Book reviews: film & TV

jules-verne-hollywoodHollywood Presents Jules Verne: The Father of Science Fiction on Screen

by Brain Taves

(Published by University Press of Kentucky)

It is fair to say that Jules Verne’s work is very cinematic and this finely written book certainly proves it. Verne’s work is full of adventure and in these dark times we need that more than ever.

Brain Taves is a film archivist with the Library of Congress and he applies his knowledge well, both of Verne and the adaptations of his work in a precise and engaging manner.

He covers not just big screen versions but also TV, direct-to-video, animation, and has many interesting facts and anecdotes to add.

I’d also like to add that Jules Verne’s Scotland: In Fact and Fiction by Ian Thompson published by Luath Press is a great gem for Verne fans.

This is a great reference book; I read about several adaptations that I hadn’t seen but would now like to.

A truly great book that will appeal greatly to both film buffs and Verne enthusiasts.

Beautifully written, beautifully illustrated; this is certainly a book for a lifetime.

keep-watching-the-skiesKeep Watching The Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, The 21st Century Edition

by Bill Warren

(Published by McFarland)

Keep Watching The Skies! is rightly already recognised as the definitive reference work on science-fiction films from 1950 to 1962, the new two-volume edition greatly expands Bill’s previously already very impressive work.

It provides a detail plot synopsis for each film, along with cast and credit listings, and how the film was received at the time if its release. Moreover, Bill adds a great deal of information to this in his own warm and engaging manner. With over two hundred photos, over a thousand pages, and an extensive index, this book is indispensable to anyone interested in 1950s science-fiction films.

Put simply, this book is a thing of beauty and joy forever, beautiful cover artwork too.

the-writing-deadThe Writing Dead: Talking Terror With TV’s Top Horror Writers

by Thomas Fahy

(Published by University Press of Mississippi)

The Writing Dead truly is an inspired idea, a collection of thirteen (of course!) interviews with the creators of today’s great horror shows on television.

Make no mistake, between the quality work done by the major networks and cable channels to the equally excellent programs produced exclusively for online streaming services like Netflix, a new Golden Age of horror is occurring on the small screen (Though as The Girl With All The Gifts proves, the big screen still has much to offer, though that film would make the basis for a very good TV series).

All the interviews are excellent. Personal highlights for me were the interviews with Richard Hatum (a writer on Supernatural, one of my all-time favourite shows), Brian Mc Grevy (Hemlock Grove) and Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead, Aliens, The Terminator).

Essential for any fans of modern fantastic television.

it-came-from-the-80sIt Came From The 80s! Interviews With 124 Cult Filmakers

by Francesco Borseti

(Published by McFarland)

As we move further into the horrors of the 21st century, the 1980s seem a more and more attractive place to retreat to. Musically it gave us Iron Maiden, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Metallica, Slayer and many more.

Film-wise it gave us such classics as Escape From New York, Day of the Dead, The Empire Strikes Back, Clash of the Titans – the list is endless.

The 80s were also the halcyon days of the now sadly extinct video rental shops. Every day you could find a more obscure title than before, occasionally the title would live up to the promises of its amazing cover art. These b-movies got financed because the money could be made back on video.

Of course, illegal downloading has destroyed the rental market for DVD and video, with a generation preferring to steal their films rather than pay for them. This means the mid-budget film is virtually extinct, except maybe on Syfy!

Francesco has written an entertaining book. My constructive criticism is that it needs more colour reproductions of artwork and posters, for instance the cover artwork for the splendidly titled Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama is excellent.

This is a very human book, great fun, and Quentin Tarantino would love it!

kathryn-bigelow-interviewsKathryn Bigelow Interviews

Edited by Peter Keough

(Published by University Press of Mississippi)

Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Oscar in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.

Kathryn has produced an impressive body of work including one of my all-time favourite film, the vampire-western Near Dark (1987).

She has also directed Strange Days (1995), K19:The Widowmaker (2002), Point Break (1991) and Blue Steel (1989), that says more than any words of mine ever could, a most impressive body of work.

This is a truly great idea for a book. Kathryn is an engaging intelligent woman and her interviews give a strong insight into both her art and herself.

She has a very artistic approach to directing, as she says: “I never thought of it as ‘directing,’ but as a different way of making art. I was doing painting, then I was making movies. Later I realised that what I was doing was writing and directing, being a filmmaker. But I really saw it as just switching mediums, from the world of art to mainstream movie making.”

The most interesting interview is a joint 1990 interview with her then-husband James Cameron, where she more than holds her own.

Overall, a book that appeals to not just fans of Kathryn Bigelow but cinema fans in general.

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (