Posts Tagged ‘books’

Vern’s Book Pile

Friday, April 29th, 2016

tn_bookpile1I don’t know about you guys, but I have kind of a hard time keeping up with all the books. I love them but I put so many of my spare minutes into watching and writing about movies (and checking Twitter, sadly) that I end up with stacks of beautiful tomes sitting around only partially read. That’s fine, that’s life, you can’t do everything. But these piles of people’s passions weigh down my soul with guilt because I know I meant to plug some of them.

As somebody who writes books about movies myself I know this is not exactly a path to riches, so I respect anyone who goes through with it. You gotta really have a passion for the subject to get it done, and there are not enough authors doing that for the kind of movies we love around here. I’m never gonna become a book reviewer, but I do want to showcase some of the ones I have here because in my opinion people are less likely to buy your book if they don’t know it exists. The chances of them accidentally ordering it are pretty slim, I have found. Most people would have to buy your book on purpose.

So I’m about to notify you of some things that exist, and I apologize to a couple of these authors for not doing so earlier. (read the rest of this shit…)

awesome book alert: World Gone Wild by david j. moore

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

tn_steelfrontierThis is not a review, because this is the book by david j. moore (no capitals), the guy who did all the NINJA II set interviews for me a while back. So an actual review would be unethical. But I have to make sure everybody knows about this great book because it’s right up most of your alleys. The full title is World Gone Wild: A Survivor’s Guide To Post-Apocalyptic Movies. It’s a beautiful hardcover book, like a textbook. You flip through it and there are capsule reviews of pretty damn close to every post-apocalyptic movie ever made. Not even just obvious ROAD WARRIOR ripoffs but also things you wouldn’t think of right away like I AM LEGEND (and AFTER EARTH, and I think INDEPENDENCE DAY is in there too for some reason. Are all of Will Smith’s movies considered post-apocalyptic? I don’t think I saw SEVEN POUNDS in there).

And then in between are interviews with many of the people involved with movies. All kinds of interesting people, mostly b-movie legends: Michael Pare, Sergio Martino, Vernon Wells, John Hillcoat, Albert Pyun, Dale “Apollo” Cook, Ted Prior, Brian Trenchard-Smith… but I’m most impressed that he interviewed really obscure people that you’d never think you’d see an interview with. For example he talks to the writers of KNOWING and CLASS OF 1999, two pictures I’m very fond of but wouldn’t have even been able to name the writers of. (read the rest of this shit…)

NATURAL BORN KILLERS addendum 1: Killer Instinct

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

 Killer Instinct: How Two Young Producers Took on Hollywood and Made the Most Controversial Film of the Decade by Jane Hamsher

I got alot of problems with this book, but I kinda recommend reading it if it’s a subject you’re interested in. It’s got some funny stories about Oliver Stone and the crazy antics of Hamsher’s partner Don Murphy, probly best known now as a producer on the TRANSFORMERSes, but I remember his name because of many belligerent message board posts and open letters he’s written over the years. Because I’ve read so many of those it’s hard for me to buy Hamsher’s portrayal of him as a lovable madman, but there are good stories about him that aren’t about him yelling at anybody. I dug the one where it’s the middle of the night after a long hard shoot and he manages to get Oliver Stone and the whole crew excited about staying later for a product placement shot of a truck so they can all get free cowboy boots.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Book review: Not Bad For a Human

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

tn_notbadforahumanLance Henriksen is one of my favorite actors. His chiseled-from-clay face and gravelly voice are always interesting even in the worst movies (and in my opinion he’s done some of those). They imply a life full of experience, and work perfectly for his wide array of roles, from humane robot (in ALIENS of course) to flamboyant cowboy (THE QUICK AND THE DEAD) to heartless rich madman/pianist (HARD TARGET, probly others). Now Not Bad For a Human, a new book credited to Henriksen and Joseph Maddrey, gives us insights to both the art on screen and the life that inspired it.

Also there are pictures, if that helps. (read the rest of this shit…)

Important Book Alert #2: THEY LIVE (DEEP FOCUS #1) by Jonathan Lethem

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

tn_theyliveOne day several years ago I was waiting for a bus near a book store, and in the window there was a book about the philosophy of THE MATRIX. There’s more than one book like that, and I can’t remember which one it was that I saw that day, but it got me thinking: there should be a book like that, except it’s entirely about THEY LIVE.

There’s a long-running series of books called 33 1/3, little pocket-sized book length essays about classic albums. I have one for Stevie Wonder’s Songs In the Key of Life, for example. And I’ve long thought there should be a series like that for movies, and I should write the one about THEY LIVE.

Well, too late, buddy. Soft Skull Press is starting a series just like that, although if I understand correctly they’re all gonna be written by novelists. #2 is on DEATH WISH, #4 is gonna be LETHAL WEAPON. THE STING, HEATHERS and THE BAD NEWS BEARS IN BREAKING TRAINING are also coming up, but it all starts with THEY LIVE by Jonathan Lethem, author of the novels Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude. His approach is very different from what I would’ve done/could still do some day, but it’s an interesting, quick read and makes plenty of points that I hadn’t thought of before, making it a good first book about this particular subject. (read the rest of this shit…)

Important Book Alert #1: DESTROY ALL MOVIES

Friday, November 19th, 2010

tn_DAMI want to tell you guys about a new book I got called DESTROY ALL MOVIES: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO PUNKS ON FILM, edited by Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly. I guess you might’ve already heard about it because some of the other movie websights beat me to posting about it, but you know what? The tortoise ate the hare, the boy who cried on the wolf, etc. Anyway I’ve been looking through it for a few days and I want to discuss it with the ladies and gentlemen of the outlaw community or whatever, because this is one of those passion project books printed with special blood sweat and tears based inks, and those deserve recognition.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Vern eulogizes the great Donald E. Westlake

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Well, shit. The first bummer of 2009, or the last one of 2008. Turns out last night before his New Year’s Eve dinner the great mystery writer Donald Westlake collapsed and died. He was 75.

Westlake was a hell of a prolific writer. He started in 1960 and delivered books faster than his agent thought he should. Supposedly it was bad to try to promote more than one book in a year, so he started using pseudonyms. Under the Westlake name he wrote around 50 books – add in the pen names and that number doubles. Movies based on his books include THE HOT ROCK (a fun Robert Redford heist comedy recently reviewed by Quint), BANK SHOT, A SLIGHT CASE OF MURDER and the most recent Costa-Gavras movie THE AX. He was also a screenwriter who sometimes adapted other writers – Patricia Highsmith for RIPLEY UNDER GROUND, Dashiel Hammett for a TV anthology, Jim Thompson for THE GRIFTERS (he was nominated for an Oscar for that one). Personally I think his best screenplay is THE STEPFATHER, which does such a great job of including dark satire of ’80s family values in the subtext of an effective thriller. He was often known for lighthearted and goofy material but he was definitely good at the mechanics of a tight mystery or thriller story.

The reason this one hits me hard is that one of the other writers hidden beneath the friendly Westlake exterior was Richard Stark. If you had asked me yesterday I would’ve told you Stark was my favorite living writer. Aside from four spinoffs about an actor/thief named Grofield, Stark’s entire output was the 24 novels of the Parker series. These are the sparsely written, ridiculously badass adventures of a guy who plans heists, then leads the team executing them. He’s the best at what he does, knows how to work with the best people, and is usually disciplined enough to follow his rules and obey his instincts. But something always goes wrong anyway and that’s his other job, the problem solver. The guy who cleans up the mess. Usually, but not always, he’s able to outsmart and outfight everybody and get away with his ass intact, and most of the loot. (read the rest of this shit…)


Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here.

I kid. I know Vern can read. When we first talked all those years ago, when he was fresh out of the pen, he told me that he had to do a lot of reading in prison to break up the monotony of all the gay rape.

No, really, I kid.

Vern, buddy, thanks for doing this one. Good stuff, and my favorite read of the day:

I am here today to review a book. That’s right motherfuckers, I know how to read. The book in question is Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie (revised & expanded edition) by Eric Lichtenfeld. Our young friend Quint kindly suggested me to review the book and I was happy to check it out. (read the rest of this shit…)

Book Review: Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

chainsawMonday morning I heard a phrase on the radio that surprised me: “men, women and chain saws,” said in a somewhat dismissive voice.

What the hell? This was a weird coincidence. Men, Women and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film by Berkeley professor Carol J. Clover is a very academic book exploring gender issues in slasher, possession and rape-revenge films, mostly from the ’70s. I read the book years ago and it really affected my view of slasher movies. I paraphrase it alot when defending these kinds of movies (a pretty regular past time these days).

I think it’s been an influential book, but I don’t know anybody else who’s read it, so it was a surprise to hear it on the morning news. I had read it mentioned recently in the Fangoria horror magazine, when Quentin Tarantino mentioned it in an interview about Death Proof. It’s not surprising he read it. In the first half of Death Proof he uses alot of the slasher movie conventions discussed in the book, setting up Butterfly as what Clover calls “the Final Girl.” The biggest clue is that she has “the investigative gaze,” she’s the one who notices Stuntman Mike’s car and keeps eyeing him, and is scared of him. No one else realizes anything is wrong. Ordinarily this would mean that she would go on to survive and defeat, escape from, maybe even kill Stuntman Mike. But, well, maybe some other time. (Of course, he ends up making what is more obviously a feminist movie, not having to even have the women tormented too much before they want to spit on somebody’s grave.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Nothing Lasts Forever: The Birth of Die Hard

Monday, January 10th, 2000

If you’re like me, you’ve wondered for years how much Bruce Willis’s DIE HARD (1988) owes to the book it was based on, NOTHING LASTS FOREVER by Roderick Thorp. And then you bought the book on e-bay but didn’t get around to reading it for a while because of an addiction to Richard Stark novels. But now you finally read the whole thing, rewatched DIE HARD and are ready to share with the world a comparison of the movie to the novel. Me and you, we’re in this together, like Bruce and Sam in part 3. We’re gonna do this.

The “ultimate Die Hard dvd” has little mention of the original novel, other than director John McTiernan admitting he never read it. And a quick internet search (a research technique I expect to see in DIE HARD 4.0 if they ever really make it) brings up no detailed comparisons between the movie and the bool. But I’m sure there must be one out there somewhere. Fortunately, I am a fuckin pro at this shit. I done this for myself with MILLION DOLLAR BABY, POINT BLANK/PAYBACK, THE OUTFIT, two Seagal movies, and others. Also I have a commitment to excellence. So I guarantee this will be the #1 DIE HARD/NOTHING LASTS FOREVER comparison on the internet.


The book is about Joe Leland, not John McClane, a retired (not vacationing) cop going to visit his daughter (not wife) in L.A. at Christmas time. In the movie he’s estranged from his wife, in the book he was divorced from his wife and she later died. His daughter used to be married to a chump he didn’t like and has taken his name, Generro (in the movie that’s his wife’s maiden name that she uses at work).

Like in the movie, Leland is on the outskirts of an office party with his shoes off (washing his feet though, because he was told it keeps you from being tired at the end of a day) when he hears gun shots, because terrorists have taken the office hostage. He spends the rest of the book as a fly in the terrorist’s ointment, picking them off one by one, blowing shit up, communicating with them and police on the outside using a CB. Like in the movie, the terrorists are German, and sometimes talk in German so he won’t understand. One major difference is that the book always follows Leland, it doesn’t cut away for scenes on other floors of the building. So unless he’s spying on them, we don’t know what the terrorists are up to. (read the rest of this shit…)