Monday, March 30, 2015

Adam West and Burt Ward to Return to Gotham... as Cartoon Crime Fighters

First we learned Kyle MacLachlan would slip back into his black FBI agent suit and return to "Twin Peaks". Then we discovered Duchovny and Anderson would re-don their own ones and start thumbing through "The X-Files" again. And at some point we also learned that Craig T. Nelson would be slipping into his "Coach" socks again for some unknown and horrible reason. Now it seems TV's original Dynamic Duo will also be getting in on the action, though in a slightly different way. While the aforementioned actors and actress will be returning to the small screen in limited run series, Adam West and Burt Ward will be lending their Bat voices to an animated feature film that will hopefully recapture the distinctive flavor of William Dozier's mid-sixties "Batman" series. West and Ward announced the big news at the Mad Monster Party convention, and you can watch them do it right here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review: 'Elvis Is King: Costello’s My Aim Is True'


In my recent review of Pop Classics’ installment on “Twin Peaks”, I mentioned that the new series is yet another in the vein of mini-book lines like Continuum’s 33 1/3. With just the fourth Pop Classics entry, rock journalist Richard Crouse gets even deeper into 33 1/3’s action by devoting his book to a single album. He also shows that increasingly self-indulgent and unsatisfying long-running line how to do it. There’s no pretentious navel-gazing or “how do I fill 100 pages?” tangents in Elvis Is King: Costello’s My Aim Is True. Like that no-bullshit debut album released at the end of a decade infamous for its poses and pomposity, Crouse’s book says what’s necessary in fast, furious fashion, covering Costello’s musical upbringing, his debut’s recording, its marketing, its songs, and subsequent stage and TV support appearances. Never does he lapse into obnoxious and very un-Rock & Roll pseudo-academic blather. Basically, he does what we always want 33 1/3’s writers to do. This isn’t a perfect book— Crouse’s disdain for all Rock & Roll made before 1976 gets tiresome quickly, he relies a bit too much on quoting a limited number of sources (particularly Elvis’s own liner notes to the 2001 reissue of My Aim Is True), and like Andy Burns’s Wrapped in Plastic: Twin Peaks, his very short book suffers a bit from bad timing, since it comes so close on the heels of Richard Balls’ thorough Stiff Records Story—but as a pocket making-of/history/analysis of one of the great freshman records, Elvis Is King satisfies. When was the last time you could say that about a 33 1/3 book?

Get Elvis Is King: Costello’s My Aim Is True on Amazon.com here:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"The X-Files" is Coming Back to TV for Mini-Series

Much like "Twin Peaks", "The X-Files" is a creepy nineties series rumored to be going back into production for a limited-run series recently. Now it's official, because  like "Twin Peaks", "The X-Files" is a nineties series going back into production for a limited-run series. Unlike "Peaks", "The X-Files" will be returning to its original network, FOX, and the project seems to be moving ahead swiftly as Chris Carter is set to get to work on the new six-episode arch this summer. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are both set to return. No word yet on the involvement of Annabeth Gish, Xzibit, or that genie on the cart that crawls into people's butts.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Elvis Costello's Autobiography Is Coming This Year

Always one of our most literate pop stars, Elvis Costello's lack of literary credentials has always seemed a glaring void. Based on the terrific, self-effacing liner notes he's contributed to re-issues of his albums, this guy has a damn good book inside him. This October 13 he's going to finally heave it up when Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink goes into publication. Penguin's official description promises 352 pages of "anecdotes about family and fellow musicians, introspective about the creation of his famous songs."

Pre-order Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink now on Amazon.com:

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Review: 'So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films Volume One'


Giallo is a contentious genre. Part lurid crime thriller, part gory horror, part sleazo-sex flick, the distinctly Italian film field can be tough to pin down, and each of its hardcore fans probably has his or her own idea what qualifies. Author Troy Howarth (with ample help from guest essayists Ernesto Gastaldi and Roberto Curti) does what he can too pin down what, exactly, a giallo picture is and isn’t over the first 40 pages of his movie guide So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films Volume One. Then we’re in the deep end with a glut of reviews that waste no time courting controversy. Two films in and its The Three Faces of Fear (aka: Black Sabbath), included because the least-celebrated tale of Mario Bava’s horror portmanteau, “The Telephone”, passes the litmus test.

I’m certain Howarth will afford the rest of that film all-due attention when he and co-conspirator Christopher Workman get to the sixties-centric volume of their Tome of Terror horror movie guide series. So Deadly, So Perverse kind of functions as a companion to that series. Its extra space devoted to extended essays aside, it follows the same format as Tome of Terror with its tech specs, astute and lively reviews, detailed histories, above-and-beyond historical and biographical tidbits, and abundant illustrations. It differs from the first volume of Tome of Terror in its across-the-board depth. There are no two or three paragraph write-ups. Howarth examines every inclusion thoroughly, probably because there are fewer instances of lost films when dealing with giallo than 80-year-old horror movies. I personally don’t have as much interest in giallo as I do in 80-year-old horror movies, but I still found it hard not to get caught up in Howarth’s enthusiasm and came away from So Deadly, So Perverse with another dirty-laundry list of nasty movies to see. Get it on Amazon.com here:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Review: 'I Found My Friends: The Oral History of Nirvana'


Half way through I Found My Friends: The Oral History of Nirvana, Kevin Franke of the band Vegas Voodoo describes Kurt Cobain as “almost a ghost presence.” This kind of sums up Nick Soulsby’s book, which largely consists of the memories of musicians from obscure bands who played some gigs with Nirvana or saw them play but didn’t really know them very well. Too often we get snatches about how Krist Novoselic is tall or liked to party, or Cobain seemed shy or like he might have been on drugs, but insights about who these people really were and continue to be are rare. That’s because I Found My Friends is less the story of Nirvana and more the story of the music scene surrounding them. One thing we already knew about the group is that they were always supportive of bands that never cracked the “Alternative Nation” playlists, and Soulsby gives these musicians a chance to explain what it was like to play all the shitty, lice-infected clubs Nirvana did in their early years, or in the case of Calamity Jane, open for Nirvana at a huge post-stardom show in Buenos Aires where the crowd showered them with abuse.

While Nirvana fans who come to this book expecting inside information on the band members’ personal lives or studio work will be disappointed, I Found My Friends is a compelling read for those who are simply interested in the nineties rock scene or the often thankless and grinding experience of being in a band in any era. And along the way we do get some genuinely valuable tidbits about Kurt and Krist’s generousness, playfulness, loutishness, devotion to worthy causes, and talent (there’s precious little about their drummers, and that includes Dave Grohl). Soulsby includes some odd comments as well, such as the occasional “I didn’t stick around to watch Nirvana’s set and never thought they were any good anyway,” an anonymous person’s account of his/her own heroin experiences, and the concluding string of eulogies for musicians from other bands, some of which are never even mentioned elsewhere in the book.

Get I Found My Friends: The Oral History of Nirvana on Amazon.com here:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review: 'Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the 1930s'


Horror movie guides pop up like grass on a grave, yet they never tend to get it right. Too often they are glib, and they never encompass everything world cinema has contributed to the genre since its inception. There have been good ones. Jonathan Rigby’s American Gothic and the collaborative, two-volume American Silent Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy Films, 1913-1929, come to mind, but as their titles suggest, their scopes are still limited. A series is necessary to serve a genre with as much breadth and longevity as horror, which Christopher Workman and Troy Howarth realize.

Based on the first volume of their series, a chunky collection of reviews devoted exclusively to the thirties, these guys aren’t cutting any corners (the second volume will actually backtrack to the silent era and pick up with the forties in volume three). Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the 1930s swells with shorts and features from all recesses of the world, which is significant considering that studies of the genre’s key decade are often limited to its most prolific location of production, Hollywood, and often even more limited to a specific studio, Universal.

Each entry features a few technical specs, cast list, synopsis, history, critique, and even some details about the major players’ personal lives and careers beyond the given films. Pieces on lost films may only be a few paragraphs, but major movies may receive an entire page or more. Workman’s entry on King Kong is truly superb, going deep enough to assess the biological accuracy of its dinosaurs! (On the flip side, his more critical assessment of the comparatively fantastical creatures in Son of Kong goes a little too far considering that it is, after all, a movie about a giant gorilla.)

The writers’ tone keeps the discussions enjoyable rather than dry, though I believe they are too hard on certain aspects of the classics, like the oft-denounced “staginess” of Dracula and the performances of Valerie Hobson and Una O’Connor in Bride of Frankenstein, which I believe are integral to the movie’s delicious deliriousness. Of course, no opinionated reader is ever going to completely agree with all the opinions of a movie guide writer, so I’m impressed by how often I agreed with Workman and Howarth. I would have preferred the book to be arranged strictly chronologically instead of alphabetical by year, since how one film develops on the innovations of others is particularly significant in horror. That’s a nitpick since guides of this sort are meant to be dipped into rather than read from cover-to-cover, even though this is one of the few that welcomes that kind of reading. Some might also complain that a lot of the murder mysteries and Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan movies in here only loosely qualify as horror, but I think their presence is further evidence of the writers determination to be all-inclusive. You certainly cant complain that any significant film is missing, which would be the far greater crime. Tome of Terror also scores points for the terrific photos that appear on nearly every one of its pages, but its greatest achievement is fattening up my list of movies to see, which is the ultimate job of any movie guide worth reading. I can’t wait to build that list even bigger when they publish volume two.

Get Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the 1930s on Amazon.com here:
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