Legends of Film: David Twohy interview

By , December 29, 2010

Bill brings us an interview with writer and director David Twohy. Mr. Twohy has written THE FUGITIVE and directed PITCH BLACK, A PERFECT GETAWAY and THE ARRIVAL.

Book review: Recommendations from Judd Apatow, David Sedaris, and a Whole Bunch of Other People That You Love

By , December 29, 2010

I Found This Funny: My Favorite Pieces of Humor, and Some That May Not Be Funny At All
Edited by Judd Apatow

This new collection showcases Apatow’s favorite short stories, poems, drawings, and TV scripts.  Although the selections may not be exactly what you’d expect from the director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, you’re sure to find something to enjoy.

Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules
Edited by David Sedaris

Again, these won’t be what you’re expecting, but they will be a great introduction to today’s best short story writers, including Lorrie Moore, Tobias Wolff, and Amy Hempel.


Book review: Moonlight Mile by Dennis LeHane

By , December 22, 2010

MoonlightMileMoonlight Mile by Dennis LeHane

This is quite a fast-paced page turner which revisits, in several ways, the general area of LeHane’s Gone Baby Gone and involves Amanda McCready, now in her teens and again – missing.
Amanda is portrayed as a master at altered identities, an impressive student, cut for the Ivy League and like detective Kenzie, haunted by the past.
Patrick Kenzie is the tough detective who enlists his wife and former partner, Angela Gennaro to again attempt to find this girl.  Numerous shady character populate this novel, which bounces around from gritty environments, warehouses, trailer parks to the more rural outskirts of town.
You’ll enter a twisted milieu of criminal doings outside of Boston, meet a former doctor who gives up babies to the Russian mobsters, who are so expertly and chillingly depicted by LeHane and you’ll come along for some investigative work spent unraveling the small circle who knew Amanda  in the elite school she attended. Realistic detective work – at times mundane other times harrowing. Sometimes bitingly funny too.
This could be another great movie, in line with Mystic River for it’s low-life bar denizens and miscreants. Yefim’s character – a Mordovian thug “How are you my good friend?” – would need to be played by someone in the late Dennis Hopper muted psychopath tradition.
But this is  more a story of attempted redemption, commitment and ultimately, despite the chaos, moving on and resolution.


Book review: The Creative Life: True Stories of Inspiration by Julie Cameron

By , December 20, 2010

The Creative Life:  True Stories of Inspiration

by Julie Cameron

4 stars

Fans of the wildly influential book The Artist’s Way will not want to miss this intimate glimpse into Julia Cameron’s daily life. Intended as a creative diary, these short, simple entries describing meals with friends, thoughts about projects, and even the weather may help inspire the reader to look at their own life in a new way.
- Liz

DVD review: Best. Christmas Movie. Ever.

By , December 16, 2010

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas

It hurts my heart a little when people say they’ve never seen this 1977 made-for-HBO movie.  It’s basically a Muppet version of The Gift of the Magi, with addictive musical numbers and some of the most hilarious villains you will ever see.


DVD review: The Movies of Childhood

By , December 15, 2010

Is it just me, or does going home for the holidays make you want to revisit the movies of your youth?  Here are the essential films of my eighties childhood:

The Journey of Natty Gann


Time Bandits

Clash of the Titans

The Karate Kid

The Princess Bride

The Neverending Story

Back to the Future










Music to get your holiday party started!

By , December 14, 2010

Bill_Nighy version 2It’s the holiday season and many of us will be hosting parties for our friends and family.  You’ve sent out e-vites (or maybe old-school paper invitations), cleaned and decorated, planned your drinks and hors d’oeuvres menu, and bought your new party attire.  But you’ve forgotten the most important part of the evening – the party music!  You could be hosting a dance-friendly affair, or maybe you want to create a relaxing vibe.  Whatever kind of gathering you want to inspire, here are some excellent suggestions for your holiday party music mix.  Be safe, be kind, and happiest of new years to all!                                                      -crystal

P.S.  To thank you for reading our Off the Shelf staff picks, here’s the latest Simon’s Cat cartoon.

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DVD review: Best Movies of 2010

By , December 8, 2010

Here are my picks for the top three films of the year:

Best Worst Movie

This strangely enchanting documentary catches up with the actors who appeared in Troll 2, a 1989 film that is fondly acknowledged to be one of the worst movies of all time.  I predict that this movie will soon have the same cult-like following as The King of Kong.


Fish Tank

Set in a British housing project, this bleak but beautiful movie traces the impact on 15-year-old Mia when her mother brings home a new boyfriend (the menacing yet mesmerizing Michael Fassbender).  Katie Jarvis, the nonprofessional actress who plays Mia, very convincingly portrays the perils of modern adolescence.


Winter’s Bone

This Southern Gothic thriller delivers the goods.  The performances are tremendous and the danger is palpable.




Book review: Open An Autobigraphy by Andre Agassi

By , December 7, 2010


Open An Autobiography

by Andre Agassi

Well, this is certainly one of the most aptly titled autobiographies I’ve ever read. Andre Agassi has a tremendous recollection of detail (almost too much sometimes) as he lays out his life from the early days as a precocious tennis hustler through the cortisone shot-taking veteran still out there battling in the big events.
As an avid tennis fan and player I enjoyed this book.
I was never a huge Agassi fan, although I admired his tenacity and fight rather than his brash flashiness. In this almost painful autobiography he lets us all in on how he got to where he did, from his father’s (an ex Iranian Olympic boxer) obsessive drilling (with a charged up ball machine known as The Dragon), to days at Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy, where his rebellious side flourished, through his marriage to Brooke Shields and some years where he squandered time and began using crystal meth (and finally shaving his head, doing away with the – surprise – hairpiece he wore). His years with coach Brad Gilbert are expertly and often humorously recounted (Bud Ice drinking Brad’s nickname for the hated Boris Becker, who Agassi said was an “overgrown farmboy” was “BB Socrates”, for his frequent intellectual musings) and there is obvious respect shown for his trainer/bodyguard/main man, Gil Reyes. Not so much for chief rival Pete Sampras, who is repeatedly put down (His own classier book Champion’s Mind is quite a good biography and reflected his unpretentious, non-flamboyant style) in the book.
The wooing of Stephie Graf  seemed to give this story (and Andre’s life) momentum and purpose, although his coverage of the last few years are not nearly as detail packed as the first few chapters were, which I found most absorbing. Many stories about his early days with best friend Perry Rogers were quite interesting. His later tussles with some of the best contemporary players, including Nadal ( “a tennis freak” ) and Federer ( “has no weaknesses” ) are recounted but it’s clear he is winding down.
A fascinating, captivating, completely personal tell-all like I’ve never read, this book caused quite a stir upon release and after reading it I can see why. Very worthwhile and from someone who maintained he always “hated tennis”, I also found the ending to be very satisfying.


The Big Boss

By , December 6, 2010

Movie review:   The Big Boss aka Fists of Fury

bigbossWhen I noticed pristine new (2005) copies of three Bruce Lee dvds arriving at Madison I decided to check them out and watch them over a weekend. They are still somewhat like Twilight Zone meets Kung Fu, but they have a certain undeniable  staying power. Bad dubbing aside, The Big Boss may have been my favorite. In Lee’s first starring role this 1971 movie showcases some tremendous athleticism in a plot involving Cheng (Lee) working in an ice factory to avenge the thugs that kidnapped some family members. It’s twisted – drugs in ice blocks, then people in ice blocks then Lee having to break his vow not to fight. He is amazing in these scenes. There is also a love interest (Maria Yi)  and a bit of nudity so this would probably deserve it’s R rating. This movie has the Chinese title of Fists of Fury – not to be confused with Fist of Fury (aka The Chinese Connection) – the second film I watched. That one is crazy, over the top with large-scale martial arts battles breaking out frequently as Lee’s Chinese teacher is killed (poisoned) and a Japanese school and it’s instructor become rivals. Points off for the incredibly annoying “translator” character and his devious laugh. It’s satisfying to see him get his as Lee dons several disguises and later surprises him in a rickshaw. Humorous but maybe a shade less enjoyable than the debut film.
Lastly, I watched the 1973 film (Lee’s last – he died shortly after this was made, of a cerebral edema at age 33 – his legend firmly in place!) called Game of Death with a convoluted plot involving a crime syndicate that exploited actors, an early appearance of Chuck Norris,  some demented motorcycle gang activity and a huge flourish toward the end with Bruce Lee fighting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (You heard me right) in quite a scene.  Bruce may have sacrificed himself in the final dramatic ending in a hail of bullets – or did he?
These movies were really vehicles for Bruce Lee’s incredible, self-taught martial arts skills and certainly laid the ground work for such later movies as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with his acrobatic, near impossible flying maneuvers.  His charismatic presence and somewhat low key but never wooden acting is often charming.  His fighting, with nunchucks, the odd sword and mostly flying feet and fists (of fury) is the stuff of legend!
Rest in peace, Bruce Lee.


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