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Thursday, September 12, 2013

LEONARD MALTIN'S 2014 MOVIE GUIDE -- book review by porfle

If you're like me, an integral part of your home movie-viewing experience has always been the latest paperback edition of Leonard Maltin's nutshell movie review books formerly entitled "TV Movies."  These days, of course, there are more movies than ever,  so Maltin's books have evolved into really hefty softbound doorstops--the latest of which, LEONARD MALTIN'S 2014 MOVIE GUIDE (subtitled "The Modern Era" as many older titles are now covered in a separate "classic movie" guide), is jam-packed with more movie summaries (over 16,000), cast lists,  running times, and other info than ever before.

Maltin, a respected movie critic and author of some great film reference books such as "Our Gang: The Life and Times of the Little Rascals" and "Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons",  admits that his inspiration was the original movie guide by Steven H. Scheuer, "Movies on TV" (1953-1993).  Scheuer's books contained capsule reviews and ratings of thousands of titles for those of us who craved info on all the films listed in the weekly TV schedules back before home video enabled us to choose what to show and when, and before infomercials drove the endless selection of afternoon and all-night movies off the air. 

I often disagreed with Scheuer,  who once referred to BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN as "trash" and dismissed A CHRISTMAS STORY as "Cute!  Cute!  Cute!", while regarding Maltin as more genre-friendly and sympathetic to my own tastes.  For example, Maltin rates the much-maligned THE DARK KNIGHT RISES three stars out of four ("...roundly entertaining,  with a highly-satisfying finale") and awards the "energetic, inventive" J.J. Abrams STAR TREK three-and-a-half.   The latest James Bond adventure,  SKYFALL,  scores a full four stars.

Occasionally ratings are revised--ALIEN now enjoys three-and-a-half-star classic status ("colorful, exceptional"), up from its previous two-and-a-half ("stomach-churning violence, slime, and shocks").  Nonetheless, there are times when I couldn't disagree with Maltin more.  Previous editions have contained confoundingly low (to me, anyway) assessments of such favorites as Tim Burton's BATMAN (2-and-a-half stars) and, worse, a low one-and-a-half stars to the delightful BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA.  This latest incarnation of Maltin's movie guide also dismisses my beloved MEMENTO as "pretentious pap" with, again, a withering one-and-a-half stars.

Still, no two people can agree on everything--indeed, the disagreements are as interesting to read as the instances in which our opinions are gratifyingly in synch.  In either case, it's always clear that Leonard Maltin knows a whole bunch about movies and has an unflagging enthusiasm for them.  Which makes LEONARD MALTIN'S 2014 MOVIE GUIDE just as irresistibly fun to delve into as it has always been. 

Buy it at
mass-market paperback


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