WEDNESDAY WORDS: TOP 20 BOOKS OF THE WEEK #1


HEROIC TIMES Top 20 Books list is a new weekly installment that ranks the 20 most interesting/intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.

Feel free to leave feedback comments below, or suggest additions or subtractions.

Open City: A Novel by Teju Cole- A masterful command of narrative voice distinguishes a debut novel that requires patience and rewards it.

THE PRAGUE CEMETERY by Umberto Eco – Publication Date: November 8, 2011- Nineteenth-century Europe, from Turin to Prague to Paris, abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious. Conspiracies rule history. Jesuits plot against Freemasons. Italian priests are strangled with their own intestines. French criminals plan bombings by day and celebrate black masses by night. Every nation has its own secret service, perpetrating forgeries, plots, and massacres. From the unification of Italy to the Paris Commune to the Dreyfus Affair to the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Europe is in tumult and everyone needs a scapegoat. But what if, behind all of these conspiracies both real and imagined, lay just one man? What if that evil genius created the most infamous document of all?

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins: Girl takes sister’s place in a real world survivor game in a post-apocalyptic U.S.. (P, Scholastic)

THE STREETLETHAL OMNIBUS by Steven Barnes – Rumors alone of a collected omnibus edition containing the entire acclaimed three part STREET LETHAL series (similar to the excellently designed Chester Himes HARLEM CYCLE omnibus), hitting shelves soon is reason enough for this sci-fi/action-adventure classic to make anyone’s list.

THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS by Ian Fleming – James Bond, the world’s most famous secret agent, has thrilled audiences for over fifty years with his globe-trotting adventures. THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS collects eleven of Ian Fleming’s original daily comic strips for the very first time in a mammoth omnibus edition.

DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL by Derrick Ferguson – The author of The Nuclear Suitcase, Joel Jenkins, describes Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell as “James Bond meets Cthulhu” and you’ll want to check out this heady mixture of the spy thriller and horror genres.

THE ARTIST WITHIN by Greg Preston – The culmination of more than fifteen years of photography by renowned photographer Greg Preston, this book is a living history of the men and women who have shaped the imaginations of countless millions of people around the world through their work in the fields of animated cartoons, comic books, comic strips and editorial cartooning. The list of more than two hundred artists includes such luminaries as Frank Miller, Al Hirschfeld, Joe Barbera, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Moebius, Walter and Louise Simonson and many more, all in photographs exclusive and shot expressly for this book.

SAUL BASS by Jennifer Bass, Pat Kirkham – This is the first book to be published on one of the greatest American designers of the 20th Century, who was as famous for his work in film as for his corporate identity and graphic work. With more than 1,400 illustrations, many of them never published before and written by the leading design historian Pat Kirkham, this is the definitive study that design and film enthusiasts have been eagerly anticipating.

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES: A Novel – by Roberto Bolaño In this dazzling novel, the book that established his international reputation, Roberto Bolaño tells the story of two modern-day Quixotes–the last survivors of an underground literary movement, perhaps of literature itself–on a tragicomic quest through a darkening, entropic universe: our own. The Savage Detectives is an exuberant, raunchy, wildly inventive, and ambitious novel from one of the greatest Latin American authors of our age.

ASSUMPTION A NOVEL by Percival Everett – A wild ride to the heart of a baffling mystery, Assumption is a literary thriller like no other.

ATLAS OF HUMAN ANATOMY AND SURGERY by Jean-Marie Le Minor – Anatomically correct We owe a great debt to Jean Baptiste Marc Bourgery (1797?1849) for his Atlas of Anatomy, which was not only a massive event in medical history, but also remains one of the most comprehensive and beautifully illustrated anatomical treatises ever published in any language. In 1830, having received his doctorate in medicine three years prior, Bourgery began work on his magnificent atlas in cooperation with illustrator Nicolas Henri Jacob (1782?1871), a student of the French painter Jacques Louis David. The first volumes were published the following year, but completion of the treatise required nearly two decades of dedication. 15.5 lbs and 19.2″ x 12.6″ x 3.5″.714pgs.

FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King – Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

THE SHADOWS GALLERY by L.R. Giles – You’ve been invited to the opening of a grand exhibition, a show unlike any you’ve ever seen. Inside you might find your greatest joy or your worst fear on display. But be warned, it can be difficult to tell which is which when you’re looking through the shadows… Award-winning author L.R. Giles brings forth a collection of tales that take you to the limits of imagination and beyond.

THE MORNING AFTER by David Drebin(English, German, French, Italian and Spanish Edition) – A talented photographer without equal, David Drebin is above all a storyteller. His brooding and glamorous works tell tales of lust and voyeurism–as well as seduction and escape. Not afraid to be daring, Drebin also tantalizes us with subtle allusions. His sweeping cinematic images feature the majestic backdrops of such world cities as Berlin, Paris and Rio de Janeiro. These photographs pulse with a charged sensuality, using color and light to maximum effect. Dangerous seductresses play a central role in Drebin’s work. Bursts of saturated Technicolor explode against stone and gray cement. In this, he hints at Hitchcock at his finest. We’re left with a tinge of regret amid the sensual excess.

Use Once, Then DestroyUSE ONCE, THEN DESTROY by Conrad Williams- In this spellbinding collection of his best stories from the last ten years, award-winning writer Conrad Williams offers the kind of horrors that move subtly into you, like pain, or love, or regret. They are stories that explore the scarred outposts of desperation and desire, sickness and death, sex and decay. Within these pages you will also find the acclaimed novella Nearly People.

SHERLOCK HOLMES CONSULTING DETECTIVE Vol III – The Baker Street Sleuth returns in five new original mysteries told in the classic style of Arthur Conan Doyle. Here are tales by Aaron Smith, Ian Watson, Joshua Reynolds and Andrew Smith guaranteed entertain any mystery fan. Throw on your deerstalker cap and load your pistols, there’s murder and mayhem about and the game is afoot once more.

RADIOACTIVE:MARIE & PIERRE CURIE: A TALE OF LOVE AND FALLOUT – In the century since the Curies began their work, we’ve struggled with nuclear weapons proliferation, debated the role of radiation in medical treatment, and pondered nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. In Radioactive, Lauren Redniss links these contentious questions to a love story in 19th Century Paris…Whether young or old, scientific novice or expert, no one will fail to be moved by Lauren Redniss’s eerie and wondrous evocation of one of history’s most intriguing figures.


EXILES FROM A FUTURE TIME: TRINITY OF PASSION: THE FORGING OF THE MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY LITERARY LEFT
– With this book, Alan Wald launches a bold and passionate account of the U.S. Literary Left from the 1920s through the 1960s. Exiles from a Future Time, the first volume of a trilogy, focuses on the forging of a Communist-led literary tradition in the 1930s. Exploring writers’ intimate lives and heartfelt political commitments, Wald draws on original research in scores of archives and personal collections of papers; correspondence and interviews with hundreds of writers and their friends and families; and a treasure trove of unpublished memoirs, fiction, and poetry… Focusing on the formation of the tradition and the organization of the Cultural Left, Wald investigates the “elective affinity” of its avant-garde poets, the “Afro-cosmopolitanism” of its Black radical literary movement, and the uneasy negotiation between feminist concerns and class identity among its women writers.

DREAMSCAPES 2010: CONTEMPORARY IMAGINARY REALISM – Publication Date: April 28, 2011 | ISBN-10: 9490668028 | ISBN-13: 978-9490668020 The greatest practitioners of imaginary realism are presented in this lavish overview of dreamy, surreal and beguiling paintings and sculptures! This large-scale, beautifully produced book features artwork by modern favorites like Michael Parkes, Daniel Merriam, Kinuko Y. Craft and many others. Vibrant paintings feature psychedelic dreamscapes populated by fairies, nymphs, gods and golems. Loaded with symbolism and often jarringly original, this showcases the best fantasy artists working today.Buy Direct from Publisher Here.

Well gals and guys hope you enjoyed that.

The WEDNESDAY WORDS column is a brand new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list! And if you see items you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links. Your helpful purchases through the links generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!

Deals of the Day: JAMES BOND OMNIBUS 1000pgs

THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS:VOL I-

Synopsis

The daring James Bond is back in a definitive bumper edition collecting Ian Fleming’s earliest literary adventures in comic strip form!

For the first time, eleven of Bond’s most thrilling and dangerous missions appear in a single volume: Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, Moonraker, Diamonds are Forever, From Russia With Love, Dr. No, Goldfinger, Risico, From a View to a Kill, For Your Eyes Only and Thunderball!

With an introduction by Sir Roger Moore, this huge volume features beautiful women, thrilling action, incredible gadgets and the odd Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred… this ultimate collection of Bond’s best is not to be missed!

Product Details

ISBN: 9781848563643
Dimensions: 230 x 190mm
Paperback: 304pp
Publication date: 25 September 2009
Illustration detail: b/w comic strip
All authors:
Ian Fleming, Peter O’Donnell, Henry Gammidge, Anthony Hern, John McLusky


“Collected in THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS: VOLUME 001 are the first 1,128 comic strips of spy fiction’s all-time superstar, gracing the pages of British newspapers beginning in the summer of 1958… Here, Fleming’s first nine 007 books are adapted in chronological order, from CASINO ROYALE to THUNDERBALL.”— Rod Lott of Bookgasm

THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS:VOL II-

Synopsis

The daring James Bond is back in a definitive bumper edition collecting Ian Fleming’s earliest literary adventures in comic strip form! Seven of Bond’s most thrilling and dangerous missions appear in a single volume: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, You Only Live Twice, The Man With the Golden Gun, The Living Daylights, Octopussy, The Hildebrand Rarity and The Spy Who Loved Me!

Product Details

ISBN: 9781848564329
Dimensions: 230 x 190mm
Paperback: 344pp
Publication date: 25 February 2011
Illustration detail: B&W comic strip
All authors:
Ian Fleming, Yaroslav Horak, Henry Gammidge, John McLusky
All characters:
James Bond

THE JAMES BOND OMNIBUS:VOL III-

Synopsis

The daring James Bond is back in a definitive bumper edition collecting the first period of Jim Lawrence’s celebrated run in comic strip form! Includes seven of Bond’s most thrilling and dangerous missions: The Harpies, River of Death, The Golden Ghost, Fear Face, Double Jeopardy, Starfire and Kingley Amis’ controversial post-Fleming story, Colonel Sun.

Product Details

ISBN: 9780857685889
Dimensions: 230 x 190mm
Paperback: 272pp
Publication date: 23 March 2012
Illustration detail: B/w comic strip
All authors:
Ian Fleming, Jim Lawrence, Yaroslav Horak


These three volumes add up to nearly a 1000 pages of British James Bond Comic Strip goodness! And at the price they are going for it is a no-brainer. Snap up your copies today, as they are showing a tendency for selling out, and then the price goes up. I don’t even consider myself a James Bond fan, and I have to have these books.

If you feel the same, please use the links below to purchase. You get to buy great items, and you help keep this blog going, and new DEALS OF THE DAY coming, with the few helpful pennies that are generated from your purchase. Thanks!

James Bond: Omnibus Volume 001: Price Your Copy Here

James Bond Omnibus Volume 002: Price Your Copy Here

The James Bond Omnibus Volume 003: Price your Copy Here

DVD Review: SPACE 1999 BLU-RAY Episode#1 BREAKAWAY! Plus Viewing Order List!!

So I just received today the SPACE 1999 Blu-Ray Season One Set!

Does it live up to expectations? Few episodes in and I have to say… HOLY HECK does it ever! I’m older than most of you reading this, having been frozen in a block of ice during World War II (Okay , okay I’m joking! It was actually World War I) 🙂 , so it tends to give me a different perspective on culture and entertainment.

And I guess a different appreciation for the wonders of yesteryear.

Whereas kids raised today on the latest Battlestar Galactica or Big Screen Blockbuster, may see in this outdated show just groan inducing cheese, I see something that does not dim or fade… I see quality. And it is not for nostalgic reasons that I praise some old shows; old shows can be awful just like new shows. I’m always distrusting of people who put things on a pedestal for nostalgia’s sake, just because they grew up with something. Seems like a lazy person’s way of rating things.

Crap is crap. I grew up with ‘Different Strokes’ and ‘Dukes of Hazard’ for heaven’s sake, and you would have to pay me (quite a lot) to sit through those shows again.

So yeah anyone who hypes a show based on no more than nostalgia, is suspect at best, and moronic at worst.

Either a show is good or it isn’t.

No, if I gravitate to something from yesteryear or from today I do so because there’s evident in it a craft, a passion, that transcends the budgetary or technological constraints of the time.

I once watched a ragtag theater group on the edge of the world put on a production of MAN OF LA MANCHA, that lacking even the most modest sets, was performed with such verve, and passion that decades later… it rallies me still.

And watching SPACE 1999, a show that even its title proclaims as a short-sighted anachronism, I’m drawn in and impressed by it for similar reasons as that play of long ago. Not judging it because of what I remember of it as a kid (I hated it as a kid) but judging it based on my appreciation of it today.

Here is this multi-national cast and crew, and this British studio, developing in that shadow land between the demise of the Star Trek television series and the rise of the Star Wars film, this very odd space show.

As a kid I wasn’t a fan of the show. I caught it sporadically, and I found it (though it’s not a word I would have used then) plodding. It was stilted, overly stoic, and filled with not particularly happy or young people… endlessly scowling at the camera and talking, talking talking.

As a kid I would watch maybe ten, fifteen minutes, then start looking through the five (and on a good day six) channels we had back then for a good show. Maybe a rerun of Star Trek. Now that was a show to capture a kid’s imagination! It was colorful, action-packed, filled with attractive people (did I mention the mini-skirts) who seemed to be having fun in between saving worlds, By comparison SPACE 1999, was a drab, monochromatic environment, filled with endlessly scowling old people. I could get that from my teachers, so I didn’t need that in my tv show.

So as a kid I might have seen 3 or 4 episodes in bits and pieces, none of them leaving a positive impression on me. But as an adult the price was right, and my curiosity was piqued so I now have the Blu-ray in my SEIKI Multi-region player, and as stated… it looks better than it ever did when watching it as a kid. The Blue-ray remastering is fantastic, imbuing color everywhere in a show that I recall being almost achingly drab and gray and lifeless.

Putting in the first disk, and watching the first episode, BREAKAWAY and I’m stunned… it’s gorgeous, simply sumptuous. It’s visually very reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001. The masterful use of models, the 1960s used to imagine and dress the coming millennium. Even though this is a show that ran from 1975 to 1977, it’s the suave, controlled ‘James Bond’ 60s, rather than the psychedelic 70s that influence the films costumes and sets.

There’s a sleek open modernity and aesthetic that is style rather than fad, and this extends particularly to the sets and ships with this wonderful analog, tactile sense to the walls and architecture and buttons and displays. And boy, I love seeing those oscilloscopes/frequency generators. As a guy who has had to use more than a few of those, now rarely seen, tech tools… it’s both charming and effective.

It’s a wonderful clash of concepts, a 1999 wherein analog did not lose the war to digital, and Pan-Am never went out of business, and JFK’s head never went back and to the left.

And the story… I had never seen the first episode, the story (which I’ll leave you to discover) is some crazy audacious manna! In short, I found it a lot of fun. Though it plays, fast and loose with physics, I have no prob with that. I go into my sci-fi not expecting it to be sci-fact.

And the stilted, stoic, even dire performances that bored me to tears as a kid, here in this episode work brilliantly. It’s so stylized, their acting, ranging from subtle to understated to unnatural(Barbara Bain offers an unblinking, very controlled, almost mechanized delivery, yet is still very feminine. It’s very unusual what she does, but unusual in this case works). An addictive episode.

If you’re a fan of films such as Kubrick’s 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY or Mario Bava’s DIABOLIQUE, those primary color drenched odes to style, then you’ll love this first episode of SPACE 1999. I was there in 1999, and this is the future we didn’t get, but should have.

Perhaps it’s not too late! Someone go blow-up the moon!!!

🙂

Oh and one more thing. The order these episodes are on the Blu-ray set (and DVD) is production order, which is completely how they came out. However, it doesn’t work.

I’ll say again… it doesn’t work.

I hit episode two, and I was like…. “what the eff, did I miss something?!”. Because even though these shows are supposed to be more or less standalone, some scripts/stories juxtapose badly with other episodes, in the order they are on the disk.

I did a bit of searching, and thankfully found someone who noticed the same type of inconsistency in the production order of the shows. Namely Andrew Kearley who has created a great web site devoted to SPACE 1999.

One of the best things on the site is that he has created a viewing order for the SPACE 1999 shows.

His website gives a breakdown of why he places the shows where he does, and you can read it here. After viewing the entire season one, I see both the strengths and weaknesses of his list. In my opinion, after watching the whole season, it’s best to stick to production viewing order except where necessary. In a lot of cases Kearley’s list moves episodes out of production order, when in my opinion it doesn’t improve or substantially affect the viewing experience.

So I’ve created a list that looks to stay true to the production order of the series (the order it was shot in and how it is laid out in DVD), except where such alterations in my opinion substantially strengthen the viewing experience.

So here is Production order of the episodes and how you will find them laid out on the DVD or Blu-ray:

Breakaway

Matter Of Life And Death

Black Sun

Ring Around The Moon

Earthbound

Another Time, Another Place

Missing Link

Guardian Of Piri

Force Of Life

Alpha Child

The Last Sunset

Voyager’s Return

Collision Course

Death’s Other Dominion

The Full Circle

End Of Eternity

War Games

The Last Enemy

The Troubled Spirit

Space Brain

The Infernal Machine

Mission Of The Darians

Dragon’s Domain

The Testament Of Arkadia

Utilizing Kearley’s and then my own viewing experience, I’m come up with what I believe is the optimum viewing order for this series. Maintaining Production Order whenever feasible. So without further ado, here is the final set in concrete order, that I recommend the shows should be watched in. I call this the HT Space 1999 recommended Episode Viewing Order List (or HT Space 1999 REVOL for short :)):

1. Breakaway
2. Earthbound
3. Black Sun
4. Missing Link
5. Voyager’s Return
The first five follow the Kearley list. Without doubt that gives a great opening to the series.
6. Ring around the Moon
7. Matter of Life and Death
Six and Seven is where I break with the Kearley List. This forms a loose 2 parter. With the possession of the Doctor in RING perhaps following her subconsciously into MATTER and perhaps helps address some of the inexplicable events that happen there.

8. Guardian of Piri
9. Force of Life
10. Alpha Child
11. The Last Sunset
12. Collision Course
13. Death’s other Dominion
14. The Full Circle
15. End of Eternity

These eight episodes GUARDIAN to THE END OF ETERNITY (with the exception of moving one episode earlier in the season for story development reasons) follow production order, as I saw no substantial reason to move them around. And having watched them both ways they work best this way, adhering closer to production order.

16. The Last Enemy
17. War Games

I swap the order of THE LAST ENEMY and WAR GAMES, because in WAR GAMES it kinda heals the damage done to them in THE LAST ENEMY, and helps them get out of the habit of… preemptive strike and finding enemies wherever they look.

18. Another Time, Another Place- Agreeing with Kearley’s desire to have this closer to the end of the first season, I thought this was the ideal place for this episode. The largely space based and battle heavy WAR GAMES being a nice lead in for the far more metaphysical ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE. And I think after the loss in ANOTHER TIME, the opening of TROUBLED SPIRIT is a great way to cleanse the palette and show a healing moment for the crew of Alpha after several shattering episodes.

19. The Troubled Spirit
20. Space Brain
21. The Infernal Machine
22. Mission of the Darians
23. Dragon’s Domain
24. The Testament of Arkadia

And the final six episodes follow production order exactly and are a strong powerful wrap up for the first, best, and some would say ONLY true season of SPACE 1999.

Well this has been a lot of fun, a little work, putting this HT Space 1999 Recommended Episode Order Viewing List (REVOL) together. Hope it will be of help and use to some of you. Thanks!

Anyhow, Go enjoy this BLU-RAY edition of a show about a space-faring multi-cultural unified 1999, that somehow here in 2012 we managed to miss. We took the wrong road, somewhere in our not too distant past, and found ourselves stuck for decades in Orwell’s 1984, rather than in Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s 1999.

Space: 1999: The Complete Season One [Blu-ray] – Buy it here!

Perhaps it’s not too late to turnaround, as a culture, as a nation, as a world, and find that future that we missed… those days of futures past.

Till later in the words of the late Don Cornelius… Peace, Love, and Soul!!!

POSTER OF THE DAY: WAR GODDESS!!

I haven’t seen this movie, but man that’s a fantastic poster. And add that to surprisingly decent reviews for what amounts to an exploitation flick, and that it’s directed by Terence Young of James Bond/DR. NO/FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE fame, and the fact you can pick up the DVD cheap, and yeah I think I’ll be adding the DVD to my shopping list (I already have the poster, it’s pretty large at 2ft by 3ft, and looks even more awesome in person).

WAR GODDESS DVD

WAR GODDESS LARGE POSTER

Upcoming Movies/Trailers of the Winter 2011-2012 Season

Okay I’ve downloaded and viewed a bunch of trailers. My verdicts?

21 JUMP STREET- The original series was okay, if lightweight and relatively forgettable 80s fare. It deserved better than to wind up as the title of this abhorrent, unfunny, stupid, and pathetic excuse for a comedy remake. The saddest part is there are real directors, real writers and real actors who can’t get funding for films, and yet abortions like this not only get made, but get distribution deals. As you may tell, I didn’t like the trailer. Grade: AVOID.

111111- Evil angels movie. Trailer looks like a poor cobbling of previous mad angel films, a genre I generally like, though it’s never been done well. And with the director of the later SAW films headlining this, it’s clear it is not going to be done well this time either. Grade: Wait for DVD rental or cable.

SAFE-Another Jason Statham action film. I don’t dislike Statham, but much like Matt Damon I find him way overused. I just don’t find them interesting enough actors to be in every single movie, the way they are. I just don’t find them interesting… full stop. GRADE: Wait for rental.

RESTITUTION- With stars C. Thomas Howell and Tom Arnold, this straight to DVD flick has made for tv written all over it, as well as some murky storyline about murder, fraud, and conspiracy. That said the trailer is capably put together, and probably makes this look better than it is. GRADE: Not something I would make time to look for at the video store, but if you get the chance to see it free. give a look.

THE INNKEEPERS- I love, love. love Ti West’s THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, I just think he’s one of the most interesting, innovative and talented young directors to come along in years, so I’m inclined to go see any film he directs. The trailer for the INNKEEPER and its SHINING meets JHorror type plot, is strong enough to get me in the theater. GRADE: Worth seeing at the Theater.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE:GHOST PROTOCOL- I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again this is the best trailer of the winter (the 1st trailer, not the 2nd one). and looks EFFING AWESOME. And this is a movie that looks like it deserves to be seen on an IMAX sized screen. Brad Bird’s first live-action film, looks poised to show he’s as good a director of live action as he is animation. GRADE: Are you kidding? It’s a MUST SEE in the theaters!

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO- Man that is one long trailer and one unattractive actress and some very understated to the point of bored and boring actors. All this I was thinking watching the latest trailer for this film. I was excited for Fincher returning to the thriller genre, as his last few films I find increasingly uninteresting. Not bad mind you, just not engaging masterpieces the way I consider some of his early films. However each trailer for this film has me more uninterested. GRADE: I’ll see it for a matinée showing and hope for the best. But going just by the unimpressive trailers, if it was not David Fincher directing, this would be a wait for rental flick.

SAFE HOUSE- The first posters for this had me underwhelmed. But I LOVE the trailer. Damn I tell you cinema will be a sad and boring place when you no longer have Denzel Washington as leading man to save us from Statham and Damon retreads. This guy is an Actor with a capital A, he brings the gravitas and weight to films, doing more with a look, than most actors do with entire filmographies. And all of that bloody commanding talent comes though in this brief trailer. And also makes up for the fact that the Green Lantern guy, whatever his name is, is in this flick. Another actor that does nothing for me. But this covert thriller has an exciting trailer, and the trailer has Washington, so GRADE: Definitely one to see in the theater.

THE GREY- I find this Liam Neeson helmed man vs. nature thriller, looks pretty darn compelling in this trailer. I mean man vs. beasts. Last really memorable one would probably have to be THE GHOST AND THE LION. So I’m all for giving this a chance. GRADE: Worth seeing at Matinée prices.

LARGO WINCH: HEIR APPARENT- This is purportedly the third in a series of movies concerning France’s answer to James Bond meets Bruce Wayne. I have not yet seen the first two movies, but like them, this trailer’s movie is another that doesn’t excite me enough to see in theaters. GRADE: Wait for rental.

ELITE SQUAD 2- Heavily armed cops in Brazil killing poor people. That’s what I took away from this trailer, and isn’t something I get behind in real life, or in my fiction. So accolades aside, which the trailer is filled with, my GRADE: Wait for rental.

Favorite Movie Title Sequences / Opening Credits

Favorite Movie Title Sequences/Credit Sequences


WOLVERINE- Director Gavin Hood’s X-MEN ORIGINS:WOLVERINE is a mediocre, relatively forgettable film that sports uneven direction and muddled writing/plot. However, the opening title sequence, done not by the director, is another matter entirely; being quite frankly brilliant. You’ll find yourself wanting to rewatch that title sequence constantly, while wanting to completely remove the rest of the film.

Peter Berg’s THE KINGDOM opening credits give in scant minutes a compelling, and brilliantly designed overview and background to the film he’s about to show you, and more to the conflict that has gripped the world since the latter half of the 20th century. It’s an amazing an ambitious credit sequence, if perhaps a bit heavy to really engender re-watchability, which a great title sequence should be… above all else.

LORD OF WAR- A great sequence follows the pov/life history of a bullet. Has been loudly applauded in many quarters and with good reason. It’s an instant classic.

SEVEN- A great movie and a great (and much copied) credit sequence. Perhaps the most influential of all the sequences on this list. Which is perhaps why it doesn’t seem as brilliant now, because so many people have stolen/borrowed this style. But the original is still the best.


QUANTUM OF SOLACE- Coming off the success of the first film, this one was subjected to all kinds of criticism, even before the film came out, including the title sequence. I quite like the film, it has flaws but I quite enjoy it. It falls apart at the end, but is still strong enough throughout most of it. And I LOVE the credit sequence. There was a lot of gnashing of teeth about Alicia Keys, but her amazing vocals along with songwriter Jack Black’s compulsive lyrics, above those sultry and sensual visuals just works, and is quintessential Bond. In fact I think it is my favorite Bond Credit sequence. A credit sequence I could watch on repeat darn near constantly.

SAHARA- By all reports an average film, it sports a fantastic floating tracking shot among the artifacts of a room. Seemingly simple, but brilliantly done.

HOSTAGE- The poster says a lot about what’s wrong with this film, it is unfocused and seems a bit pointless. That said the credit sequence is among the best ever put to film. It is brilliant.

Go to the members section of this blog for how to view any and all of these sequences (sign up and I’ll send details). However you view them, avoid crappy flash versions like you’ll find on Youtube. Just say no to Flash and its derivatives. 🙂

And Feel free to leave your comments about your favorite credit sequences. 🙂

The first year of the 2nd Decade of the 21st Century… IS ENDED!

Closing out the 1st year of the 2nd decade of the 21st century (which is what 2010 was, if you didn’t know) I find myself once again at that odd summing up place:

“I’m an oooooddddddd

And Vicious man but I’m still

Stan Ding

And the dark is all around

But it’s a

Lan Ding”

Copyright 2010-2011

That little refrain of mind sums up me making it through this year. A battle of inches, a grueling ground war, every well-fought over piece of foot forward, weighed against every crushing foot back

A year of successes: Travel some, Publish one, secure peace of hearth, those quiet places internal, discover roots unknown, E & V, Celebrate generational additions, Syd. try hard, steps definite. Lots to celebrate.

But all weighed against this sense of treading water… not well. Of real, personal connections and “opposition to save us from ourselves” always… not quite realized.

Of a whole world of people having conversations about the meaningless, while the meaningful is blown to hell.

An odd,summing up year.

“You’re so filled with inconsolable rage”
— QUANTUM OF SOLACE (Good if flawed movie, but excellent opening title/credit sequence and surprisingly good song by Keys and Black)

The Last Black Samurai: Remembering Marc Olden; an interview with Diane Crafford

22 Feb 2012 Wednesday

There’s some news on the horizon regarding Mark Olden’s seminal series BLACK SAMURAI, as well as other work. I don’t have the thumbs up yet… to break the news, but in the interim I thought it was a great time to re-present this fun and informative interview, to tide you over.

Plus it has been updated with new pics, courtesy of Ms. Crafford. Please Enjoy!

And is it me, or does the new film THE RAVEN bear more than a passing resemblance to Marc Olden’s POE MUST DIE? hmmmm. 🙂 .

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The fact that what you are about to read and hear is a YEAR in the preparation, goes to the absurd vagaries of mi vida loca, my crazy life.

But here finally, before the clock turns over on yet another year is my interview with Diane Crafford, on one of my favorite writers, the late, great and incomparable Marc Olden.

We’ll start with the text portion of the interview, and following that the pretty free flowing audio interview. HUGE, HUGE thanks to Diane for her time, her good humor, her anecdotes, and her extreme patience.

Now without further delay….

1st to set the stage.

Who is Marc Olden?

Marc Olden is a writer I became aware of, oddly enough on an auction site. Being something of a bibliophile I’m always looking to pick up books, and no doubt I was looking for either Warren Murphy’s DESTROYER books, or books by the late great Donald Goines.

And instead I came across this auction of a near complete series of BLACK SAMURAI books by Marc Olden. Being a Blackophile as well as a Bibliophile 🙂 , the title alone, as well as the very impressive 70s art on the paperbacks were enough for me to decide to purchase the books.

So I won the auction got the books, and was… from book one, blown away. This was not the hokey Jim Kelly movie, this was the undiluted source material, and it was pure and gritty, and brilliantly written. I’ve a huge fan of the Warren Murphy DESTROYER books, as well as the James Bonds and the MacK Bolans, but BLACK SAMURAI takes it to another level. BLACK SAMURAI is the BEST of that flooded market that was Men’s Action Adventure Books of the 70s. And the fact that it was so relatively short lived, also makes it a far more accessible body of work, and to my mind, far more prized.

And passion leading to passion, I just became obsessed with collecting all the work, primarily the 70s work, of this somehow inexplicably under the radar writer. Two of the holy grails being the Edgar Nominated POE MUST DIE, and the even more obscure BOOK OF SHADOWS (which I have to thank Diane for really making me aware of).

And reading his books led me to wanting to share with the world more of this, I felt and feel, brilliant, important, and overlooked writer.

So I reached out to the person who was keeping the late Mr. Olden’s web presence alive, the gracious Diane Crafford, and she was both kind and crazy enough to consent to the following free flowing and I believe informative and engaging interview/conversation.

The early part of our interview… the audio does not capture Diane’s, bubbly, fun, immersive personality, so I’m going to transcribe that from notes, and memory as best I can (I have a tendency toward the romantic, so anything that sounds like bs I take the blame for) bullet points mainly, and then we’ll kick into the audio.

HT: Hi Diane, thanks in advance for your time. We’re here to discuss Marc Olden one of my, and I assume your, favorite writers. Now most of this I got from your site as well as my research: He’s done over 40 books. His first work of fiction NARC a series of nine novels. He also produced the eight book BLACK SAMURAI series, made into a bad movie with Jim Kelly. And POE MUST DIE a stunning immersive novel drenched in period detail.

DC: You do your homework.

HT: I try. Now I’m detecting a bit of an accent, and your name Crafford, Londoner?

DC: Welsh, actually.

HT: Ahh, missed it by that much. Now tell me a little about Marc Olden behind the books

DC: Well he was born in Baltimore and was a press agent before he gave it up to become a writer. And once he chose that road, he embraced it completely. He had a strong work ethic, he wrote every day. His Black Samurai series was written at the same time he wrote the Narc series. It was while writing Narc he got to know guys in Law Enforcement. With advanced degree black belts in Japanese Karate and Aikido, he coached and mentored many members of the NYPD in Aikido.

HT: So his writing was an extension of the man.

DC: Yes. Like every good writer he wrote what he knew, of his passions. And after the NARC, BLACK SAMURAI books, he went into stand-alone novels such as INFORMANT. It did well but was not a best seller.

HT: Going back to BLACK SAMURAI series for a second, what did he think of the film?

DC: He had no input into the film. And resigned himself to it being something distinct from his work.

HT: Well let’s backup a bit, and tell us bit about you and how you met Marc.

DC: -I met him here at New York. He was a press agent for a restaurant, and I was working in film. We hit it off immediately. He had a way of carrying himself. –Later I was in London working for a film Producer, Sidney Dujer. The film was THE TWELVE CHAIRS starring Frank Lagella.

It’s amazing the little decisions that make all the difference. Marc went from Press Agent to writer, writing magazine articles. And then was approached to write a book on Angela Davis. And at that time I was looking for work, and became his transcriptionist. He had a head full of stories, he loved to tell them. And at the center of them was his belief in Justice.

HT: Now how did one of his earliest books, and what I consider not just one of his best books, but one of THE best books, POE MUST DIE come about? It seems a very ecletic work and ahead of its time work, mixing historical fiction and figures, mystery, horror, action, and adventure.

DC: He loved Edgar Allen Poe and he loved Charles Dickens. And POE MUST DIE at its heart is his love letter to those influences, but done as only he could do it. Dicken’s Christmas Carol, all about redemption, at the heart of this elaborately researched and gothic murder mystery,

HT: I can definitely see that. The book is so full of period detail, and authenticity, it puts you there in that place and in that time, of a wilder and younger England and America. What were some of his other inspirations?

DC: He thought Raymond Chandler was the best American writer. He was inspired by Eastern Philosophy through his mother and father (his father was George Olden, an art director). This filtered down to the type of man he was. Very calm, very contained, very brave and strong. I once asked him, “What is it that makes you so together?” and he said, “Good looks and the power of prayer.”And while he said it with a smile, that was sincere, it was how he lived his life. In balance.

“It was a different breed of man who sat in the cherrywood chair, his legs crossed under a cashmere robe, a thin volume on his lap. His graying hair, immaculately groomed, seemed to highlight a strong-lined, somber face… An aura of greatness and elegance seemed to permeate his being, as if his presence lent dignity to the book-lined walls. He seemed like what men should be, but never were.“
….THE DESTROYER: CREATED, THE DESTROYER by Warren Murphy.

HT: You can see that balance in his work. It’s very measured and… sincere. Which is an odd thing to say about fiction, but he wrote fiction with Authenticity.

DC: Yes. All his work was an extension of his interests. Take BOOK OF SHADOWS, he got the idea for that on one of our annual trips to England. He loved history and was a real Anglophile. He became intrigued by the canals that snaked through England, and that was the impetus for BOOK OF SHADOWS about vacationing American’s who stumble across things best left undisturbed.

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Okay that brings our text portion to an end. Onto the audio. You’re going to hear a lot of paper shuffling, that’s me jotting down notes, and flipping back and forth in my book, to consult my notes. I don’t think it distracts too much, Diane does a great job. So please enjoy! And bottom line, if you haven’t read anything by Marc Olden, go to Diane’s site and get acquainted. I would also suggest purchasing through her site.

Diane’s great site on Marc Olden

For more on Marc Olden, and particularly BLACK SAMURAI also see the following sites:

Great overview of the 8 Book BLACK SAMURAI series
More great Marc Olden/Black Samurai coverage

The below audio is a little over 33 minutes,, and the audio has been noise reduced to minimize the sound (my frantic note taking) as much as possible. Not great audio, but definitely listenable, and DEFINITELY informative.

Okay! You can listen to it HERE!

Copyright 2000-2012 Masai Inc and other specified writers. Images copyright their respective owners.

On THE AMERICAN movie trailer, George Clooney, and Spenser Tracy

“You’ve done much sinning.”

“All men are sinners, Father. Everything I’ve done, I’ve had good cause to do.”

… from the upcoming film THE AMERICAN

George Clooney is an actor, who early on with his work on ER distinguished himself as someone to watch. To be on the lookout for. His understated manner, with self effacing downward looks, that seemed not so much a style as a state. Not so much acting as being.

And he’s lived up to that small screen promise, with powerhouse performances in big screen films such as:

PEACEMAKER: An under the radar action flick, that takes the mold of James Bond or Bourne Supremacy and grounds it in some stellar performances and action sequences. Directed by Mimi Leder of ER fame, it is one of my favorite action films, in large part due to the humanity Leder brings to the scenes, there is a price to pay for the violence in her films. And Clooney’s performance, his ability to show that price… anchors and elevates the movie.

OUT OF SIGHT: I think my favorite of all the Soderbergh/Clooney pairings. In large part due to the chemistry of Clooney and Lopez.

And he’s done everything from the OCEANS films, to Coen comedies to MICHAEL CLAYTON to THE GOOD GERMAN to SOLARIS with varying degrees of effectiveness.

But for me where Clooney’s unconventional strengths shine… is in the conventional trappings of the action or thriller movie. It is here where his understated, but heart-felt, performance, where his character’s struggling toward grace, stands out from what passes for action heroes. He comes across (in his thriller films) very much as Spenser Tracy in BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK as an actor who can do more with a whisper than everyone else can do with shouts.

So the fact that George Clooney has only done 2 action/thriller movies is I think unfortunate.

However, having watched the previews of his upcoming THE AMERICAN (check out the trailer here), this looks like one that will get me in theaters, and if it lives up to its preview I’ll be adding it to my DVD collection, beside PEACEMAKER and OUT OF SIGHT. (Assuming of course Anton Corbijn, relatively new director with only one feature to his name, the Joy Division bio-pic CONTROL, can steer the ship, on a very different type of film. Time will tell.)

And also I absolutely digg that poster. a great throwback to the pop art sensibilities that posters used to convey. All in all, it looks like a film to catch.