Total Recall, the remake, opens Friday. However, just in time for that release, this new Blu-ray of the original Total Recall shows up. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a 21st-century construction worker who discovers that his entire memory of the past derives from a memory chip implanted in his brain. Very little of this movie resembles the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” that the movie was supposed to be based on. But director Paul Verhoeven turns the question of identity into a satisfying thrill ride especially when Schwarzenegger gets to Mars. I don’t know much about the remake of Total Recall, but it will be hard to top this version.
Marvelous Beth Fedyn sent me a get-well card and a book while I was in REHAB. The book was Alan Furst’s Mission to Paris, a book I already had waiting in my AMAZON cart. Beth probably remembered from our DAPA-EM days that I was a fan of Alan Furst’s spy novels. Furst has carved out a niche in spy fiction. He sets most of his books in Europe just before World War II. In Mission to Paris, a European actor and Hollywood film star Fredric Stahl is in Paris to make a movie for Paramount France. The Nazis plot “political warfare” against France by using bribery, intimidation, and corrupt newspapers to shape public opinion to their political ends. The Nazis decide to recruit Stahl as a tool in their propaganda campaign. Stahl resists and finds himself involved in a dangerous game of influencing the French in the months preceding the German invasion of their country. If you enjoy spy fiction with a strong historical flavor, I highly recommend Alan Furst’s work. Thanks Beth! GRADE: B+
While recovering from my knee surgery, audiobooks became my main diversion. The BBC dramatizations of Simon Brett’s Charles Paris humorous mystery novels were the perfect entertainment for a Lortab addled patient. Bill Nighy plays the failed actor, sketchy husband, but canny mystery solver masterfully. The supporting cast is good, too. I particularly like Suzanne Burden who plays Nighy’s feisty long-suffering wife, Frances. Jon Glover, who steals every scene he’s in, plays Nighy’s Machiavellian agent, Maurice. This fifth audiobook set came out in May 2012. I can recommend all of these audiobooks: Murder in the Title, The Dead Side of the Mic, A Series of Murders, and Cast in Order of Disappearance. I hope more become available soon. If you’re looking for humor and clever dialogue and a delicious murder mystery, these dramatizations deliver.
Last week, I saw The Dark Knight Rises in a local Regal Theater. This week I saw The Dark Knight Rises at our local IMAX. From the NY TIMES article it’s clear that this new Batman movie makes the most use of IMAX cameras ever. Yes, there’s plenty of extra footage in this IMAX version. The scene where the football stadium implodes is worth the price of admission! If you’re a Batman fan, or if you’re curious about where the IMAX technology is headed, you need to check out The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX format. You won’t be sorry!
Fans of Harlan Ellison will be thrilled by this recent publication by Kicks Books. This collection of stories from the Fifties show the early Harlan Ellison, all energy and froth. As Ellison says in his Introduction: “No point in apologizing for these original 11 stories. I did ‘em for the buck. I was married at the time and needed the money and did what everybody does. I pulled the plow.
The stories are simplistic not the greatest literature ever proffered but I got a thousand dollars for the tome. That was big money in the Fifties. It was my third book published, in a lifetime of more than a hundred such. But the only one not under my name.” If you’re a Harlan Ellison fan, this is a must-buy. But even casual readers will find plenty to enjoy in this collection. GRADE: B+
I picked up this 2-DVD collection for a pittance at BIG LOTS. If you’re a fan of Burt Bacharach, Bobby Darin, Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Dianne Warwick, and other talented singers and song-writers who worked at the Brill Building in the Sixties, this musical documentary is for you. “The centerpiece is “Hitmakers: The Teens Who Stole Pop Music,” a 90-minute documentary about the many writers who worked side-by-side in New York’s legendary Brill Building in the ’50s and ’60s. It’s a fascinating story, featuring duos like Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, nearly all of them Jewish kids from Brooklyn who were at ease writing classic tunes for black and white artists alike. The tale is told in standard documentary style, via interviews past and present, photos, extensive film footage, and, of course, lots of music.” I love this era of pop music and enjoyed all the great stories and music on these DVDs. This set is still available from AMAZON for about $8. A steal!
If you’re going to write a money management guide for twenty-and-thirty-somethings, you might want to go with a sassy title like How to Be Richer, Smarter, and Better Looking Than Your Parents which is exactly what Zac Bissonnette did. Zac covers all of the fundamentals of money management from stocks and bonds to 401ks and 403bs. The book is written in a breezy style, but Zac knows his stuff. You could find pretty much the same information in a Suze Orman book, but Zac Bissonnette is 23 and he’s writing for an audience of young people. His style makes the discussions of buying a house or leasing a car go down with a wit chaser. If you know a young person who needs a quick orientation to money management, this book does the job in a fun way. GRADE: B+
Too Big To Fail was first broadcast on HBO last year. Now it’s out on Blu-ray. Essentially, Too Big To Fail is the story of how Lehman Brothers, an investment bank, failed and almost brought the U.S. economy to its knees. William Hurt plays a quizzical Hank Paulson, Treasury Secretary. Most of the time, William Hurt looks stunned in this documentary as the entire financial system becomes unraveled. James Woods plays Dick Fuld, the head of Lehman who becomes his own worst enemy. Cynthia Nixon stands out as one of Paulson’s aides. I especially liked Paul Giamatti as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (amazing resemblance!). Too Big To Fail traces the financial disaster from the beginning, but there really is no ending. We’re still in the same situation. Banks are still reckless with money. The financial system is still unstable. We need to return to the Glass-Steagall Act which divided commercial banks from investment banks. Until that reform is enacted, we’re all still in peril! GRADE: B+
I’m a sucker for a book like The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books. J. Peder Zane collects the lists of favorite books by Norman Mailer, Annie Proulx, Stephen King, Jonathan Franzen, Claire Messud, Margaret Drabble, Michael Chabon, Peter Carey, and others. Then, Zane takes the results and comes up with a master list: THE TOP TOP TEN LIST of the “best” books from all the selections. I love browsing books like this because you never know what you’ll find. Although the THE TOP TOP TEN LIST is a bit bland and safe, there are some surprises in the individual author selections. There are also summaries of 544 books identified by the writers. Here are the top ten books according to Zane:
THE TOP TOP TEN BOOKS
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
Collected Stories by Anton Chekhov
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Harry Cummings McPherson, Jr. (August 22, 1929 – February 16, 2012) served as counsel and special counsel to President of the United States Lyndon B. Johnson from 1965 to 1969. McPherson was also Johnson’s chief speechwriter from 1966 to 1969. But McPherson worked in Washington since 1956. The evolution of a green Texas lawyer to the ultimate Washington insider is enlightening. As preparation to start reading Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, I thought I’d prep with McPherson’s book. If you want to know how the U.S. Senate worked back in the Fifties and the Sixties, McPherson illustrates the process in great detail. The battles over civil rights, foreign aid, aid to education, and energy policy make fascinating reading. I liked McPherson’s blunt descriptions of all the U.S. Senators, too (many are unflattering). GRADE: A