This is the kind of book that every film critic wants to write, and every film buff needs to have. Compiled with start-and-stop care over many years by David Thomson, the astoundingly prolific and smartly opinionated (what laypeople would call “idiosyncratic”) whose Biographical Dictionary of Film is another must-own, it’s little more than a massive and massively inviting introduction to a thousand films worth seeing. Starting with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (described as “a kind of going-out-of-business sale at what was then Universal Studios”) and finishing up with Zabriskie Point (“It would have been so much more coherent if Antonioni had been free of script or actors”), the tome gives one plenty of reasons to keep the Netflix queue piled high with hundreds films you always meant to see, and excuses to avoid those you had been avoiding.
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What do you buy for the sports gamers on your list? They already snagged Madden on launch day. They have already chosen between the latest MVP Baseball or MLB 2K8. They have already logged hours on NBA 2K9. Despite cries of the sport it’s based on being “boring,” FIFA Soccer 2009 may be the answer. Once the bridesmaid to the Winning Eleven series, FIFA has steadily improved over the past few years—culminating in this year’s superb installment that makes it the soccer simulation to own this year. With a deeply complex control scheme, over 500 teams (41 national teams), online play and an innovative feature that updates player stats to reflect their real-life performance, this is a must-own title for any true soccer fan. The inclusion of MLS teams (Beckham!), spectacular player animations, controls that are easy enough to get into, but take time to master, and fluid, satisfying game play and a host of over improvements then turn FIFA into a title that has a good chance to convert even the most green of futbol fans.
The Lemonheads released It’s a Shame About Ray in 1992 and 16 years later it’s gotten the Collector’s Edition treatment. For an album that clocks in at just under 30 minutes, its raucous energy and catchy melodies makes it sound fuller than one might expect -– this album has held up very well. The Collector’s Edition contains demos of almost all the tracks and a second disc DVD that includes videos from this album, as well as from Lovey and Come On Feel the Lemonheads. The 1993 documentary, Two Weeks in Australia, is also included. This re-release is an opportunity for old fans to rediscover a great album and for new fans to discover an underrated gem.
The third and equally worthy installment in The Intellectual Devotional series, this is the book that will give your trivia-loving know-it-all an edge. That’s obvious. But anybody post-BA with an active mind will benefit from a revisit to the concepts (neoconservativism), movements (busing), trends (Beatlemania) and individuals (Rupert Murdoch), to name but a few highlights of modern culture. Equal parts reminder, rediscovery and ‘I never new that’ illuminating, these 365 daily readings will prompt ‘Did you know that ...?’ conversation for, well, at least the year to come.
In this year of historic change with the U.S. electing America’s first African American President while in the midst of an unpopular war and the growing strength of gay rights protests, the time has never been better to reexamine the 1960s. The History Channel’s massive set, The 60s, covers all the turmoil and hope of that era through a series of major documentaries, including programs on JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights struggle, the massive protest movements, and the race to the moon. It’s essential viewing for understanding a vital decade in American history as well as for shedding light on our current challenges.