring artwork alone that seamlessly captures the color palettes of the film’s picturesque environment.

    Available now from Disney Press, Moana and the Ocean can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Josh Kushins Book Review

    The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Josh Kushins

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Dominating the worldwide box-office, the first sensational spinoff to George Lucas’s original films chronicles its full artistic splendor in Josh Kushins’ The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  Featuring forewords by the film’s Co-Production Designers Doug Chiag & Neil Lamont and Director Gareth Edwards, this visually arresting volume celebrates many of the six thousand pieces of concept art, both unused and brought to life on the big-screen, developed for the prequel, spotlighting the production’s blue sky explorations for its many environments, droid and ship designs, costume choices and weaponry.  Committed to recapturing the lived-in appearance of A New Hope brilliantly realized by legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie while injecting a flavor all its own, the inspirational art found within its 200+ pages is nothing short of astonishing and beautifully captures the collaborative efforts of Lucasfilm’s arsenal of artists.  Appreciating the ever-changing development of character appearances and climactic sequences, the richness found in matte paintings, concept boards and digital mockups will surely inspire a new generation of artists while, longtime Force wielders will find themselves further entranced by the stunning artistry brought forth in Edwards’ rebellious adventure that set the events of the beloved 1977 feature into motion.

    Available now from Abrams, The Art of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story can be purchased via AbramsBooks.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film by Mel Brooks & Rebecca Keegan Book Review

    Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film by Mel Brooks & Rebecca Keegan

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Puttin’ on the ritz for over forty hilarious year, Mel Brooks’ love letter to the Universal monster movies of yesteryear lives on through its well-documented creation in Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film.  Serving as its scripted shot caller, Brooks warmly recalls his childhood experiences watching the original Frankenstein and being equally terrified by Karloff’s performance and transfixed by James Whale’s gothic direction.  From the project’s earliest origins during the making of Blazing Saddles, Brooks discusses the writing process with Co-Writer and Star Gene Wilder before 20th Century Fox’s interest in the property ushered it before cameras.  Through Brooks’ own memories and interviews, both new and vintage, with the film’s talented cast and crew, Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film covers in-depth the timeless collaboration between Brooks and Wilder, the selection of the film’s many kooky characters, the bittersweet completion of filming and its well-executed marketing campaign.  Featuring passages from the screenplay, rare behind-the-scenes photos and an adoring foreword by Writer/Director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film wonderfully encapsulates the significance and comedic genius of Brooks’ greatest effort while, also serving as an affectionate tribute to the late and eternally talented Gene Wilder.

    Available now from Black Dog & Leventhal Publishing, Young Frankenstein: The Story of the Making of the Film can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai by Kevin & Susan Neary and Vanessa Hunt Book Review

    Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai by Kevin & Susan Neary and Vanessa Hunt

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Highlighting six magical decades and counting of Disney Park experiences, Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai showcases the evolution of Disney’s domestic and international resorts through the dazzling and ever-changing art of cartography.  Providing brief introductions on each section, Kevin and Susan Neary recall the humble beginnings of Disneyland and Walt’s own attention to detail on its map development in selling the concept to investors.  Although understandably limited on writing with its central focus on visual aids, the maps, curated by Vanessa Hunt, cover early site plans, aerial views and finished brochure ads for Walt’s original park and its impressive growth leading up to its maker’s death in 1966.  As years passed and more developments were made including, the incredible Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and parks in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong, the gorgeously painted guides to their kingdoms are collected for guests to better appreciate their craftsmanship and each park’s evolving history.  Leading up to Disney’s California Adventure relaunch in 2012 and the grand opening of Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, this nostalgic journey through the years displayed through the beloved keepsake of all park guests beautifully highlights the overdue appreciation to the beauty of Disney’s maps.  Charmingly presented with a front cover that opens up like the gates to Sleeping Beauty Castle and pages bursting with vibrant colors, Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai is the perfect solution for fans anxiously awaiting their next Disney resort adventure.

    Available October 18th from Disney Editions, Maps of the Disney Parks: Charting 60 Years from California to Shanghai can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Art of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Leah Gallo Book Review

    The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Leah Gallo

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Documenting the creation of eccentric filmmaker Tim Burton’s (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Frankenweenie) latest opus, The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children details the discovery and acquisition of Ransom Riggs’ bestselling novel and the author’s joyous approval of Burton attaching himself to the property.  Deconstructing Riggs’ coming of age tale and aligning it even more so with Burton’s visual sensibilities, Screenwriter Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass) discusses her approaches to remain faithful to the source material while, ensuring an effective adaptation keeping within its spirit.  From the casting of his Dark Shadows collaborator Eva Green in the titular role alongside up and comers including, Asa Butterfield (Hugo) and Ella Purnell (Maleficent), Burton’s newest feature centered on uniquely gifted outsiders adds Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight), Judi Dench (Skyfall), Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) and Terence Stamp (Big Eyes) to the time-looping festivities.  Exploring every conceivable stage of its development from casting, location scouting, set building, costume & makeup, the intensive filming schedule and post-production, Gallo’s detailed account leaves no stone left unturned with interviews from key participants both in front and behind the camera while, the behind-the-scenes passport is also beautifully furnished with glossy onset photographs, Burton’s personal production sketches and gorgeous concept art.  

    Further complimented by a warm introduction by the director and foreword by Ransom Riggs, The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children covers the wide gamut of Burton’s insistence on using practical effects and melding them with today’s VFX capabilities.  In addition, as seen in the film, Burton’s lifelong love for stop-motion animation and Ray Harryhausen continues as the all-encompassing companion explores the technical approaches in bringing reanimated creations and battling skeletons to fruition.  Notably absent for only the second time in Burton’s career is Composer Danny Elfman whose obligations to Alice Through the Looking Glass withheld him from joining the production.  Welcoming the talented duo of fellow Burton collaborator Michael Higham (Corpse Bride) and Matthew Margeson (Kingsman: The Secret Service) to the shoot, Gallo explores their unique musical approaches to the film and their initial fear in trying to live up to Burton and Elfman’s previous works.  An exceptional counterpart to Burton’s visually arresting and emotionally adventurous feature, The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children stands as one of the more detailed making-of accounts for the Beetlejuice maker in recent years.

    Available now from Quirk Books, The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series by Russell Merritt & J.B. Kaufman Book Review

    Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series by Russell Merritt & J.B. Kaufman

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Celebrating the tenth anniversary of its original publication, Russell Merritt and J.B. Kaufman’s Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series returns in a newly revised and updated edition.  Combining their efforts, esteemed Disney historians Merritt and Kaufman honor the innovative and artistically groundbreaking series of short subjects that advanced the techniques and storytelling traits that would prove invaluable in feature length works such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Dumbo.  Originally conceived as music based one-reelers, Walt Disney’s followup series to his popular Mickey Mouse shorts would ultimately push the boundaries of his artists and what could be made possible in animation using cutting-edge technology.  Debuting in 1929 with the mesmerizingly eerie The Skeleton Dance, the Silly Symphonies became a constant testing ground for new advancements and abstract tales that relied minimally on reoccurring characters and insistently on splendor, dramatics and forward thinking character animation.  Embracing Technicolor photography, the spectacle of Disney’s Symphonies would continue to impress audiences and critics for their decade run, with higher society praising their artistic richness with endless nominations and Academy Awards for their deserved efforts.

    Improving where their phenomenal first printing left off, Merritt and Kaufman’s voracious research through the Disney Archives have built upon the proper credits and rarely known details into the making of all of the short features.  Detailing the Symphonies distribution history from Columbia and United Artists to eventually RKO Radio Pictures, the animation loving duo expertly cover the constant changes, stylistic formulas and emerging talent that brought their wide range of skills to a series so tonally and aesthetically different than the Mickey Mouse shorts.  Including brand new stills, pencil sketches and clean up animation examples, the stunning visuals only reinforce the scholarly research put forth by both Merritt and Kaufman.  Presenting a full filmography of the shorts assembled in production order, all information of interest including, credits, negative costs, opening dates and photos accompany each in exquisite detail.  Far more accessible than ever, Disney’s Silly Symphonies are some of animation history’s treasured gems that unfortunately find themselves unknown by younger audiences or too commonly undervalued as mere predecessors to Disney’s feature length classics.  Much more than the building blocks to Disney’s golden age films, this newly revised offering of Merritt and Kaufman’s Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series serves as a prized addition to any Disney historians library and the perfect gateway to uninitiated audiences unaware of the visual magic sandwiched between Mickey Mouse’s comic exploits and Snow White’s groundbreaking debut.

    Available September 27th from Disney Editions, Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Art of Minnie Mouse Book Review

    The Art of Minnie Mouse

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Celebrating Mickey’s lovable leading lady, The Art of Minnie Mouse spotlights the beloved impact of Disney’s cute and independently-minded character from her debut in 1928 to the present as generations, young and old, continue to cherish her charm and sunny optimism.  Divided into three distinct sections, Minnie’s animated filmography credits and their respective release dates have been painstakingly collected along with descriptive write-ups on her career milestones from her first appearance in the silent short Plane Crazy to her first full conversation with Mickey in 1929’s Mickey’s Choo-Choo are appropriately covered.  In addition, Minnie’s cameo role, alongside other famed Disney characters, in 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit and her crowd pleasing appearances at Disney Parks in costumed and balloon float forms are touched upon with her more recent spotting in the Academy Award nominated short Get a Horse! bringing readers right up to today’s speed.  Finally, Disney’s talented artists, using various mediums, honor the polka-dot donning mouse with their own uniquely styled interpretations with praiseful quotes from the likes of Fashion Designer Marc Jacobs, Television Host Sharon Osbourne, Singer Ariana Grande, Media Personality Kim Kardashian and countless others.  Breezy with greater emphasis on its art gallery, The Art of Minnie Mouse may not be as comprehensive or bursting with revelatory history as other Art of volumes but, its inclusion of the animated star’s complete filmography and career milestones in forms outside of film makes it a welcome, if not imperfect, inclusion for Disney book lovers.  Furthermore, stills of vintage movie posters, Mickey Mouse Magazine covers and story script pages from some of the studio’s most memorable shorts subjects nicely make up for its lack of depth.

    Available September 27th from Disney Editions, The Art of Minnie Mouse can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember by Steven Clark & Rebecca Cline Book Review

    The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember by Steven Clark & Rebecca Cline

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning to 1923 and the formation of Walt and Roy’s Disney Brothers Studio, The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember by Steven Clark and Rebecca Cline guides readers through the remarkable history and evolution of the magic factory that has dazzled audiences since opening its gates seventy-five years ago.  After years of hard work and intense struggle, Walt Disney and his talented artists saw the fruits of their labor pay off with the runaway success of their Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies short subjects as well as worldwide acclaim for the first full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  With the heavily employed studio bursting at the seams, relocation was not only necessary but, essential to contain the endlessly imaginative desires of its leader and all future avenues of creative expansion.  Trekking to a vast and desolate lot space in nearby Burbank, California, Disney would realize his spacious vision in 1940 with the completion of his studio plant containing an animation building with individual housing for the invaluable ink and paint, layout and background departments plus, several soundstages, orchestral recording spaces and much more.  Exploring well-documented events in Disney history including, the arrival of World War II and the animation labor strike of 1941, Clark and Cline’s viewpoint of how studio operations were specifically affected with insight from those who were there offers refreshingly new perspective into such gloomier days.  Through the resounding success of Disney’s Cinderella and their commitment to live-action entertainment with such hits as Mary Poppins and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the historic yearbook of sorts provides readers with incredible behind-the-scenes photography of said productions and details the technical dilemmas capturing the underwater sequences of the Verne adaptation and dimensional trickery utilized by the studio to bring 1959’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People to life.

    Appreciatively exploring the much forgotten but no less, important television productions of classic series including, Zorro and Davy Crockett and, their makings on the beloved backlot, The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember never misses a beat in capturing milestone achievements conducted on the tremendous space to introducing unbeknownst readers to lesser known facts such as Disney’s perfective insistence to incorporate original music for the weekly Zorro, a costly and unprecedented measure in 50s TV making.  From Disneyland’s virtual making and building of attractions, riverboats, models and monorails within the confines of its working studio space, vintage photography of Walt seen with newly painted hippos for Adventureland’s Jungle Cruise and overseeing schematics for the Sailing Ship Columbia that would eventually coast the Rivers of America captures the embodiment of the master dreamer in his element.  Leading up to Walt and Roy’s passings and the evolution of the studio through shakier times, the onsite productions of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Pete’s Dragon and the ahead of its time Tron are given notices before an animation renaissance and new leadership regime would redeem Disney as the world’s leader in family entertainment.  Beautifully showcasing the latest advancements and expansions to the studio through their acquisitions of ABC, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel and Lucasfilm, Clark and Cline’s The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember gives Disney lovers a fascinating guided tour through the rich history of the magical moments and immeasurable productions brought to life on the ever-changing lands that Walt built.

    Available now from Disney Editions, The Walt Disney Studios: A Lot to Remember can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters - Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections by Britt Salvesen and Jim Shedden with Paul Koudounaris, Keith McDonald and Roger Clark Book Review

    Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters - Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections by Britt Salvesen and Jim Shedden with Paul Koudounaris, Keith McDonald and Roger Clark

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving as a glorified companion piece to the exciting exhibits debuting at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Minneapolis Museum of Art centered on the work and influences of Guillermo del Toro, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters - Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections delves into the fantastical passions of del Toro, guiding readers through his massive Bleak House that holds his vast collection of artifacts, art pieces, books, pop culture collectibles and movie props.  Littered with several essays and an exclusive interview with the visionary director on his moviemaking techniques, influences and obsessive collecting habits, the scholarly compositions cover a multitude of subjects including, the perception of monsters throughout history as well as the evolution of freak shows and fictional, misunderstood characters in latter-day centuries.  Akin to its exhibits, the text is broken into several sections ranging from innocence and childhood to magic, alchemy, and the occult, where select passages from del Toro’s personal notebooks are included alongside personally selected pieces of art that speak directly to the artist’s unique, wide-ranging sensibilities.

    Presenting gorgeous photographs inside Bleak House that showcase del Toro’s many different, genre associated libraries, the jaw-droppingly gorgeous and gigantic reproduction of the Frankenstein monster’s head that towers over the house’s hall entrance and his life-size sculptures of noted authors H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, the visual layout of this entryway into del Toro’s mad imagination is second to none.  Serving as an invaluable introduction to countless other artists and works that have shaped del Toro’s creativity, the imagery filled volume concludes with an appreciative reference guide of literature, visual art and cinema that surges through the writer/director’s works.  A true treasure trove of unique sights and overwhelming inspiration, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters - Inside His Films, Notebooks, and Collections is a thematic necessity for appreciators of one of cinema’s most unique souls.

    Available now from Insight Editions, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters - Inside His Films, Notebooks and Collections can be purchased via 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.

  • Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil - The Creation, The Inspiration, The Fascination by Jen Darcy Book Review

    Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil - The Creation, The Inspiration, The Fascination by Jen Darcy

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Tracing an illustrious eight decades of animated classics, Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil - The Creation, The Inspiration, The Fascination by Jen Darcy explores the wicked yet, charismatic antagonists of Walt Disney Animation and Pixar Animation Studios’ beloved masterworks.  Divided into 11 uniquely categorized chapters, Darcy’s celebration of all things evil provides informative blurbs on Disney legends such as the Evil Queen, Captain Hook, Ursula and Shere Khan to modern day miscreants including, Dr. Facilier, Yokai, Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear and Syndrome.  In addition to excellent photographs, sketches and storyboards, each character arrives with informative facts regarding their film’s release date, voice talent and assigned animators that brought them to life.  Extending beyond the reach of the silver screen, Darcy takes several detours to examine the villains who populate the many Disney Parks around the world and their respective attractions plus, samplings of some Disney evildoers’ most foreboding lairs and their stylish means of transportation.  

    While heroes’ strengths are commonly determined by the value of their dark hearted opposites, Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil - The Creation, The Inspiration, The Fascination by Jen Darcy is a rewarding catalog of pop culture’s most revered baddies that have brought conflict to the poor unfortunate souls of Disney’s finest features.  Colorfully laid out and breezily written, Darcy’s encyclopedia of antagonists covers the merely misunderstood and those rotten to the core with such glowing admiration that all readers won’t help but find the lighthearted fun in being a little bad through these timeless titans.

    Available now from Disney Editions, Disney Villains: Delightfully Evil - The Creation, The Inspiration, The Fascination can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars ABC-3PO: Galactic Basic Edition by Calliope Glass & Caitlin Kennedy Book Review

    Star Wars ABC-3PO: Galactic Basic Edition by Calliope Glass & Caitlin Kennedy

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Perfect for young Padawans, Star Wars ABC-3PO: Galactic Basic Edition guides readers through their alphabets in this delightfully charming storybook, fluent in the ways of the Force.  Containing adorable pre-school centered illustrations by the talented Katie Cook (My Little Pony), each page featuring Star Wars’ beloved characters from Ackbar and Boba Fett to Yoda and Zeb of Star Wars Rebels contains clever rhymes that will make new readers giggle along as they become acquainted with the many allies and foes from a galaxy far, far away.  A colorful resource for younger tikes taking their first steps into reading, Star Wars ABC-3PO: Galactic Basic Edition will make the adventure fun and educational while, Cook’s vibrant interpretations of fan-favorite characters serve as the perfect eye candy in this sure to be enjoyed A-B-C crash course.

    Available now from Disney/Lucasfilm PressStar Wars ABC-3PO: Galactic Basic Edition can be purchased via Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Three Little Words by Amy Novesky Book Review

    Three Little Words by Amy Novesky

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Inspired by Disney-Pixar’s upcoming Finding Dory, award-winning author Amy Novesky’s Three Little Words submerges young readers into Dory’s aquatic world of wonder where lessons of perseverance and optimism are taught to the cheery rhymes of the blue tang’s favorite motto.  Beautifully illustrated by the talented Grace Lee, Three Little Words is a charmingly simplistic read that channels the emotions of Pixar’s under the sea features while dazzling readers with its gorgeous watercolor based visuals.  Also introducing some of Dory’s newest friends from her adventurous journey, Three Little Words is a delightful prelude to her big screen return this summer that will undoubtedly have Pixar enthusiasts, young and mature, swimming back to this charming storybook time and time again.

    Available now from Disney Press, Three Little Words can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two by Gary Gerani Book Review

    Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two by Gary Gerani

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Picking up where George Lucas’ original sci-fi adventure left off, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two continues the pocket-sized thrills set forth by the original 1977 feature.  Once again introduced and guided by original series editor Gary Gerani, the second installment traces the full three series run of its 352 collectible cards and 30 large-sized photocards in beautiful, glossy detail with four bonus cards included for readers.  

    As risky and ambitious as the sequel’s making, Topps Company intended to up their ante on its followup series to the wildly popular Star Wars line.  With many of the film’s elements shrouded in expected secrecy, Topps’ limitations to deliver several new series of cards that exceeded fan expectation was surely tested.  Confident in their abilities, Topps increased their card count for the new line to a massive 132 cards per series, debuting with picture cards of its main cast featuring stats for each character on their reverse side.  In addition, the “Story Digest” inclusions tell Empire’s narrative through stunning still photographs from the film.  With various stickers (featuring incomplete letters of the alphabet) included in each line, series two kicks off with the “Starcraft” group, spotlighting the film’s many unique spaceships.  Continuing to showcase more still photography from the anticipated sequel, Star Quizzes were included on the backside of many cards with a Star Wars related trivia question.  As photographs ran the risk of redundancy, behind-the-scenes stills were included as a refreshing change of pace with interesting movie facts on their flip side.  Making stylistic color changes for their third and final series, its card count was trimmed down to 88 to avoid continued risk of covering similar territories.  Commissioned by Lucasfilm, comic style character renderings of the main cast gave the final installment a breath of fresh air while, “Star Quotes” cards and “Star Paintings” featuring incredible concept art by Ralph McQuarrie also added a welcome mix.  Lastly, one final hurrah for The Empire Strikes Back line came in a series of 30 photocards, excellently reproduced in the final pages of this massive 500+ page volume.

    Chronicling what is arguably the most beloved installment of Lucas’ saga, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two surpasses its predecessor in not only size but, also detail and variety.  Furthermore, Gerani’s invaluable insight into the creative process of these nostalgic goodies continues to enhance fans’ appreciation of the Force during a time when the fate of the Resistance was very much in question.  As the filmmakers strived to capture lightning twice, the creative artists at Topps struggled equally to give fans something worthy of their previous achievements.  With the Force on both their respective sides, The Empire Strikes Back would become a universal hit while, the fruit of Topps' labor would be met with equal praise.  Excellently collected in their entirety, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two shifts into hyperspace and sends readers on a fun, youthful journey back to 1980.

    Available April 19th from Abrams ComicArts, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two can be purchased via Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Keep Watching the Skies!: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties - The 21st Century Edition by Bill Warren Book Review

    Keep Watching the Skies!: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties - The 21st Century Edition by Bill Warren

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Exhaustively researched, Bill Warren’s Keep Watching the Skies!: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties - The 21st Century Edition explores the cinematic treasures and lovable duds featuring saucer men from mars, extraterrestrial invasions and terrorizing monsters from the beloved 1950s with overflow into the early 1960s.  Boasting over 200 photographs, films are alphabetically organized with their synopses, cast and crew credentials and of course, Warren’s invaluable insight.  Forwarded by Writer Howard Waldrop, this revered work is a truly out of this world resource.

    Originally released in 1982 with its second volume following in 1986, Warren’s 2009 expanded edition revisits each individual entry with revisions as well new entries also included.  As Warren jokingly admits that while new 1950s sci-fi features haven’t been made, his unbounded passion has discovered more to say about these space age favorites and readers are all the better for it.  With new information obtained through the most current interviews with many notable talents, Warren’s entries shed even more background into so many of the book’s featured productions.  Newly organized in alphabetical arrangement kicking off with a triple serving of Abbott and Costello films, Keep Watching the Skies! goes through the gamut of universally loved features like The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The War of the Worlds and their impressionable impact on the genre while, Warren’s criticisms, which may not always gel with sci-fi enthusiasts’ own opinions, of many B-grade features and other more appreciated favorites unquestionably make for deeply insightful reading.  Perhaps even more interesting than fawning over established classics of the genre, Warren’s deconstruction of what works and doesn’t in each production is never pretentious and always fascinating.  As definitive and engaging as any work of its kind, Bill Warren’s Keep Watching the Skies!: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties - The 21st Century Edition takes readers to infinity and beyond from schlock to the A-list with a scholarly stance that never clouds Warren’s sheer enthusiasm and sense of youthful love for science fiction cinema.  

    Long available in printed form and only recently available via inexpensive digital methods, Warren’s brick-like volume may be pricey but is the investment of a lifetime.  A rewarding achievement that dedicated fans, many of whom carved a career in showbiz including, John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Joe Dante (Innerspace) and Leonard Maltin, swear by, Bill Warren’s unforgettable exploration of 1950s sci-fi informs the reader with unparalleled information and most magically, transports likeminded fans to a time away from the cynical future of now but back to a past of promise, hope and nostalgia.  

    Available now from McFarland, Keep Watching the Skies!: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties - The 21st Century Edition can be purchased via McFarlandPub.com, their respective order line (800-253-2187), Amazon.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.

  • Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit by Garry Apgar Book Review

    Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit by Garry Apgar

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the first fully realized biography of Walt Disney’s greatest creation, Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit recalls Disney and Ub Iwerks’ development of the spunky mouse to his worldwide impact through his many cinematic adventures.  With a legacy spanning nearly 90 years, Mickey Mouse’s influence on the culture, his place in the annals of art history and of course, his equally iconic and sometimes controversial role as an American icon are exhaustively covered in Author Garry Apgar’s detailed study.

    Unlike any cartoon character before or since, Mickey Mouse’s meteoric rise to prominence cannot be overemphasized.  Tracing Walt Disney’s earliest years in the midwest to his popular character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit being swindled away, Apgar’s biographical overview of Disney’s famed mouse showcases his creator’s desperation on a long train ride home from New York to deliver a new, unique creation that would lead to the salvation of his studio.  Separating fact from fiction, Apgar goes to great lengths to set the record straight regarding Mickey’s origins that range from Walt, during truly desperate days as a struggling artist, feeding a friendly mouse that supposedly planted the germ of his eventual idea to the routinely retold, although factually inaccurate, tale of a chance encounter with child actor Mickey Rooney influencing Disney’s decision to name his character after the future Pete’s Dragon star.  As the pieces come together in Mickey’s creation, Apgar traces the many phases of his enduring career from his popular headlining appearances in the studio’s short subjects to his dazzling turn in 1940’s Fantasia.  With the arrival of The Great Depression and World War II, Mickey blossomed into an image of bravery for the struggling country before transitioning into the sunny mascot of Disneyland.  While Mickey’s optimism and good-natured personality were viewed as a controversial image during the difficult days of Vietnam and an extension of forceful American propaganda, Disney’s alter ego endured rising to the ranks as a timeless creation where modern artists such as Andy Warhol and the power of nostalgia cemented his deserved place in the world and as a beacon of American iconography.  

    Extensively researched and containing countless rarely seen stills, Garry Apgar’s Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit is a scholarly analysis of Walt Disney’s enduring creation that continues to delight audiences of all ages.  Never shying away from the outcries of Mickey’s harshest critics, Apgar’s essential volume is exquisitely balanced with insight from a multitude of sources that allows readers to fully absorb all facets that make Mickey the valued image he has become.

    Available now from The Walt Disney Family Foundation Press, Mickey Mouse: Emblem of the American Spirit can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Phil Szostak Book Review

    The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Phil Szostak

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the purchase of Lucasfilm by the Walt Disney Company in the fall of 2012, the power of the Force was reignited by fans worldwide at the prospect of new adventures carrying on George Lucas’ sci-fi legacy.  With famed producer Kathleen Kennedy (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park) steering Star Wars’ future, Director J.J. Abrams (Super 8, Star Trek) was selected to bring viewers back to a galaxy from far, far away.  Aided by the industries most creatively talented artists, Phil Szostak’s The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens pulls back the curtain on the challenging three year journey of development that took place to realize the many new worlds, characters, costumes and set pieces designed for the long anticipated Episode VII.

    Accompanied by a foreword from the film’s Co-Production Designer Rick Carter (Forrest Gump, Avatar), The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens unsurprisingly focuses on the design aspects of the film beginning with stunning inspirational art establishing early looks for the new characters and imaginative possibilities for new planets.  As the book progresses with production nearing, more refined design work is showcased on the evolving costume choices for the stormtroopers and our heroes while, several unique considerations for the appearance of Jedi killer Kylo Ren is displayed.  While Szostak’s behind-the-scenes hardback is relatively slim on text, interesting insight is revealed as Rey and Finn, the young heroes of the film, were originally named Kira and Sam.  In addition, artwork by Concept Artist Iain McCaig (the Star Wars prequels, Guardians of the Galaxy) suggests that the ghost of Anakin Skywalker was at one time considered for inclusion in the film.  As anticipated as the latest film is and with several episodic sequels and spinoffs currently being prepped, The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens may not be the definitive making-of account for the franchises rebirth but, still provides readers and fellow artists with an incredible look into the awe-inspiring artistry that has made the film an immediate success with viewers.

    Available now from Abrams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens can be purchased via AbramsBooks.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Art of Krampus by Michael Mallory Book Review

    The Art of Krampus by Michael Mallory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Inspired by the genre blending fantasies of Amblin Entertainment, Michael Mallory’s The Art of Krampus sends readers down the developmental chimney of this year’s hilariously terrifying Christmas-themed opus.  From the macabre imagination of Michael Dougherty (Trick ‘r Treat), Krampus centers on a midwestern family overwhelmed with the holiday season and the arrival of their tedious visiting family members.  When young Max (Emjay Anthony, Chef) loses his faith in the Christmas spirit, the shadowy demon Krampus, joined by his evil minions, crashes his household to unleash their own frightening season’s greetings.  Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine), David Koechner (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), Allison Tolman (Fargo) and Conchata Ferrell (Edward Scissorhands) comprise the ensemble cast.  

    An admitted throwback to the 80s efforts Dougherty was raised on, The Art of Krampus explores the early mythological origins of its titular character to the popular modern greeting cards bearing his likeness that sparked the film’s inspiration.  Successfully bringing his love for the Halloween season to fruition, Dougherty and his team vowed to conjure the dark fairy tale aspects of Christmas for a unique experience.  Unlike most live-action films, extensive pre-visualization and storyboards were conducted to firmly establish the film’s tone ahead of filming.  Beautiful concept paintings, character sketches and detailed costume depictions are showcased alongside insight into the film’s uses of puppetry, CG animation and practical makeup effects accomplished by New Zealand’s Weta Workshop (The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong).  With a foreword by Dougherty, The Art of Krampus is the perfect combination of textual substance and behind-the-scenes visual exploration, leaving fans (naughty and nice alike) with an exceptional post-holiday treat into the film’s making.

    Available now from Insight Editions, The Art of Krampus can be purchased via InsightEditions.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Olaf's Night Before Christmas by Jessica Julius Book Review

    Olaf’s Night Before Christmas by Jessica Julius

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Just in time for the holiday season, Olaf, the warm-hearted snowman of Disney’s Frozen, charms readers with his own rendition of the favored Christmas Eve bedtime tale.  Following its originators simplistic setups melded with Olaf’s own adorable curiosity, Olaf’s Night Before Christmas traces the snowman’s investigation of a nighttime clatter leading him to the discovery of jolly St. Nick.  Through laughter, warm hugs and beautiful illustrations by Olga T. Mosqueda, Olaf’s Night Before Christmas reinterprets this timeless story in a new heartfelt light with Anna and Elsa’s lovable friend guiding the way to the merriest day of all.  Accompanied by a CD featuring narration by Olaf himself, Olaf’s Night Before Christmas will continue to make the magical retelling of this poem all the more enjoyable for young fans of Disney’s popular fairy tale.

    Available now from Disney Press, Olaf’s Night Before Christmas can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Star Wars: Moving Target - A Princess Leia Adventure by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry Book Review

    Star Wars: Moving Target - A Princess Leia Adventure by Cecil Castellucci and Jason Fry

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set between the events of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, this newly conceived adventure centers on freedom fighter Princess Leia as she leads a rebel crew on a risky decoy mission to combat the ruthless Galactic Empire.  With the Empire actively building their second Death Star, Leia initiates Operation Yellow Moon to attract Imperial attention in order for the Alliance to gain defensive momentum in the war.  Aided by ace pilot Nien Nunb, communications specialist Kidi Aleri, tech specialist Antrot and veteran resistance fighter Major Lokmarcha, Leia travels aboard the Mellcrawler to distant planets such as Basteel and Sesid, encountering supporters of their cause and familiar threats.  Still reeling from the carbonite-freezing and capture of Han Solo, Star Wars: Moving Target expands on Leia’s determined personality and her commitment to the Alliance against oftentimes impossible odds.  Hunted by the novels evil female antagonist Captain Khone and her surge of stormtroopers, Leia’s mission comes with great sacrifice and nonstop action.  Complimented by illustrations by Phil Noto and intriguing links to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Castellucci and Fry’s Leia based saga excellently delivers the excitement of the films’ original trilogy while, solidifying the Alderaanian as one of science-fictions strongest female characters.

    Available now from Disney-Lucasfilm Press, Star Wars: Moving Target - A Princess Leia Adventure can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Tim Burton Encyclopedia by Samuel J. Umland Book Review

    The Tim Burton Encyclopedia by Samuel J. Umland 

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Chronicling his nearly 35 year career and impact on pop culture through his uniquely dark and whimsical tales, The Tim Burton Encyclopedia by Samuel J. Umland provides readers and film enthusiasts of Burton’s colorful career a detailed overview of the artist, his many works and frequent collaborators.  Organized alphabetically, The Tim Burton Encyclopedia spares insight into the relevance of CalArts’ A113 homeroom class, Burton’s earliest and seldom seen projects including, Hansen and Gretel (1982) and Aladdin and His Magical Lamp (1986).  In addition, Umland delves into the backgrounds and impact of Burton influences such as Dr. Seuss, Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) and Roald Dahl while, surprisingly lacking a formal section for stop-motion master Ray Harryhausen.  Covering each of Burton’s film projects in great detail, this reference guide also shines light on Burton’s many collaborators dating back to former Disney executive Richard Laurence Berger who green-lit production of Burton’s live-action short Frankenweenie (1984) to more commonly associated artists such as Johnny Depp (Edward Scissorhands, Dark Shadows) and Composer Danny Elfman (responsible for musical contributions to all of Burton’s films minus 1994’s Ed Wood).  Although sharing more scholarly asides pertaining to the inclusion of monsters in Burton’s works and a foreword from Production Designer Bo Welch (Beetlejuice, Batman Returns), The Tim Burton Encyclopedia treads familiar ground covered in more enthralling efforts from Burton biographer Mark Salisbury.  While not meant to be absorbed cover to cover, The Tim Burton Encyclopedia serves its purpose as a solid reference of the Beetlejuice director’s eccentric career with countless sections of enlightening material for Burton’s most informed appreciators.

    Available now from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, The Tim Burton Encyclopedia can be purchased via Rowman.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness by Mark Salisbury Book Review

    Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness by Mark Salisbury

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Best known for his texts focusing on Director Tim Burton and the makings of his films, Author Mark Salisbury’s latest effort chronicles the creation of Director Guillermo del Toro’s hauntingly gorgeous descent into Gothic romance.  Culled from extensive interviews with del Toro, his talented cast including, Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland), Tom Hiddleston (Thor), Jessica Chastain (Mama) and Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) plus, the countless artists involved in its making, Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness explores the sumptuous detail and obsessive passion put forth into the making of this uniquely conceived ghost story.  Influenced by dark fairy tales and literary Gothic romances, del Toro’s vision for his own influenced tale dates back nearly 15 years.  Hailed as one of cinema’s true visionaries, del Toro’s latest grand opus continues the darkly rich path of the director’s previous surrealistic masterpieces, The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.  

    Containing the intriguing biographies of its characters and a splendid array of color photographs and inspiring production art, Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness also extensively details the exhaustive design work and construction of the film’s haunted residence, Allerdale Hall.  Furthermore, Salisbury explores the practical and digital makings of Crimson Peak’s ghostly apparitions and the sublimely stylized costume designs, realized by Kate Hawley (Pacific Rim, Edge of Tomorrow).  In addition to several speciality items including a miniature movie poster and a foreword by del Toro, Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness is a sprawling look into one of this year’s most eerily seductive films.  An exceptional creation that only refines the particular genre its based on, Salisbury’s excellently conceived Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness offers readers a magnificent companion piece to the film and an entryway into del Toro’s boundless imagination.

    Available now from Insight Editions, Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness can be purchased via InsightEditions.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • An Animator’s Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws the Disney Characters by David A. Bossert Book Review

    An Animator’s Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws the Disney Characters by David A. Bossert

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Highlighting the artistic abilities of famed Disney Supervising Animator Eric Goldberg, David A. Bossert’s latest opus gives readers a brief history into Goldberg’s earliest attractions to animation and his lifelong appreciation for iconic caricaturist Al Hirschfield.  Perfecting his skills at Richard Williams’ New York and London studios before beginning his career at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, Goldberg would ultimately bring to life the memorable characters of Genie in Aladdin, the Danny DeVito voiced Phil of Hercules as well as lending his directing abilities to 1995’s Pocahontas.  Invoking the Hirschfeld touch, Goldberg was selected to draw many of Disney’s iconic characters for placement in the halls of the Roy E. Disney Animation Building in Burbank, California.  Presented in their entirety, Goldberg’s brilliantly crafted caricatures from Disney’s Golden Age classics and Pixar’s finest to characters from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas showcase the exquisite detail and emotional value these enduring creations continue to have on audiences, all from one remarkably talented hand.  A visual feast and well deserved celebration of Goldberg’s distinguished talent, An Animator’s Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws the Disney Characters is an essential volume for animation enthusiasts.

    Available now from Disney Editions, An Animator’s Gallery: Eric Goldberg Draws the Disney Characters can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Trick 'r Treat: Days of the Dead by Michael Dougherty, Todd Casey, Zach Shields & Marc Andreyko Book Review

    Trick ‘r Treat: Days of the Dead by Michael Dougherty, Todd Casey, Zach Shields & Marc Andreyko

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From its devastating direct to video release to its rise as a bonafide cult classic that continues to increase with the passing of each Halloween season, Michael Dougherty’s (X-Men 2, Krampus) Trick ‘r Treat has quickly become a staple of the spookiest time of year.  Joined by Todd Casey, Zach Shields and Marc Andreyko, Dougherty weaves another terrifying anthology across four tales of Halloween based madness.  Illustrated by the talented team of Fiona Staples, Stephen Byrne, Stuart Sayger and Zid, Trick ‘r Treat: Days of the Dead finds Sam, the costumed puppet master of the original film, appearing through various interconnected vignettes where witchcraft, spirits and monsters are central.  Set in 16th century Ireland, Seed finds a series of massive witch hunts taking place when a God-fearing man is bewitched by a misunderstood sorceress leading to a forbidden romance.  Meanwhile, wild west horrors occur in Corn Maiden when young Sarah’s loneliness is healed by an accepting Native American tribe.  Corrupted by her father’s railroad expanding desires, a tragic act clouds the frontier land as Native American spirits take revenge in the comic’s standout story.  Moving forward in time to 1950s Los Angeles, Echoes is a haunting noir focused on a hard-drinking P.I. tasked with finding a missing dame.  Forced to confront his own dark past, Jake Perkins discovers a link between Hollywood hotshots and devil-worshippers during the longest Halloween night of his life.  Finally, the modern day Monster Mash is an exciting tale of two best friends who dare to live dangerously with a frightening pack of monsters.  Embracing their wicked side, Monster Mash is a charming coming of age story about friendship and relishing one last Halloween.  Joined by a reoccurring segment of an elderly man telling his granddaughter the Halloween set stories, Trick ‘r Treat: Days of the Dead is a frighteningly fun read that captures the tone of Dougherty’s original masterpiece.  With anticipation building for a cinematic sequel, Trick ‘r Treat: Days of the Dead arrives just in time for Halloween, offering an endless supply of treats for fans desiring more supernatural shenanigans from Sam.

    Available now from Legendary Comics, Trick ‘r Treat: Days of the Dead can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History by Michael Klastorin with Randal Atamaniuk Book Review

    Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History by Michael Klastorin with Randal Atamaniuk

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving as production publicist on its sequels, Michael Klastorin, along with noted Back to the Future expert Randal Atamaniuk, launch readers on an explosive journey into the past chronicling the history and enduring legacy of the Back to the Future franchise.  Dating back to Director Robert Zemeckis and Co-Writer Bob Gale’s days at USC to their earliest developments of the time-traveling tale, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History is an unprecedented retelling of the trilogies making, told from the creative talent who were there.  Featuring countless never-before-seen stills as well as concept art, storyboards and additional removable treats, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History gives fans a comprehensive look into the series like never before.  

    Granted full access to decades old material, Klastorin and Atamaniuk’s passionate love letter to one of the greatest film franchises of all time is an expertly detailed and consistently intriguing chronicle.  From an acorn of an idea through its countless drafts, Back to the Future was unbelievably rejected by every studio before Steven Spielberg’s belief in the concept and Director Robert Zemeckis’ box-office success with Romancing the Stone changed the winds of destiny.  Established at Universal Studios, Klastorin and Atamaniuk guides readers through the weekly production schedules that involved shooting on the Universal backlot, crafting visionary special effects and filming with another actor in the lead role of Marty McFly for several weeks before making way for the original choice of Michael J. Fox.  Complimented by phenomenal production stills and remarkable conceptual drawings, interviews with Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, Steven Spielberg and many others paint a clearly defined picture of the difficult but incredibly rewarding experience.  Furthermore, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History details the lengthy production schedules of shooting both sequels back to back as the makers juggled bringing the story into the then long-distant future of 2015 before sending Doc and Marty in time to the Wild West.  In addition, the fascinating but rarely told history of Back to the Future: The Ride at Universal Studios’ theme parks and the short-lived Saturday morning cartoon are also recounted in this definitive document of all things Back to the Future.

    Celebrating the original film’s 30th anniversary, Michael Klastorin and Randal Atamaniuk’s Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History is the perfect literary companion to the beloved time-traveling trilogy that altered cinema.  Definitive and excellently researched, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History provides readers with overwhelming insight and extensive imagery into the franchise that demands a spot on all fans’ bookshelves.

    Available October 20th from Harper Design, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out by Kevin Luperchio and All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains by Dana Amendola Book Reviews

    Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out by Kevin Luperchio

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Highlighting the lush history of Disney’s most memorable promotional materials, Kevin Luperchio’s Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out provides readers with a look back at the art and advances made in the crafting of Disney’s infamous posters.  Collecting over 135 posters from Disney’s earliest short subjects including the Alice Comedies, Steamboat Willie and the groundbreaking Silly Symphonies to golden age milestones like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and Dumbo, domestic, international and various rerelease posters are on full display over lavish spreads.  Also documenting live-action highlights from the productions of Treasure Island and Mary Poppins to more recent fare like Hocus Pocus, Pearl Harbor and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney’s successful collaborations with Pixar from their classic debut Toy Story to the recently released Inside Out are also included.  While Luperchio’s effort can hardly be considered definitive, Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out gives art lovers a sizable introduction to some of Disney’s most beloved images of the last 90 years for fans to appreciate on a large canvas.

    Available now from Disney Editions, Disney Movie Posters: From Steamboat Willie to Inside Out can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

    All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains by Dana Amendola

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From his early beginnings in Marceline, Missouri, Walt Disney’s passion and enthusiasm for train culture has been well documented.  Serving as a news butcher on the Missouri Pacific at an impressionable age, Disney’s love affair with all things locomotive would remain an enduring part of his legacy in the formation of his famed studio and enchanting theme parks around the world.  Sharing a personal appreciation for steamers, Dana Amendola’s All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains guides readers through a tour of their important place in Disney’s history beginning with Walt’s earliest fascinations, Mickey Mouse’s inspired creation aboard The Chief and the well-researched appearances of trains throughout Disney’s vast film history.  With each section accompanied by “inside track” extended notes and littered with gorgeous still photography, Amendola traces animation legends Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnson’s infatuation with their own backyard railways for reigniting Walt’s love for trains and establishing a close knit bond with their boss over their shared love.  As Disney’s magical flair expanded into the world of theme parks, Amendola covers the unique visual history of the various locomotives circling Disney parks from California to Hong Kong with exquisite concept art on display.  Accompanied with a warm introduction by John Lasseter, All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains is a fabulous read for devoted train enthusiasts while, casual fans will be treated to a splendid crash course through the steam powered history that continues to chug along for Disney.

    Available now from Disney Editions, All Aboard: The Wonderful World of Disney Trains can be purchased via Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other fine retailers.

  • Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America 1957-1972 by Mark Voger Book Review

    Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America 1957-1972 by Mark Voger

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Recounting the yesteryears of monster madness, Mark Voger’s Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America 1957-1972 guides readers through the countless magazine publications, late night creature features and endless memorabilia that haunted likeminded baby boomers with an appetite for the spooky.  With interviews from television/movie stars of the era and monster magazine tycoons, Voger’s look back at his frighteningly fun youth comes littered with colorful collage-filled pages of eerie goodness.

    With a foreword by John Zacherle, Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America 1957-1972 takes readers back to the humble beginnings of monsters’ popular hold on prepubescent boys.  From the debut of Shock Theatre and local horror hosts including, Zacherley, hypnotizing young viewers with Universal Studios’ iconic monster films and other B-movie schlockfests, the hunger for more horror-centered content began.  Voger highlights milestone publications including, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Creepy and Eerie as the premiere outlets that captivated young horror fans imaginations while, chart-topping hits including “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett further cemented the movement’s increasing popularity.  Sharing the joys of Super 8 reels centered on countless movie monsters, Voger details the popularity and short-lived availability of Topps’ controversial Mars Attacks! trading cards while, discussing the highs and lows of the charmingly chintzy Ben Cooper masks based on famed characters.  While parents often forbade their children to partake in such entertainment, barriers were abolished with the arrival of The Addams Family and The Munsters providing families with hilariously wholesome sitcoms centered on rather eccentric family units.  As Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Rat Fink dioramas and General Mills’ Count Chocula and Franken Berry cereals entered into the zeitgeist, the monster craze showed little sign of slowing down.  With a considerable portion of the book focused on the enduring popularity of the long-running Dark Shadows series, the show’s eventual cancellation and arrival of game changing features including, The Exorcist spelled certain doom for the more innocent scares of age-old monsters and their cobweb-infested lairs.  

    With his passion apparent in every page, Mark Voger’s recollections of the past nicely scratches the surface of the various layers of creepy entertainment provided during the golden years of monster fandom.  While each section is limited to only several pages each, the lack of more detailed information is substituted with Voger’s personal insight and a plethora of images showcasing the toys, board games, dioramas and magazine art that marveled fans.  Accompanied with countless, if not dated, interviews with Famous Monsters of Filmland’s James Warren and Forrest J. Ackerman, The Addams Family’s John Astin and Lisa Loring, The Munsters’ Al Lewis, Butch Patrick and Pat Priest plus, multiple cast members of Dark Shadows, Voger’s sit-downs deliver entertaining pitstops although rarely providing information unknown to fellow monster kids.  

    Best appreciated as a hauntingly nostalgic walk down memory lane, self-professed monster kid Mark Voger provides an excellent sampling of the multiple facets that defined the monster craze.  With a stunning array of images graced across each page, Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America 1957-1972 may not be the definitive statement on the monster movement of yesterday but, stands as a charming crash course of the thrills and chills that fascinated baby boomers during the aftermath of horror’s golden age.

    Available now from TwoMorrows Publishing, Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America 1957-1972 can be purchased via TwoMorrows.com and Amazon.com.

  • Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic by J.B. Kaufman Book Review

    Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic by J.B. Kaufman

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Considered one of the finest achievements in Disney’s revered animation history, Author J.B. Kaufman’s Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic takes an extensive look into the making of this monumental effort that continues to thrive 75 years after its original release.  Containing never before seen art and countless original concept sketches, Kaufman’s in-depth research and obvious passion for this Golden Age classic will educate lifelong admirers and deeply enrich future viewings of Disney’s finest animated film of all time.

    Following up Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first and deeply praised feature-length animated film, Walt Disney and his talented team of artists had their work cut out for themselves formulating their followup.  With Bambi in active development and originally planned as Disney’s second feature, several challenges including, the additional prep work required for such a project shifted gears within the studio bumping Pinocchio as the top priority.  Riding high on the financial riches of Snow White’s success, Walt Disney saw the tale of Author Carlo Collodi’s wooden puppet longing to be a real boy as a remarkable concept, bursting with imaginative opportunities for his artists to push their talents to soaring new heights.  Far from a simple undertaking, Kaufman presents the early origins of Disney and his staff hammering out story details, many of which omitted from its final presentation, that took liberties from its source material to capture a scaled down adaptation without sacrificing the Disney standard.  Culled from interviews and recorded internal conferences with Disney veterans including, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, T. Hee and of course, Walt Disney, Kaufman’s painstaking fieldwork provides an expert documentation of the struggles and artistic triumphs the Disney studio encountered on their journeys.

    Collecting over 200 pieces of art ranging from the film’s gorgeous background paintings and other never before seen gems, Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic visually demonstrates the film’s perfectionist style, revolutionary effect techniques and refinements of existing innovations including the multiplane camera crane that preserves its timeless majesty.  From its earliest developments through its rigorous animation process, Kaufman provides added insight into the film’s Academy Award winning music, its vocal performers and promotional campaign.  In addition, although regarded as a classic and landmark achievement in Disney’s history, Kaufman also shares the troublesome release of the film that was critically praised but, stunted at the box-office due to the arrival of World War II closing film distribution in countless European territories for many years.  Through its magical years of creation to its premiere at Rockefeller Center’s Center Theatre and WWII’s ominous cloud darkening its full potential, Pinocchio, with assistance from countless rereleases and such, has endured, capturing the hearts and imaginations of audiences young and old since 1940.  

    75 impressive years later, Disney’s Pinocchio arguably stands as the studio’s finest artistic achievement where rich storytelling and skilled artistry came together in perfect harmony.  Unquestionably considered one of animation’s most inspiring feats, J.B. Kaufman’s fascinating achievement provides the definitive statement on Pinocchio’s treasured history.  With a foreword by Academy Award winner John Canemaker and a special final chapter by noted professor Russell Merritt, Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic is the result of wishing upon a star and receiving one of the most exceptional celebrations of an animated classic.

    Available now from The Walt Disney Family Foundation Press, Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic can be purchased via 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. 

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

    My favorite book of all time was introduced to me by an elderly lady, hip beyond her years.  Her name was Miss Sterling and she taught my second grade class at good ol' Washington School.  Miss Sterling was smart and funny but also knew how to crack the whip when needed.  While it may not seem unusual, Miss Sterling was one, if not the only teacher, that would give us crackers and allow us to bust open a juice box everyday around 10AM.  She would spend each day reading to us and overtime her admiration for a certain author became clear.  Works like Matilda, The BFG, The Twits and Fantastic Mr. Fox were all read aloud as Miss Sterling put so much enthusiasm into reciting Roald Dahl's words.  At some point during the year, Miss Sterling chose another classic in Dahl's canon, his 1964 effort of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Perhaps it was the eccentric character of Willy Wonka or his dark handling of the greedy and selfish children who entered his factory.  Maybe it was my love for chocolate and sweets that roped me in.  Nonetheless, this story captivated me.  Dahl's ability to speak on a child's level without ever talking down to them was what made his stories timeless.  While I was simultaneously obsessing over R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series, Dahl's work quickly became my favorite and propelled me into a voracious reader.  A track that I have not steered from since the tender age of eight.

    Upon completion of the book, Miss Sterling allowed us to experience the 1971 film adaptation, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring the great Gene Wilder.  In retrospect, the film takes certain liberties with the book while still charming the viewer.  In 1996, my eight year-old self, was stunned.  This film was an absolute revelation that threw my imagination for a loop.  The larger than life sets, excellent soundtrack, memorable performances and of course, the chocolate deepened my love for the source material.  From that point on, I’d consider myself obsessed with Wonka and his wonderful factory.  I remember my parents buying me the 25th anniversary clamshell VHS for Easter and re-watching it nearly a zillion times.  My passion for the story continued as I decided to have my own golden ticket giveaway.  I took days drawing my own golden tickets for a very secret project.  One day during indoor recess, while others were playing Nok-Hockey, I randomly selected five students and hid the tickets under their desks.  Miss Sterling kindly gave me the floor right before class resumed and I advised the class to look under their desks.  The selected winners made their way to the front of the classroom where I explained their exciting prize.  A visit to my house reconverted into Wonka’s factory and a buffet of all the chocolate and candy they could eat.  My eight year-old mind, was buzzing with excitement as I envisioned using cardboard boxes and paint to create my own backyard version of the factory.  Unfortunately, I never made that dream come true.  Thankfully, the lucky winners never sued.

    The last day of school is the only day of the year kids look forward to attending.  All-day parties, snacks and no work!  On this sunny day, Miss Sterling sat us down the final minutes of the day telling us what a wonderful year she had.  We all couldn’t have agreed more until Miss Sterling started getting teary-eyed.  Fighting back the sadness, our enchanting teacher explained that after so many years educating young minds she would be retiring, marking us her final group of students.  She proceeded to tell us that we were her favorite class, a genuine statement from the heart.  We all individually gave her hugs as we walked up to get special congratulatory diplomas she made for us.  While, we all kept our excitement levels high with summer vacation around the corner, I couldn’t help but feel the sadness take over me.  Miss Sterling was my favorite teacher who opened my imagination to so many worlds, it was tough to know that I wouldn’t see her in the halls next year.  Right before we all lined up to count down the final minutes of the day, Miss Sterling called me up to her desk.  “Mikey, I know how much this story means to you so I want you to have this...” Miss Sterling said.  She proceeded to reach into her desk and pull out her personal copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  The book was aged to hell with a big red stick of tape holding the spine together.  Miss Sterling had been reading this first edition of the book to her students throughout the years.  I certainly had my own paperback copy by this point, but there was something magical about her tattered version.  This old, faded book was responsible for my introduction to Wonka and his remarkable world.  It was Miss Sterling’s delivery of the words that made this story so special to me.  I took it from her hands practically speechless.  “Just do me one favor” she said, “get a marker and write today’s date”.  I didn’t really understand why and frankly I didn’t want to cause the book anymore harm but looking back, I’m glad I did.  June 17, 1996 was the day that this sweet, elderly lady gave me the personal passport to so many of my dreams and I’ll never forget her for that.  Nearly 20 years later, I have read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory countless times and it never grows tired.  I can still close my eyes and be whisked away to imaginative worlds of all kinds, but reading Dahl’s tale of a chocolate extraordinaire, I can’t help but think back to that classroom and the sweet, old lady who showed me how to dream.  Thanks Miss Sterling.