The pantheon of big-budget, commercially successful films encompasses a range of genres, including biblical films, war films, romances, comic-book adaptations, animated features, and historical epics. In Epics, Spectacles, and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History authors Sheldon Hall and Steve Neale discuss the characteristics, history, and modes of distribution and exhibition that unite big-budget pictures, from their beginnings in the late nineteenth century to the present.
I took a course in film history back in college, and while I won't go into detail, suffice it to say it was a joke. This is the book that outlines what I wish they had taught. I want to go back in time with a physical copy of it and beat my professors over the head with it.
What's inside here is an almost complete look at the evolution of the Hollywood blockbuster machine, just as the title of the book implies. Fair warning to the uninitiated: if you're not already familiar with the lingo, you'll get no real definitions here. For all things there is Google. This book will expect you to know the difference between roadshows, grindhouse, reserve ticket, and things of that nature. Easy enough to wrap your head around. It will also outline the differences in process as the evolution goes, so you'll learn about Cinemascope, Vistascope, Panavision, Dolby, and other such things, and how it all fits together. The spotlight is on the process, the commercial trends, and the development of how things became what they are today. It's not exactly in chronological order, but it is told generally that way with an eye towards sweeping trends first, so there is some overlap here and there in the timeline.
The narrator gives a solid delivery, though I had to grin whenever he does a direct quote from any source. All quoted passages are delivered in what I call "golfer announcer voice." He drops his tone to a kind of a whisper and removes all expression from it. On the plus column, he's more upbeat when the text doesn't directly quote.
All in all, this one's for the film buffs and armchair historians who like to peek behind the scenes. It could be better, it could be more in-depth on certain stories, but it will definitely offer a breadth of material with deliberate focus and will point you towards more research if you so desire.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
You probably know that food, water, sunlight, and oxygen are required for life, but there is a fifth element of health that is equally vital and often overlooked: The Earth's magnetic field and its corresponding PEMFs (pulsed electromagnetic fields). The two main components of Earth's PEMFs, the Schumann and Geomagnetic frequencies, are so essential that NASA and the Russian space program equip their spacecrafts with devices that replicate these frequencies.
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” -- Nikola Tesla
This book deals with applying post-Newtonian science to the world of medicine, presented by an author with a foot in both worlds. It is simple enough for general interest without dumbing it down. In fact, I'll say the explanations offered within are very well executed. There are many takes on this material to be found elsewhere, be it within the realms of quantum physics or the new age community, but the information speaks for itself if you're willing to move past the idea of a clockwork universe and enter the 21st century.
While most of the ideas within are practical and immediately executable in daily life, the equipment suggested within is probably out of reach of the average person living on a budget. Based on my own practical experience, the poor man's equivalent can be found in binaural or isochronic frequency technology. Experimentation is encouraged, and results may vary, but I think you'll find at least some improvement in your overall state of mind/body health. It won't be nearly as dramatic as a $6000 PEMF mat, but that's to be expected.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
What does it take to become the greatest secret agent the world has ever known? In this thrilling prequel to the James Bond series, readers meet a 13-year-old schoolboy whose inquisitive mind and determination set him on a path that will one day take him all over the world, in pursuit of the most dangerous criminals known to man.
I've been told repeatedly by fellow 007 fans that I needed to read this series. I'm not really sure why I'd not done this before, but I'm glad I finally picked this one up. I am truly impressed with it! The best way to relate it to the Bond we know is to compare it to the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. It's the same kind of thing, where you can see the elements that would turn the kid into the man we know.
And in this case, the man we know is definitely Fleming's Bond. The setting is in the early 30s when Germany is only beginning its rise to power, and young Bond is still in school, learning to drive a car, and facing off against the local bullies. In this case, the local bully's father happens to be into eugenics. What are the odds?
There are plenty of nods to both Fleming and to Connery to make this enjoyable without going overboard with it. And as a bonus, the narration provided by Nathaniel Parker is a first class performance at all turns. Even when the story isn't so credible, Parker makes you believe it.
All in all, a solid beginning. I'm looking forward to more!
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
The second Death Star has been destroyed, the emperor killed, and Darth Vader struck down. Devastating blows against the Empire and major victories for the Rebel Alliance. But the battle for freedom is far from over. As the Empire reels from its critical defeats at the Battle of Endor, the Rebel Alliance - now a fledgling New Republic - presses its advantage by hunting down the enemy's scattered forces before they can regroup and retaliate. But above the remote planet Akiva, an ominous show of the enemy's strength is unfolding.
To set the stage properly for this review, let it be understood up front that I am not one of those who despises the new canon. Quite the reverse, of the 5 books released before this, I rated 4 of them with 5 stars, and the other not nearly so high. It breaks my heart to write a review like this because it grieves me to say anything negative about Star Wars.
There are a great many books on the roster right now involving the road to The Force Awakens. Most of them seem to be filler, to be honest. This one is beyond argument the most important one in this new “everything is canon” era. A lot is riding on it. There are a great many expectations for it. There are a few minor spoilers in regards to world building, but I’ll try to be vague otherwise in consideration of those who’ve not read it and still want to.
I still have trouble accepting the “everything is canon” idea. I get it, but seeing as how there are already plenty of contradictions in how this galaxy is put together, I feel like that can’t last. With that in mind, this is just another one in the line of books for me. At the same time, though… planning has gone into it to make it more than that, and the weight of what this story offers feels legitimate in the grand sweeps. Effort has been made here to show the progression of a single conflict from decades before the Clone Wars began, through the Imperial era, and up to this point in the saga. Names change, and things are broken up for convenience. But it’s all one big push. This is one of the two major takeaways from this book for me. It’s not a new concept, but I like that it’s acknowledged.
The other big takeaway is the big political picture, which has been a part of Star Wars from the beginning. For a student of history like myself, it’s interesting to see the parallels.
These are, for me, the good parts. And that would have been enough to garner 3 or more stars had anything else made any sense whatsoever.
This is my first encounter with Chuck Wendig as a writer. As a long time Star Wars fan (like many who will read this book, and probably much like Wendig himself must claim), my judgment of his abilities hinges a great deal on this one book. And, unfortunately, this one’s not a winner for me. It’s not even a contender.
The first problem is the choice of writing style. Writing in the present tense feels awkward and is inconsistent with the concept of myth-building a long-established story like this. This story still takes place “a long time ago.” It’s not happening now. You can get used to it, but it’s just weird and inappropriate. The worse offender is that his writing style is choppy so as to intensify the action. It feels like the verbal equivalent of shaky “documentary style” handheld camera work to me. It may work for some, but it’s an immediate put-off. It’s reads like riding in a landspeeder, *ahem* car with someone driving who’s never operated a manual transmission. I got mental whiplash from the experience.
The second problem is world building. It’s just easier if I offer some examples, but the overarching theme at every turn is that the world building is abysmal.
This story would have us believe that the average street urchin is familiar with the Jedi and phrases like “May the Force be with you.” Even at their height, the Jedi weren’t numerous enough to be more than urban legend for most people. There were, what, 10,000 of them compared to trillions upon trillions of beings across an entire galaxy? That’s a drop in the bucket compared to most cities, to say nothing of a galaxy with that many overpopulated worlds. Several of those worlds have many different concepts of religion and household gods, which the author actually references. Many wouldn’t have known what the Force is, let alone be familiar with that catch phrase. The Rebellion leaders use it because the founders of that group actually knew the Jedi and understood what their ideals were on some level. That’s a very small, rare subset of people. If Luke had to have Obi-Wan explain what the Force was, even knowing his father was a Jedi knight, then there’s no reason for the average person on the street to know either. That’s just common sense.
A more grievous misunderstanding is that somewhere along the lines, the Sith apparently put out an advertising campaign as every Imperial officer seems to know what they were and how they operated. Even a random bounty hunter knows what a Sith is according to this book. That’s nonsense. I would counter by pointing out there were only two, nobody advertised it, and the entire reason they were successful is precisely because nobody knew who they were. This would certainly have extended well through to Return of the Jedi. There was precisely one Imperial officer that we know of who would have known anything about the Sith, and that’s Tarkin, due to his close association with Vader and Palpatine. Who are these people that know so much about the nature of the Dark Side? At least we got an explanation about one character in this book where it’s plausible, but the rest of them… c’mon. The most secret and exclusive club in the history of the galaxy, and everyone’s in on it? Please.
Related to that, this is the second novel in the new canon that has tossed in the idea that it’s well-known that Vader was a cyborg. I would argue that Vader was the boogeyman. Nobody knew who he was until he showed up, which is part of what made him so effective and terrifying. Think about when Vader showed up in ’77. Our perception was that we had no clue what he was. Was he a man? A droid? A cyborg? Something else entirely? We didn’t know. We didn’t even get a glimpse under the mask until The Empire Strikes Back. At that point, we knew far more than the vast majority of the Star Wars galaxy. Or is it known because there was a pop song about him, per Kevin Hearne? I refuse to accept that as a viable explanation. That’s bad writing, compounded by more bad writing.
These are, to my mind, common misperceptions across casual fans, which would be understandable given where the films are focused. For an author writing in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, supposedly with input from the Lucasfilm Story Group – some of whom who have actually outlined the above ideas to the public – these are rookie mistakes to apply such perceptions to the galaxy as a whole. With so much riding on the perception of this novel going forward, it’s a bit offensive that I should have to lower my expectations to immerse myself in this universe. That’s bantha poodoo.
Admittedly this is nitpicking, but that’s what world building is all about: details. That’s why anyone’s reading this book. We want the details of what happened between the original trilogy and the next film.
But let’s compound it. There’s a random scene where there’s graffiti on the wall with Vader’s helmet reading “Vader Lives.” In front of that wall, a black market merchant sells a red lightsaber to a member of a Force death cult. Neither are certain this is Vader’s, but the idea is for the cult member to destroy it so that he can send it back to its master in the great beyond.
And that’s the thing. There is almost no cohesive story. There is the hint of one, and in between are these random sequences that are probably supposed to be easter eggs. Maybe they’re for the later novels in this trilogy, or maybe they’re for the movie. I don’t know. I really don’t care. It came across as sheer lunacy. Need a random fight sequence with Dengar and some new bounty hunter named Mercurial Swift? It’s in here. Need a random scene of Han and Chewie, just to say you saw them? Done. How about a few scenes where Grand Admiral Ackbar makes references to traps? You know, because everyone knows Star Wars exists solely on internet memes now instead of substance. For the love of the Force, he’s not the first one who ever said the line!
Not random enough? Let’s add in a one-armed Wookiee for this scene because one-armed Wookiees are cool! Did you know that Quarren have teeth? Neither did I, but apparently they have dentists, so it must be true. Is this really what passes for world building these days? It’s pure amateur hour fluff, not even worthy of ranking as pop culture drivel. Tell a story and quit winking at the fans, Skippy. Han said to “Fly casual” in ROTJ, and now this is something he always says, to the point where Wedge – a character who wasn’t there when Han said it – knows it well enough to reference it? Again, world building happens because of details, and this just falls apart all over the place here. I’m sure all of this was designed to add a level of familiarity to make it feel like Star Wars. It felt contrived. And overall, the presentation was just sloppy beyond words.
So let’s talk about the main characters of this story, because they aren’t the main characters of THE story. There aren’t any characters in this to latch onto. It’s more accurate for me to say that I couldn’t latch onto them. I like seeing the progression of Admiral Rae Sloane. But this illustrates my point. She’s a side character, not a front runner. So is pretty much everyone else in this story who steps into the spotlight, so far as I can tell. If any of these characters make it to the big screen story that takes place 30 years later, I’ll reassess their worth. For now, I’m not impressed enough to remember anyone else’s name. Their functions as two-dimensional placeholders within the scope of the story is far more important than who they are. Some of the primary characters in this tale finally started to get some development halfway through this book, but it wasn’t enough to make me care. It seemed more like too many ideas were being flung at the walls to see what stuck rather than trying to demonstrate the diversity of the galaxy. Perhaps there is something here the new canon will use better in other interpretations. Maybe we’ll see an animated series that utilizes these characters set at this time. I don’t have those answers. All I know is they didn’t make an immediate impact the way characters from any other era of Star Wars has, and while I didn’t hate any of them by the end of the book, I didn’t love any of them either.
To get you through this book, I propose a drinking game. Every time you hear a mention of some kind of insect or arachnoid, take a drink. Every time someone clucks their tongue, take two drinks. If you don’t pass out first, it might make this lamentable mess more palatable.
The production on this audio is as top shelf as ever. It’s always a pleasure to have Marc Thompson on board as narrator. Backed by the classic sound effects and John Williams music, this story gets elevated beyond what it probably would have been than by print alone. It’s a colossal waste and even an insult to the music of John Williams. I trust Marc Thompson got well paid for his outstanding performance.
As I say, this is my first experience with Chuck Wendig. It will be my last. I’m not inclined to explore more of his work, up to and including the other two parts of this trilogy. This book feels more like incredibly bad fan fiction cobbled together in the back of a sandcrawler from spare parts more than anything mythical, magical, or worthy of the Star Wars brand. But, thankfully, there are other writers and creative types involved that I trust, and this is a franchise that’s now far bigger than the sum of its parts, so I need not worry that the whole ship is doomed. We’ve had other contributions that work, and we will again. This one oscillated back and forth between almost competent and absurdly asinine so fast, I got nauseous. It’s unfortunate that I walk away from this one with a sour taste for the future because of such an important cog in the clockwork to come. I will also acknowledge that just because it didn’t work for me, that’s not to say it won’t work for other readers. Ultimately, it’ll come to down to the reader’s personal tastes more than anything else. For the curious, I’d still recommend it so they can judge for themselves.
243 of 291 people found this review helpful
Amazons - fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world - were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles displayed their valor in duels with Amazon queens, and the Athenians reveled in their victory over a powerful Amazon army. In historical times, Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great, and the Roman general Pompey tangled with Amazons.
Adrienne Mayor impressed me with her book Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, & Scorpion Bombs. To have her tackle the subject of the Amazons, a subject of personal fascination to me... suffice it to say, I expected big things. And I got bigger things.
Beginning with the myths of Atalanta, this book quickly delves into the historical and often contradictory accounts behind the legends through critical examination of archaeological evidence, literature, and art. The scope of it is nothing less than astounding as the level of influence the Amazons had on the ancient and modern worlds becomes known. No stone is left unturned. The personalities are examined in as much detail as the clothes, the weapons, and the territories they staked out.
As narrator, Fran Tunno does a respectable job for the most part. However, she also joins a great many throughout modern culture who have difficulty pronouncing many of the names. She pronounces the "w" in "sword," so you can imagine how badly mangled some of the Amazonian names become by comparison. Some of these names will have different pronunciations, and it gets a little cartoonish at times. But if you can deal with that, the strength of her delivery is otherwise quite solid.
This is a book that will eventually see hardcover for my personal library. Part of that is due to the sheer amount of quality information, and part of that is because there are constant references to photos and illustrations that are not packaged with the audio.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
In this accessible and engaging book, Ralph Wood shows us that J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece is a deeply Christian work because it does not blink back the horrors of our terrible times but confronts them with startling honesty.
Tolkien has always asserted that there was never a 1:1 corollary with between the real world and Middle-Earth, but rather that the themes presented in his books were allegories for both the events of the real world in his lifetime as well as for the religious ideas that he held dear. A staunch Catholic and medievalist who relished his studies of the pagan world, Tolkien often combined the two in such a way as to present his higher ideals without beating his readers over the head with it as his friend C.S. Lewis might have done in his Narnia books. As a result, he spent a lot of years fighting off the critics who denied his Christianity and his contributions to the faith.
This book is quite possibly one of the best defenses I've ever seen compiled in the name of Tolkien's faith. Unlike Tolkien, I am not myself a Christian, however, I've come to learn that to study anything medieval or anything Tolkien requires a familiarity with Christianity and its evolution. Even then, knowing such things doesn't allow you to connect the dots because Tolkien is often subtle, hiding his intent behind older meanings and linguistic veils. This book demystifies a good chunk of it. For those who have only read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, this book will go a long way towards creating a new appreciation and understanding. For those like myself who are constantly trying to decode The Silmarillion, this book is of immense value. The only negative I could point to in this book is that there are a handful of moments where the Christian reinterpretation of Old Testament texts are a bit overboard, but at the same time, this is likely how Tolkien himself would have interpreted such things. It's all perception.
Nadia May continues to be one of the best of the best when it comes to narration, regardless of what name she chooses to use. Her pronunciations are at times a bit different than what Tolkien fans might expect (especially those who got used to the films), but on the whole, she delivers with enthusiasm and authority.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Internationally renowned psychiatrist, Viktor E. Frankl, endured years of unspeakable horror in Nazi death camps. During, and partly because of his suffering, Dr. Frankl developed a revolutionary approach to psychotherapy known as logotherapy. At the core of his theory is the belief that man's primary motivational force is his search for meaning.
There are a handful of books that should truly be required and desired reading for everyone across the world. This is one of them. It is simultaneously repulsive and compelling, disheartening and hopeful.
I read this book perhaps 20 years ago. The older I get, the more I find new meaning in it. There are a great many self-help books out there that go on and on and say nothing. Then there's a book like this that offers an unblinking look at one of history's most horrific events from an inside perspective and uses that as a lead-in to offer to us a scientific embrace of the three little words that could mean the most to all of us.
Love. Faith. Hope.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Being James Bond is dedicated to learning and exploring all we need to know so that we can experience life the way James Bond does. It's a 'how-to' guide, on anything James Bond can do or has done. If James Bond can do it, we can do it!
The premise of this book is pretty simple: while you may never be as cool as James Bond, you can certainly learn how to do the things he does. "If Bond can do it, you can too." To this end, the author has assembled this instructional dossier of how you can find your inner 007. Or as your significant other might call it, your how-to guide for coping with a mid-life crisis.
The author is a podcaster and blogger, and these essays are mined straight from his online content. It's good information for those looking to learn more about the basics on how to get started. Skiing, mixing drinks, flying an aircraft, bungee jumping... these are but some of the topics found here, and the author promises more books in this series.
For this audiobook version, the downside is that the author is a podcaster. While he may be better at vocal delivery in free form, here he's clearly reading his book, and it comes off a bit mechanical. It's not bad, but it could be better. It could be a lot worse too, so don't let that stop you from diving in and getting interested in the idea of learning something new.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
For many, the medieval world seems dark and foreign - a miraculous, brutal, and irrational time of superstition and strange relics. The pursuit of heretics, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the domination of the "Holy Land" come to mind.
When studying the Middle Ages, Christianity isn't just so wound up with it as to be inseparable. Christendom is the world view of the age for most of Europe and for others in different parts of the known world at the time. Most overviews of this era will hopscotch around certain topics and tie it in to world events, and most histories of Christianity will simply be come across as "history from the perspective of the Church." This book is a bit different, and it fills a niche.
This book's focus is all about how Christianity spread and evolved during this time, and to that end it touches upon a little bit of everything. Practitioners in secular life? Check. Monastic orders and life within those walls? It's in there. How the faith interacted with other beliefs? Yes. Crusades? Of course! The movers and shakers that redefined the various sects are covered, as well as everything from scholastic preservation to inquisition. There's just enough of nearly every topic of discussion without venturing into the depths of true scholastic oblivion. If you're looking to go there, this book will certainly give you plenty of launching points to do so. At the same time, what it does offer has plenty of depth that a person unfamiliar with this era could walk away with a considerable understanding.
As narrator for the audio, Pete Larkin has a perfect radio announcer voice and delivery. He does stumble with pronunciation from time to time, but it's not nearly often enough to derail the book.
4 of 6 people found this review helpful
Artful reading-the way we read novels and short stories-is less about reading for specific information and more about reading to revel in the literary experience. Learning the skills and techniques of artful reading can improve your life in many ways, whether you're a fiction reader, an aspiring writer, a book club member, or a student.And the best part: These skills are not difficult or unwieldy; rather, they are well within your reach.
If you're a writer or a literary-minded reader, this set of lectures is insightful and immeasurably practical. The idea is teach styles and literary devices through example of works of great literature. Many of the examples used were not necessarily in my wheelhouse of normal reading, but the lessons still came across easily.
Prof. Spurgin is, on the whole, a good educator. His presentation is clear and well-constructed. I was often distracted, however, his delivery. It came. Across. At times like. William. Shatner. Should have. Been speaking. Ok, perhaps it wasn't quite as bad as all of that, but once noticed, it cannot be unnoticed. If you try this title out, apologies in advance for ruining that for you.
15 of 15 people found this review helpful