It’s simultaneously an art history 101 and a coffee table pleasure that will offer hours of reading or even just hours of enjoying the pretty pictures, the last bit being vital in any really great coffee table book. Art does indeed begin in pre-history and continue up to the present, looking at new media and regional art scenes around the world. Prefaced by an educational overview on composition, color and techniques, the book then highlights all the key phases of worldwide artistic movements, the primary innovators and representatives of those styles, and delves into detailed specifics on distinctive aspects of iconic works of art via zoom-ins on sections of those works with brief text. Despite the inherent dangers in tackling such a massive chunk of cultural history, Art manages to maintain its broad view, while illuminating and offering real insight.
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The new featurettes are actually the strongest pieces to be found on this 10th anniversary edition. There’s the new “Introduction” to the film (which is almost as funny as the film itself) and the new featurettes “The Dude’s Life” and “The Dude Abides: The Big Lebowski Ten Years Later”. Both of these feature new interviews with the cast and crew, some of which is a bit hyperbolic (Julianne Moore’s insistence that Bridges should’ve won an Oscar for his work here), but most of which is humbly appreciative of the second life that Lebowski has taken on. Bridges, however, is the most vivid during these segments, happily retelling dozens of stories about the film and its after-effects, all while radiating an infectious warmth towards this career-making flick and the fans that love it.
The best game I played in 2008 wasn’t on a console. It didn’t take a high-end processor to run it and the game was essentially an elaborate extension of the Tower Defense genre. The game was Immortal Defense. You are an ordinary person who has left their body to defend their home planet from invading aliens in hyper space. Using the ability to turn your emotions into weapons, you exist eternally as a spiritual demi-god. Yet as the years go by and you begin to realize that what once made you a hero has now made you a prisoner. Your relationship with the people on your planet and in the galaxy around you begins to change. It does not evolve into a state of understanding or new appreciation, it evolves into a state of alienation. The people you once murdered worship you as a heroic God, the people you once tried to save question your love constantly. The game draws on a wide variety of Hindu elements and philosophical beliefs to communicate these themes. All of this is told through static text sequences and extremely refined game design that lends itself to a superb experience. The average mission takes about five minutes to beat, the difficulty can be customized, and there are over 100 missions to work through. If there is a way to summarize this game into a single question, it would be to ask what if the only thing your existence consisted of was the standard activities you find in a video game? The answer is both profound personally but also questions the very nature of video games themselves.
This cloth covered box set of Patricia Highsmith’s five Mr. Ripley’s titles is as handsome, dark and cool as the protagonist who strolls with such suave nonchalance through this collection’s pages. Nearly as sensual in their look as they are cerebral in their content, followers of Highsmith, fans of Hitchcock, devotees of the macabre will, much like the ‘Ripliad’ himself, quickly eliminate inferior titles on their bookshelves to make room for this set. Containing The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley’s Game, The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Under Water, this set will scratch that little bit of sociopathic itch in the one you love.
It’s finally happened. Last month, after nearly six years and 32 box sets, the entire run of Dan Curtis’ classic Gothic soap opera is now available on DVD. It’s all here - the original series format of standard “rich are different” Peyton Place-holding, the arrival of Josette’s ghost, the unearthing of Barnabas Collins, and the nonstop amalgamation of every famous monster myth into a daily dose of 30 minute drama. While the show lost its spark toward the end (The Leviathans? Please…) it still remains a quintessential example of broadcast boundary pushing at its campy, creative best. Costly, but well worth the money.