For barely the price of a family outing to the movies, you can present your family with a collection of movie history in a box. The Legends of the Silver Screen set draws from the compelling A&E biography series to offer in-depth looks at the careers of Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean and many more. The Robert Redford bio, Hollywood Outlaw is an engaging peek at the enigmatic legend who started the Sundance Institute and Festival, despite being a reluctant matinee idol for most of his career. The most intriguing and unexpected of the set is the documentary on Hollywood’s founding fathers, all Jewish emigres born within 500 miles of each other in Eastern Europe and all instrumental in the cinematic depiction of the American dream and the establishment of Hollywood as the primary means to express those ideas globally in creative terms.
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Did you know that a mere seven prisoners were freed when the Bastille was stormed in 1789? The glorious illustrations had you thinking hundreds, didn’t they? Did you know it was not Marie Antoinette who said “Let them eat cake”? And Hitler was not a vegetarian? Did you know that World War II did not end until 1990? For the know-it-all with solid faith in her education, be it from school text book or the common wisdom captured in a Hollywood film, this is a fun book that will rock her world. Peppered with words of wisdom from those whom we assume know better than the rest (e.g., “Light travels faster than sound—isn’t that why some people appear bright until you hear them speak?”—Steven Wright), this is an eclectic collection of conceptions about our world proven wrong, and then righted. Or so they say.
You don’t need to be any kind of Stax freak to get into this music, and this new compilation makes for a great starter drug. It’s awesome for people who do not have the originals all on vinyl or eight-track or lousy CD masters from 17 years ago. It is also probably a good thing for people who do have them all already anyway. Listening to songs like “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”, “B-A-B-Y”, “Do the Funky Chicken”, and “Starting All Over Again” is like taking a stroll through the garden of sublime American soul music. But the most important thing about it is that it augurs well for the new era to come. If Concord continues to pump out high-class re-issue material like this, then we will see an undreamt-of Stax renaissance in the next few years. The liner and the photos are beautifully done, and the sound is as crisp as the creases in the Mad Lads’ pants.
Planet Terror - Extended and Unrated 2 Disc Special Edition [$29.95]
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s collaborative cinematic crack, the brilliant and brash Grindhouse, was a failure in perception, not in execution. Exploitation fans just couldn’t cotton a three hour sleaze fest bowing over Easter weekend. Before an eventual full blown DVD delivery of the entire in theater experience, we get two separate releases, and both are fantastic. Tarantino’s car chase slasher stunt gets an inflated narrative and more scintillating dialogue. Rodriguez offers up missing transition, loads more gore, and a commentary track that dissects the teamwork between the filmmakers. Until we get the final version, fake trailers and drive-in bumper material intact, these will have to do. They’re a sensational substitute.
You like beer? Who doesn’t like beer? But do you know beer? Are you aware of its origins in this country, of the immigrant brewers who took a gamble and made a fortune on the golden ale, helping to pave the American frontier in the process? Ambitious Brew, Maureen Ogle’s history of beer in the United States, only begins there. In a brisk prose that will keep even the non-bibliophile hooked, she pours forth with tales of saloons and Prohibition, anti-drunk driving campaigns, right up through today’s mega-brewers. It’s 342 thorough pages, but it reads quick, and goes down like a smooth draught.
// Moving Pixels
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