Tag Archive: Running Press


Review by C.J. Bunce

This month, a new book examining what makes a great character also takes an in-depth look at Hollywood and film from the silent picture era to today.  It’s Turner Classic Movies/TCM′s latest book on film, Dynamic Dames: 50 Leading Ladies Who Made History I previously reviewed film historian Sloan De Forest′s Must-See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World here at borg, a fun read and a fun list that is more a celebration of pop culture than film school companion.  De Forest seems to have far more passion for her next subject, selecting a masterful list of 50 women worth reading about–and worth seeing their films.  She also connects the dots between actors, their characters, and their personal lives in a way you’ve probably not seen before.  In one word, Dynamic Dames is brilliant.

Everyone reading anyone else’s list of 50 people of any pursuit will have quibbles along the way, but De Forest shows an impressive knowledge of film and delivers.  Not only a selection of 50 worthy actors–she doesn’t select the roles most movie critics flock to and rave about–she also finds those finer, more nuanced performances where these Dynamic Dames probably should have scored their Oscars.  She also divides the book into eight sections and finds perfect examples that exemplify each section, from Pre-Code Bad Girls, to Big Bad Mamas, Women of Mystery, and Strong Survivors.  A category not possible until more recently, Superheroines, rounds out the list, and although the performances have not had much of a chance to steep from a historical standpoint, De Forest provides solid rationale for them all.

Authors of a book like this typically will reserve a small percentage of the list for modern readers to have something to be attracted to, but that’s not the case here.  De Forest actually embraces recent films, pulling in more than 20 percent of her list from characters appearing in 21st century films.  Most of her rationale for each of these more recent actors and corresponding characters justifies their inclusion, comparable in performance, significance, and influence, to the film greats any movie buff would expect to find on this list.  She also ties in some of cinema’s–and literature’s–best women writers; it should be no surprise that many of these outstanding characters in film over the course of 92 years resulted from great women writers of the 19th and 20th century, including Charlotte Brontë, Agatha Christie, and J.K Rowling.

Continue reading

Everyone keeps something on their desk to distract them from what they are supposed to be doing.  Whether at your home or office, this includes photographs, and probably little oddities that have a message or memory only you understand.  Miniature Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy?  Check.  USB drive that is shaped like a Game of Thrones house symbol?  Check.  A shiny medal with ribbon, but you can’t remember what you won?  Check.  That plastic… thing?  Check.  Now publisher Running Press has a new desk ornament for your favorite cat fan.

It’s the Zen Garden… Litter Box.

It’s not for your cats.

I had a zen garden on my office desk credenza as a lawyer for 20 years.  On conference calls, it was easy for my hands to hover over to it and rake some new design among the shiny rocks while strategizing through the next work problem.  This sand garden fits in your hand–it’s a black plastic sand box, complete with sand, a wooden rake, some rocks, and two cats (if you ever played the game Pig Mania or Pass the Pigs, you could pull the pigs out of the box and they’d match the size of these little cats).  It’s a mash-up of the traditional zen garden or Japanese rock garden, the litter box, and the sandbox your neighbor cat “played in” in your backyard when you were a kid.

But why?  Zen gardens are a traditional way to reduce stress, improve your focus, and develop a sense of well-being.  Life is stressful, work is stressful, plus what brings down blood pressure better than cats?

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

A leg thrown over the arm of a chair.  A monster tossing a girl into the river.  A gangster with a Tommy Gun shooting a room full of people.  A woman is expecting a baby.  A man bites a woman to drink her blood.  Actresses backstage get ready for a show.  Dancers on stage kick their legs.  “Kept” women.  Physical violence.

Rural audiences and even film goers in big cities like Chicago would label all this as “smut” or “disgraceful” back in the day.  In the realm of what is appropriate and what is not, the cinema has approached each new boundary with baby steps.  But in the Depression-era early 1930s, many previously unaccepted concepts soared onto film.  A new book takes a look at this era, now referred to by film historians as the “Pre-Code Era”–1930 to 1934–a time when the self-regulating movie industry pushed the bounds of its own rules, only to hit a wall when the public pushed back.  Turner Classic Movies′ Forbidden Hollywood takes an educational, film school-level walk through an industry fighting within itself to both make money and please an audience it would find varied widely by geography, down to the community level.  The handling of decency by the industry would have ramifications that would have an impact on generations of film creators and audiences.  The chaos and in-fights would last until July 1934, when religious groups combined to take a stand, prompting the industry to bow to their demands with the formation of the League of Decency.  That group would govern movie standards for nearly 35 years–until the ratings system would arrive in 1968.  Even real-world gangster Al Capone thought the new, 1930s era of movies was bad for kids, saying “These gang pictures–that’s terrible kid stuff.  They’re doing nothing but harm to the younger element of the country.”

Film historian Mark A. Vieira provides a scholarly examination of the studios, the directors, producers, and writers, including excerpts of decisions made and processes followed (and not followed), resulting in the promotion of the careers of some of Hollywood’s biggest names: Jean Harlow, Barbara Stanwyck, Myrna Loy, Mae West, Joan Crawford, Marlena Dietrich, Clara Bow, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, James Cagney, Ward Bond, Bela Legosi, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney.  Looking at elements incorporated into–or scissor cut from–dozens of films, including The Divorcee, Dishonored, Grand Hotel, Dracula, A Farewell to Arms, 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Riptide, Red-Headed Woman, She Done Him Wrong, Call Her Savage, Convention City, and Frankenstein, Vieira takes an objective look at the factors that influenced all sides in determining what would be appropriate in the movies and what role movies would take in society.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Over the holidays you may have received a gift, an item you will look back to fondly one day, or maybe something that will even survive that your descendants may keep and treasure a century from now.  If you were asked to participate in an old-fashioned show and tell, what physical object has meaning for you that you would talk about?  That’s in essence the question asked of hundreds of people interviewed by writers Bill Shapiro and Naomi Wax in the book What We Keep: 150 People Share the One Object that Brings Them Joy, Magic, Meaning.  Many people have many such objects–after all, humans are by their very nature collectors of things.  Narrowing it down to one object is difficult, yet for others it may be simple.

For movie director and writer Joss Whedon, it’s a straw hat from his school days in England.  For author James Patterson, it’s a photograph of President Clinton holding one of the books he had written, read for pleasure by the President in the middle of his carrying out of government business, carried as he walked down the stairway from a helicopter at Camp David.  For a former money counterfeit artist, it’s the paint brush she used to paint with in prison.  For another, it was a paper bill with a holes ripped through it from being shot years ago.

The objects are often obscure, many ugly, but all hold some kind of unique meaning to their owners.  The intrinsic value of most of the items highlighted is nothing or next to nothing.  Yet their owners value these things not for their monetary worth.  A rock, an awl, a document, a watch.  Most inspired (and still inspire) their owners, and remind them of how they were at their very best, like a flute carried into space by astronaut Ellen Ochoa.

Continue reading

  

In addition to Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves, reviewed here last month at borg.com, we have three additional, affordably priced gift ideas for your favorite Star Trek fan this holiday season, two books, and an attractive light-up, replica desk prop.  First up–Chip Carter is back with an update to his 2011 big book of Star Trek trivia in the expanded and updated Obsessed With Star Trek Carter added 200 new questions to cover the Kelvin timeline (the three reboot films) for this edition for a 2,700 question volume (sorry, no questions yet from Star Trek Discovery).  Questions are divided into sections covering each series through Enterprise, with a section on the movies through Star Trek Nemesis.  Readers will find a section each on cast, crew, and characters, aliens, ships and technology, and a section on concepts inside the Trek universe across the series.  As with the original, the book is entirely multiple choice questions, so use it how you will–incorporate it into a trivia game or just challenge yourself.  Those familiar with the last edition will note this version does not have the built-in digital game component, bringing its price down significantly compared to the previous edition.  Obsessed With Star Trek, the new edition, is available now from Titan Books here at Amazon.

Star Trek: The Next Generation fans will want to check out a replica display item from a fan-favorite episode, available from Running Press.  It’s Patrick Stewart’s Locutus prosthetic headpiece from the two-part story The Best of Both Worlds.  Unlike the original, the headpiece (referred to as a mask on the product) is made of die-cast metal and designed based on the look of Locutus in the second episode of the story.  It’s smaller than true-scale, close to 1:4 scale (3.5″ x 3.5″ x 5.5″) with LED laser light and audio featuring Locutus’s key dialogue, including his familiar line “resistance is futile.”  A die-cast metal base with removable plastic display cover (also included) makes for a nice office display.  The Locutus of Borg Collectible Mask includes a 48-page mini-hardcover book with photographs and remarks about the character also written by Chip Carter.  It’s available now at more than half off the release price here at Amazon.

Finally, the folks at Titan and its publication Star Trek Magazine have pulled together several previously published articles focused specifically on Star Trek the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation for the new compilation book Star Trek: Epic Episodes This latest release includes cast and crew interviews, plus hundreds of color photographs from the shows as well as behind-the-scenes images.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

If Turner Classic Movies says that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then the discussion is over finally, right?

It’s that time of year again and Turner Classic Movies is back showing some of the best Christmas movies from across the decades.  This year host Ben Mankiewicz is interviewing author Jeremy Arnold before and after the screening of movies Arnold has selected to feature in his new book, TCM: Christmas in the Movies–30 Classics to Celebrate the Season.  And yes, Arnold’s list includes Die Hard.  So as the British say, “end of.”  Most readers and movie fans will likely agree with at least twenty of the selections discussed in the book, and the rest are there ready for some good discussions with friends over some egg nog this holiday season.

It’s also likely this bucket list of movies has several films that even avid movie watchers may have missed.  I set up my DVR to pick up a few in the book I hadn’t seen yet and was surprised at how superb a selection Holiday Affair is.  It stars Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Wendell Corey, Henry Morgan, plus young Gordon Gebert in what must be the best-ever performance by a child actor in a Christmas movie.  This is exactly the kind of value you get with a book like Christmas in the Movies–this movie will now be added to my own favorite Christmas movie list.  For each entry Arnold discusses the actors, plot, audience reception and the impact of the film, and why it’s a good Christmas season film for audiences today.

Along with Die Hard, which is smartly defended by Arnold, you’ll find the usual suspects like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, and Elf, plus some lesser known gems, like Remember the Night, the first of four films that would pair Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, plus Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten in I’ll Be Seeing You, and Humphrey Bogart in We’re No AngelsArnold picks up genre films Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even a few Westerns, including 3 Godfathers starring John Wayne.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Let’s face it.  The “turn of the century” was eighteen years ago.  Are you happy with the styles that define this decade?  Why not re-define what the new ‘twenties are going to represent, and why not start with how you want to look?  Timeless, a new book by fashion makeup artist Louise Young and film industry hairstylist Loulia Sheppard, provides readers with a step-by-step guide in photos and instructions to recreate the most memorable styles from the silent screen era forward.  So not only is it an obvious tool for cosplay and theater, it’s a way to bring the golden age of women’s fashion to everyday lifestyles.

Young and Sheppard also recreate actual style icons, and provide the steps for anyone to follow suit.  Readers will find not only how they can recreate styles, but what materials were available for contemporary women to make the look they are after.  Models reflect many memorable looks in Timeless, including Louise Brooks, Clara Bow, Ginger Rogers, Myrna Loy, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Lauren Bacall, Gene Tierney, Grace Kelly, Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Farrah Fawcett, Julia Roberts, and many more.

Timeless is not your typical makeup and hair book.  The creators have decades of experience in film creating any and every look imaginable.  Louise Young has created makeup designs for celebrities in movies including Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Spectre, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Wonder Woman, Murder on the Orient Express, Pride & Prejudice, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Clash of the Titans, Jack the Giant Slayer, and The Avengers.  Loulia Sheppard has created hairstyles for several award-winning productions, including Gosford Park, The Phantom of the Opera, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Last Samurai, Jane Eyre, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, RED 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Victor Frankenstein, and Murder on the Orient Express–and most recently the looks of Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson.

Take a look at some of the designs featured:

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

Any list of 10 or more items these days quickly becomes the stuff of argument.  But in the right context it can become the stuff of discussion and curiosity.  A list of 50 items takes some work to prepare and if that list accompanies a genre that has spanned more than a century, then it really invites discussion. Which brings us to Turner Classic Movies and Running Press’s new look at the science fiction genre in Sloan De Forest’s Must See Sci-Fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World This latest pop culture book to engage science fiction fans may show that, after all these years, the best and most important works of science fiction are not really all that controversial.  Yet it wouldn’t really be worth picking up if it only confirmed readers’ love for epic films.  Must-See Sci-Fi takes that next step and also serves that need of all fans of film to take another look at the classics and be open to those films we may have overlooked.

Consisting of 50 approximately 1,000 word essays on each film across 114 years, from 1902 to 2016, Must-See Sci-Fi covers the significance of each film selected in its 280 pages, including a plot overview, key memorable scenes, plus some good behind-the-scenes trivia, as well as plenty of color and black and white photographs.  From A Trip to the Moon in 1902 to Arrival in 2016, the book has a fairly consistent coverage (but weighted with more selections from the 1970s and 1980s, and the 1940s have no entries).  Most will agree with the films included from George Méliès’s groundbreaking beginning through the 1960 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. But controversial for one person may not be controversial for another.  De Forest presents her case for those films you might not find on other lists–many firsts of sci-fi emphasized instead of the definite look at a sub-genre, like Alphaville, Solaris, Sleeper, The Man Who Fell to Earth, THX 1138, The Brother From Another Planet, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. One great feature is a recommendation of two “watch-alike” films after each section–If you loved a film, you have two more films to track down and compare, and if you missed a film but don’t like the two suggested films, the book may telegraph your level of enjoyment once you screen the entry.  Readers will also see the impact across a century of filmmaking from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of both H.G. Wells and Jules Verne on these selections.

Key to the fun of delving into science fiction film history is understanding the roots of science fiction–how modern science fiction 99% of the time derives (or combines) its story elements from key benchmarks from stories or films of the past.  As the book progresses readers can see author De Forest frequently referring back to those sources, and after 1977’s Star Wars the remaining 16 entries all seem to rely significantly on films of the past–sometimes they even appear to be merely another twist on one of the films in the first half of the book.  And yes, readers will find new discussion topics.  La Jetée may be an incredibly fascinating short film, but is it more of a “must-see” than Terry Gilliam’s update 12 Monkeys?  And how did a Woody Allen movie ever make the cut?

Continue reading