Mike's Bookshelf

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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.