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The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)
by Otto Penzler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.74
98 used & new from $0.74

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holiday treats for mystery lovers, November 20, 2013
This is a welcome addition to Penzler's Black Lizard line of "Big Books". Like the others, this is a bargain considering the quality and quantity on hand here. Penzler has made some great selections, and the sheer volume allows a wide variety of styles from a ton of authors. I have had a great time revisiting some stories from familiar characters like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot while getting to explore some rarer works.

Most holiday-themed products are packed away along with the decorations after the new year begins, but the I expect to revisit this collection outside the holiday season. All in all, this is a treat that should be opened well before Christmas!

James Bond: 50 Years of Movie Posters
James Bond: 50 Years of Movie Posters
by Alastair Dougall
Edition: Hardcover
27 used & new from $21.82

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here Comes the Biggest Bond of All!, September 4, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Well, it may or may not the biggest James Bond book ever, but the size is appropriately larger than life. Seriously, with the advent of the digital age, personally I find great pleasure in the high production values of DK books...large in size, high quality reproductions, with excellent paper quality.

If you find the idea of a collection of James Bond movie posters appealing, it would be hard to be disappointed by this publication. The reproductions are large, clear, and in color. There is quantity as well as quantity with a generous selection of official posters, lobby cards and concept art included. The movies fortunately include some of the non-EON blessed productions -- the Peter Sellers "Casino Royale" and "Never Say Never Again".

I am enough of a Bond fan to have picked up the Chronicle Books predecessor "James Bond Movie Posters". That was a very well done colelction as well-- and many great posters in the current DK volume are featured in that earlier book -- the official British and US releases as well as the always-fascinating Japanese marketing campaigns.

Still, this new volume is better: it includes more art, and some insightful comments. Much of it is really fascinating stuff. The posters track an evolving advertising style that began with pulp-art inspired approaches of the sixties to modern photo manipulation techniques. Licence to Kill had some top-notch Bob Peak concept art that went unseen--and there's probably never been another marketing approach like the Thunderball concept art featuring a depiction of Connery au naturale.

This production is a class act.

Red Dwarf: The Complete Collection
Red Dwarf: The Complete Collection
DVD ~ Various
Offered by CG Movies and Games
Price: $86.47
21 used & new from $86.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sci-fi + sit-com. It works!, November 10, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a chocolate peanut butter cup from the BBC: two great tastes that taste great together, specifically science fiction and comedy. I made a blind-buy of this box set when Amazon put it on sale for very low price. Having never heard of Red Dwarf prior to the sale, I looked up reviews, which were generally glowing. My take: it's a great series, and the box set is a great release.

Make no mistake though, Red Dwarf is probably not for everyone. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes both Star Trek or Doctor Who type of sci-fi and wry British sit-coms (think insult-heavy "Black Adder").

This is not a sweeping space opera. Plot takes a back seat to the gag, and the focus is squarely on the characters. Dialogue is well-written, the small cast is appealing, and some of the episode set-ups are quite clever. As far as the quality of special effects, think of it as a bridge from 1980s "Doctor Who" to 2000s "Doctor Who".

The box set collects the individual season releases, each of which features tons of well-produced features.

Beach Bum Berry Remixed
Beach Bum Berry Remixed
by Jeff Berry
Edition: Paperback
Price: $25.20
48 used & new from $21.21

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The author may be a beach bum, but his book is a dynamo, April 28, 2010
Jeff (a.k.a. "Beachbum") Berry has established himself in cocktail circles as a (the?) leader in reviving tropical, or "tiki" drinks. These drinks were the mainstays of once-trendy polynesian-themed restaurants such as Don the Beachcomber or Trader Vic's. Examples of some of the prominent concoctions include the Mai Tai, Doctor Funk, and the formidable Zombie (which pretty much requires you have a designated driver).

Before the Beachbum, these drinks had fallen out of favor and were usually available only as inferior sugary syrup mixes. Berry authored a number of volumes meticulously recreating and celebrating the original drinks, revealing them to be sophisticated blends of juices, alcohol (usually rum), syrups and some offbeat ingredients.

"Remixed" is the Best Beachbum title yet. It takes two of his earlier, best, titles and (1) combines and updates them, (2) adds a ton of slick, colorful graphics and photos, (3) provides some more tiki drink history and lore, and (4) adds some more recipies, both historical and new. The book is absolutely packed with recipes and has an essential guide to finding the more exotic ingredients.

I do have a nitpick. This volume contains a normal binding when it absolutely screams for a spiral binding (just try keeping the pages open on a small table crowded with rums, fruit juices, etc). The Beachbum recommends the solution on his website: take the book to a Kinkos or other printer and have them remove the original binding and insert a spiral replacement while you wait. I have; it cost less than $7 and it makes a huge difference. Nevertheless this is a route not everyone would want to follow.

Even with the original binding though, the bottom line is that this is a reference book I consider indispensable for anyone interested in or curious about tiki drinks. There have been a lot of books on tropical drink recipies, and this one outclasses all the ones I have seen--even his own earlier titles.

Not bad for a beach bum.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 19, 2010 11:54 AM PDT

4 Film Favorites: Draculas (Dracula A.D. 1972, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Horror of Dracula, Taste the Blood of Dracula)
4 Film Favorites: Draculas (Dracula A.D. 1972, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Horror of Dracula, Taste the Blood of Dracula)
DVD ~ Christopher Lee
Offered by Amazing Prime Express
Price: $9.45
53 used & new from $3.99

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Taste the Blood of Hammer, February 15, 2010
This nice little four pack is a great introduction to Hammer horror movies, which are admittedly an acquired taste today. When the Hammers came out in the 50's to 70's they were notorious for being shocking (showing --gasp!--blood!). Needless to say, they will seem tame to a modern audience.

On the other hand, we don't get the graphic excess of today's horror movies, and there is a vitality to the proceedings missing from the stage-based look of the Universal predecessors. Dracula doesn't just strike a pose when stalking a victim--he runs across a room and lunges at him. Van Helsing would similarly scamper over a table to get his stake into a vampire.

A big plus is that the Hammer Dracula films feature one or both of two of the best character actors ever - Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Be aware that the fantasy side of things is toned down. Dracula doesn't turn into a bat or cling to walls, for instance.

Finally, The quality of the movies is not consistent. "Horror of Dracula" is by far the standout, and by the time things get to "1972", inspiration (and the interest of the actors) has fallen considerably. Still, for four movies this is a great price.

Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Choo-Choo Express
Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Choo-Choo Express
DVD ~ Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
Offered by Clyde Parks
Price: $8.95
51 used & new from $2.87

83 of 83 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This Choo Choo is chuggin along but not at full steam, January 25, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As the father of twin three year olds who are enamored with the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse series, this DVD seemed like a reasonable gift. The number of repeat viewings at our house has outnumbered those for Mom or Dad's DVDs, so I feel qualified to write a review.


The quality of the episodes shares the same strengths of the series in general. Bright, colorful computer generated graphics are used in conjunction with simple plots. Mickey and his friends are friendly, interesting characters that our little guys have enjoyed since their twos. There are a few bouncy songs, but adults probably won't find them cloying or otherwise Barney-esque.

The main feature obviously focuses on Mickey's train, which is a natural theme for toddlers. It seems to be a holiday-themed episode, given the presence of snow and cameos by two icons of the Christmas season. The main feature runs at twice the length of a typical episode. It is accompanied by an extra, unrelated episode featuring "Willy the Giant".

And speaking of big people, there is a new song from They Might Be Giants -- always a plus!


While the production values match the high quality of the rest of the series, this particular DVD entry is not as inspired as some of the others. Disney may describe this is a full length feature, but in reality it is two episodes strung together featuring Mickey's train. The "bonus" third episode has no connection to the main story, and could have been randomly selected from previously aired episodes.

As far as the value offered by this DVD, this does not measure up to previously-released discs from the series: Disney DVDs are not cheap, and this one does not offer as much bang for the buck. Some of the previous discs have offered four episodes from the series. At least one other disc also presented the "double episode plus one bonus episode" format, but presented a bonus episode that was a brand-new unaired episode, rather than one that regular viewers had probably seen already. The product gives a vibe of having been rushed to be put together for store shelves (virtual or otherwise) in time for Christmas.

Disney excels in marketing, and this episode seems a little more commercial than others. Specifically, the "Choo Choo Express" is also being sold as a toy train set.


All said, my kids probably could care less about anything I've listed as a Con. They enjoyed the episode, and as I mentioned, they have requested multiple replays. My advice: if you want to buy only one or two "Clubhouse" DVDs, check out other entries before this one. Rather, go to the "Big Splash" or "Storybook Surprises" for more episodes per disc (four episodes each) or the "Adventures in Wonderland" (very creative and a more cohesive story).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 2, 2015 3:20 PM PST

AIRPLANE! [Soundtrack]
AIRPLANE! [Soundtrack]
9 used & new from $19.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This soundtrack has clearance, Clarence, December 2, 2009
This review is from: AIRPLANE! [Soundtrack] (Audio CD)
As someone who has watched Airplane! more times than I want to admit, I am probably firmly in the target audience for this soundtrack release. And this did not disappoint.

Elmer Bernstein's score hits exactly the right note for the movie with broad and memorable themes. Bernstein didn't try to create a score that on its surface is obviously silly, but rather he takes what could have started as a staightfaced score for a Hollywood production and turns the melodrama knob to 11: the love theme is too sweeping, the main titles are a little too overwrought, and the tension music is too driving. This is not a criticism; this approach is what propels much of the movie's satire. The themes are actually quite memorable.

While the music is perfect for the movie, as a listening experience, it is admittedly a little uneven. The sound quality is quite good, but most of the music comes in one or two minute chunks that don't really flow from one to another.

Still, its hard to imagine that any release of the soundtrack to Airplane! could be better than this. The liner notes are teriffic, all the major themes are here, and there are some alternative selections to boot. And it is impossible for me not to break into a smile whenever the Notre Dame Victory March pops up.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 19, 2014 6:10 PM PDT

Best Classics 100 Volume 2
Best Classics 100 Volume 2
20 used & new from $0.55

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Overview of the Classical Genre Courtesy of EMI, December 1, 2009
Recently I wrote a very positive review for Volume 1 of EMI's 100 Best Classics. This second volume shares the same strengths, and truth be told, I actually enjoy this volume a little more. This is another terrific yet inexpensive introduction or overview of classical music.

The strengths of this six CD set are that: (1) 100 selections are provided, allowing a wide scope of music contained within the genre generally regarded as "classical", (2) these are strong performances from significant conductors and orchestras,(3) at a price of $20 or less, this is a very good value, and (4) this six CD collection is packaged compactly enough to essentially take up the physical space of a double-CD jewel case.

This set's format is simultaneously an advantage and disadvantage. A CD provides less than 80 minutes of music, and a 6 CD set containing 100 selections will necessarily provide hi-lites of famous pieces rather than the complete works. This is a problem for many people, and for good reason. I find most of the selections provide a satisfying sample, however at least a few tracks seem much too short (Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in particular seemed to be left hanging). The advantage however is that it is feasable to get an overview of many works in a single sitting; this set is all about presenting an introduction to or reminder of a variety of different pieces of outstanding music.

The approach here is similar to volume one of the same series, but I actually enjoy listening to this volume a little more. The previous volume covers familiar ground in the classical genre, such as Beethoven's Fifth Symmphony, Mozart's "Figaro", and Pachelbel's "Canon in D". These are obviously cornerstones of classical, but there's a good chance that if you have picked up any other classical music compilations that you may find some of this ground already covered...perhaps multiple times. What I like about volume 2 is that while the music is still very well-known, it is not as ubiquitous and seems a little more "fresh" to me. Even if you have not heard these before, I bet selections like Bernstein's "Candide" or Mussorgsky's "Night on the Bare Mountain" (to name a few) are still going to be entertaining for most listeners.

I think this set is a great companion to Volume 1 of the series. The first collection is probably a better choice for those who are trying classical music for the first time as it contains more of what I would consider the flat-out "essentials".

Nevertheless, I find this to be a good sampling of the rollicking side of classical music. I recommend it to newcomers to classical music who would like a deeper taste of the variety this genre has to offer. It's also a safe bet for those who already have the complete works but appreciate a combination of variety and quality in one inexpensive package.

Best Classics 100
Best Classics 100
Offered by Newish
Price: $10.99
29 used & new from $0.41

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My vote for single best introduction to classical music, September 24, 2009
This review is from: Best Classics 100 (Audio CD)
There is no shortage of CDs offering an introduction to classical music, but this would be my pick for the best. As this is a six CD-set, I'll provide six reasons for this opinion.

(1) Selections. Any product claiming to be the 100 best classics has its work cut out for it when distilling the huge range of material making up "classical music" (as it is conventionally described) into six CDs. EMI has succeeded here, in my opinion. There are tastes ranging from Baroque to 20th Century, and selections including symphonic, concerto and opera. The big name composers are here, with the 3 "titans" of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart receiving a little extra presence. There are a few surprises (James Horner's "Titanic"), but for the most part, the selections probably reflect conventional perceptions of "classical music".

(2) Performance Quality. I have heard some clasical music overviews with a noticeable dropoff in quality from track to track. That's not the case here. EMI's recordings are extensive, and it shows in these selections. Included here are some familiar conductors (Karajan, Marriner, Davis, Previn) and ensembles (Academy of St. Martin, London Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker). The performances and recording quality are consistently high.

(3) Quantity. There are six CDs here, each with over 70 minutes of music. As some reviewers have pointed out, these are not full performances, but rather selections from famous pieces, which I would estimate typically run about three to five minutes in length. As the title idicates, it is a collection of 100 "Greatest Hits". This approach is a detriment for some, but my take is that a focus on hi-lites is appropriate for a classical music overview. Even though I own complete recordings for many of these selections, I often listen to these CDs when I am in the mood for variety. The selections usually run long enough to give a satisfying taste of the full work.

(4) Accesibility. One of the reasons I think that this is a good introduction to classical music is that a good number of the tracks here are probably recognizable to those who do not consider themselves classical music listeners. The selections here are often the stuff of movie, TV and commercial soundtracks, and its hard to believe that anyone with an interest in music will not hear something familiar here. The "Greatest Hits" approach means that for a lot of people, a selection will probably stick to what they recognize and move on to the next one.

(5) Bang for the Buck. Classical music in general tends to be a bargain when compared to pop music, but this set has a fantastic price. Currently Amazon is selling this for $20 or less. It's an amazing price for 6 CDs of this quality, and a good example of the physical CD being less expensive than downloading each track individually. (Actually, just about all the other entries in EMI's 100 Best series are great bargains).

(6) Packaging. EMI packages this (and the other 100 Best volumes) in a nifty little compact case. The case holds 6 CDs in approximately the space needed for two single CD jewel cases. That said, be careful with the folding trays, as they are probably too thin to withstand a lot of abuse...

In short, I am a big fan of EMI's 100 Best series, and I think this set is probably the best for providing an introduction or overview of the classical genre. Those who like this set should also consider its companion (Volume 2).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 9, 2015 2:35 AM PDT

Beachbum Berrys Grog Log
Beachbum Berrys Grog Log
by Jeff Berry
Edition: Spiral-bound
3 used & new from $498.61

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raise a glass (or tiki mug) to Beachbum Berry!, June 11, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Looking at all the other reviews for the Grog Log, I see nothing but five stars awarded to this nifty little book, and I am not going to break with precedent.

For the uninitiated, "tropical", "exotic" or "tiki" drinks are part of a subgenre that the more snobby elements of the cocktail world would refer to as kitsch. A succesful mainstream cocktail book presents itself as emmaculately as a James Bond tuxedo (see Dale DeGroff). A successful tiki drink book on the other hand presents itself as a hawaiian shirt. The hook however, is that a good tiki drink is no less sophisticated as a mainstream cocktail...and truth be is usually more complex.

Unlike some of the other tropical drink recipe books, Grog Log is no frothy collection of colorful cocktail photos with some syrup-heavy recipes thrown in. Instead, like good tiki bartenders, Jeff Berry along with Annene Kaye have created a sophisticated concoction. Grog Log is equal parts (1) overview of the tiki drink movement, (2) reproduction of the uniquely crude, tacky, and delightful visual style of the classic tiki bar era, and (3) substantive recipes of the drinks themselves. This last element sets this book apart from others as "THE" authority on tiki drinks (along with its companion volume "Intoxica").

For the most part, to fully appreciate these recipes, you need to have a taste for rum and preferably a liking (or love) of citrus fruits. Fear not, because after sampling an authentic Mai Tai, it is hard not to meet both requirements.

Finally, at the time I write this, the book appears to be out of print and is fetching some high prices in the used market. Again fear not: as an FYI, Beachbum Berry states on his website that: "Our publisher plans to reprint the Grog Log [and Taboo Table] this summer."

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