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Turner Classic Movies Presents Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965: Third Edition
Turner Classic Movies Presents Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965: Third Edition
by Leonard Maltin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.19
86 used & new from $10.93

2.0 out of 5 stars Review of the Kindle Edition, July 18, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Leonard Maltin's Classic edition of his movie guide costs twice as much, but has half the page count compared to his "Modern Era" movie guide. I know the sales of this historic series hasn't been good in recent years, but overpricing it certainly won't help. Although nowhere in this book does it say that this is the last edition of the Classic movie guide, we can't help but see the handwritings on the wall. The previous edition of the Classic guide was SIX years ago. So this latest 3rd edition COULD be the last. The "Modern Era" guide, of course, was already discontinued 2 years ago when the 2015 edition came out. The Modern guide, by the way, does have about 2000 pre-1965 movies, but thankfully all of them (as far as I can see) can also be found in the Classic guide.

As its title indicates, only titles up to those in 1965 are included in the latest 3rd edition of the Classic guide. But of course it still has a ton of movies missing due to reasons that long-time readers are all too familiar with: (a) the editors haven't gotten around to adding them, (b) short films are never added, (c) the book doesn't have room to hold any more titles.

The lack of short films is especially disappointing since any movie fan knows that the silent era, especially the early years, is composed of a high proportion of short films. For a book supposedly dedicated to classic films, these omissions are disappointing. You won't find "A Trip to the Moon", "The Great Train Robbery", "L'age d'or", "Un chien andalou", any of Charlie Chaplin's Keystone, Essanay, or Mutual classic shorts, any of the 500 shorts by D.W. Griffith, or any of the Disney animated shorts. You won't find any serials here either, even if the total running time is well over feature length. Even though the classic French serials "Les Vampires" and "Fantomas" run several hours in total each, this book stubbornly treats them as shorts and doesn't include them. In fact, you won't find any titles made before 1912 in this book. It is a HUGE portion of film history omitted by this book.

Among feature-length films, you won't find such notable films as "The Patchwork Girl of Oz" (1914), which is the very first film adaptation of the classic Oz novel, the 1921 Swedish silent classic "The Phantom Carriage", the 1923 French silent "Cœur fidèle", the 1924 Baby Peggy flicks "Captain January" and "Helen's Babies" (co-starring Clara Bow), the 1927 Russian classic "Bed and Sofa", the 1927 Lon Chaney classics "London After Midnight" and "Mr. Wu", and surely a lot more.

We have the usual 11 pages of "About the author" (3 pages), "About the editors" (2 pages), "Memorable Performance A to Z" (1 page), "Key to this Book" (1 partial page), "Mail Order Sources for Home Video" (3 pages), and "Widescreen Glossary" (1 page). Are those verbose bios of the editors and mail order sources really necessary? Condense a few pages, and there would be room for a lot more titles.

The Classic edition contains about 10,000 titles. Both the Classic and Modern editions contain only about 26,000 reviews total, which is, of course nowhere close to the millions of titles found in websites like IMDb and Wikipedia. My 1997 edition of Maltin's guide has about 26,000 titles. That means the book has hardly increased the number of titles over the years, while more and more films are made every year. Understandably, there are only so many titles a physical book can hold. And you would think that migrating the book to electronic formats would solve that problem, but it didn't. Maltin's book was already made available electronically long time ago, via those Microsoft "Cinemania" CD-ROMs in the 90s. The real problem is that Maltin simply never had the manpower (nor money, surely) to curate millions of titles the same way IMDb does it for free with volunteer contributors. So all the limitations of Maltin's book have never been remedied over the years.

To its credit, among the capsule reviews, the Classic guide also provides lists of titles that belong in series, such as the Philo Vance series, the Andy Hard series, etc. The "Modern Era" edition used to do this too, but has stopped long ago to save space.

The heart and soul of Maltin's book are the capsule reviews, which were once indispensable in the pre-Internet, pre-personal computer days, but are now quite antiquated. A mere few sentences of summary for each title is just not satisfying compared to the much more detailed info available elsewhere. A cast list is provided for each review, but only for major roles, and minor roles played by notable actors. The director's name is the only crew listed, and there is no mention of writers, editors, producers, and other crews, unless Maltin mentions them specifically in his review. Silent films are often not indicated as such. While a review does show a movie's country or countries of origin, it doesn't mention a movie's language. While reading this book, you get the feeling that due to the lack of space, it is unable to include some of the most basic information.

The Kindle edition of the Classic guide, which I bought, is an exact duplicate of the print edition. There are no hyperlinks for titles nor people that enable quick navigation; you can only navigate by flipping one page at at time. The only way to search titles is via Kindle's built-in word search function, which can take a long time due to the book's high page count (800-plus). The ability to change font size is probably the only positive of the Kindle edition.


I Lost it at the Video Store: A Filmmakers' Oral History of a Vanished Era
I Lost it at the Video Store: A Filmmakers' Oral History of a Vanished Era
Price: $9.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of the Kindle version, September 30, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book is a light read and it can be finished in half a day by a slow reader, but it is a worthwhile read for those who can relate to the 80s and 90s home video phenomenon. It begins with a terrific introduction by Tom Rostin who gives an overview of the history and significance of home video, especially VHS tapes. It ends with a reprint of a NY Times article on the closing of Kim's Video store in Manhattan. The bulk of the book are transcripts (with editing) of several conversations with filmmakers and film executives who recount how the home video business in the 80s and 90s changed their lives. The topics discussed range from anecdotal experiences of being a video store clerk (Kevin Smith confesses to using the porn section to "pleasure himself"), how the video business helped the indie film movement, how the advent of Netflix and streaming killed off the video rental business, to almost existential opinionations of what video stores (and their demise) meant to the public. Participants include Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, David O. Russell, Larry Estes, Allison Anders, Janet Pierson, Luc Besson, Darren Aronofsky, and several others. A few black-and-white photos of the participants are also included in the book.

With that many people, we get a wide variety of viewpoints, but unfortunately not too many exchanges nor back-and-forths. Due to the transcript format, opinions are given out in bits and pieces. Kevin Smith is the only one who is given a whole chapter where only he gives his opinions. I wish every participant would have the floor the same way he did. As in every conversation, some speakers always dominate more than others, and the same is true here. I barely got any output from Luc Besson (who speaks maybe 2-3 times in the whole book), whereas Kevin Smith opines on nearly everything, and he has his own chapter.

Some of the participants are fairly passionate about their views. When Tarantino talks about how Netflix makes it unnecessarily to go to a video store, he says incredulously, "And that's progress? Progress is not leaving your home? I like eating at home too, but once in a while I like going to a restaurant too." Such passion makes me want to see how the actual interview went down. I surely wish the interviewer recorded the whole thing on video and/or audio. Playing it back would be like watching "My Dinner with Andre". Great conversations need to be read AND watched.


Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited - Multiple (Windows and Mac)
Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited - Multiple (Windows and Mac)
Offered by goldcoinstar
Price: $34.88
20 used & new from $16.47

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Greatly improved after disastrous launch; no subscription fee a plus, August 19, 2015
Plagued with bugs at launch last year, the massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) Elder Scrolls Online is now much improved. It also had its $15-a-month subscription fee removed earlier this year, making it one of the most-played MMORPGs right now. Set in the Elder Scrolls universe, ESO offers much more territories to travel than earlier ES games: you can visit much of Tamriel, including parts of Skyrim and Cyrodiil, and beyond. ESO offers a good mix of solo-questing, group-questing, combat, crafting, guild participation, and storytelling. Those who played earlier ES games will not lose the single-player "feel" in the gameplay, while still being able to participate in group plays that MMORPGs are made for.

There are, of course, many differences between ESO and earlier ES games. You need constant Internet connection to play ESO, of course, and you need an account with Bethesda, the publisher. As in other MMORPGs, you see other online players in the game in places accessible to all, but there are areas "instanced" only to you. Everything in ESO happens in real time: you cannot save and load game, or pause during action. Many enemies respawn a certain time after being killed, so other online players can fight them. Your inventory is limited to 60 items at the start; you can buy additional slots later; there is no weight associated with each item. You cannot put items in containers as in earlier ES games; you can only put them in your inventory or your "bank account" (which is also limited to 60 items at the start). There are only about 20 ingredients each for alchemy, enchanting, food, and drink, unlike Skyrim that has over 100 of each. Regarding quick travel, you can only quick-travel to "waypoints" located throughout Tamriel, and you pay a fee if your departure point is not a waypoint. Significantly, ESO doesn't let you switch weapons during combat, unless when you reach Level 15, which will give you a secondary weapon slot.

One big difference compared to earlier ES games is that you have a large amount of magical attacks at your disposal even if you are not a mage or at low levels. EVERY WEAPON TYPE is associated with a whole slew of magical attacks, called "active abilities" here. Bows have a set of attacks, 2-handed weapons have a set, as do dual-wield weapons, destruction staves, and one-handed weapons with shields. In addition, active abilities are also given to your class, your race, and the guilds you have joined. Some of these abilities use magicka, and some use stamina. Some of these attacks are fairly powerful as well, even at low levels, so you cannot ignore their use. That makes it imperative even for non-mage characters to have an ample amount of magicka and stamina. You up either your health, magicka, or stamina by one point every time you level up.

There are also "treasure maps" throughout Tamriel, some you can find in your travels, and some you start with if you buy some of the special editions of ESO, such as "Explorers' Pack" or "Imperial Edition". A treasure map is a crudely drawn picture of a treasure chest's location. Such maps are quite numerous in the game.

Another interesting feature of ESO are "dolmen battles". A dolmen is a portal that occasionally pours out an army of daedric creatures, sort of like Oblivion Gates in "Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion". There are many dolmens throughout Tamriel. Fighting in dolmen battles gives you experience points, achievements, and loot.

Looting dead enemies is a little different in ESO in that if you killed the enemy more "efficiently", you might get better loot. Same thing happens in dolmen battles: the player who performed most efficiently in the battle gets the most loot.

Leveling up is handled in similar fashion as in Skyrim and Oblivion: you gain experience points by completing quests and also by performing tasks that yield experience for such tasks. E.g. using a bow grants you experience for your Bow skill, crafting an iron weapon gives you Blacksmith skill experience, etc.

ESO also has "crafting writs", where you craft a specified amount of weapons and armor to get rewards and experience. Rewards can be quite significant for such tasks so don't pass them up.

One popular quest line in Skyrim is Dark Brotherhood, which unfortunately is not in ESO. A recent announcement by Bethesda, however, hinted that Dark Brotherhood would be added later on.

Thieves Guild also doesn't seem to be in ESO. But there are "fences" who buy your stolen goods and clear your bounty.

You cannot buy homes in ESO the way you do in earlier ES games. About the only things you need to buy are horses and extra inventory slots, and both are expensive.

You can buy either the 2014 launch version of ESO or the renamed "Tamriel Unlimited" edition from 2015, provided you obtain an unused activation code. Whether you install from discs or online, the game will automatically download all the latest patches (many gigabytes in total) before you can start the game.


ARCTIC Accelero Xtreme IV High-End Graphics Card Cooler with Backside Cooler for Efficient RAM and VRM-Cooling DCACO-V800001-GBA01
ARCTIC Accelero Xtreme IV High-End Graphics Card Cooler with Backside Cooler for Efficient RAM and VRM-Cooling DCACO-V800001-GBA01
Offered by Rockland Toys 15
Price: $69.61
12 used & new from $29.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Arctic Xtreme IV, September 9, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This high-end graphics card cooler does what it advertises by reducing GPU temp (by 15-20ºC) as well as GPU fan noise, but its installation could be tricky, and the skimpy instructions that come with the package may not be totally helpful. First, go to Arctic's website and download an updated PDF copy of the instructions in case you get an outdated copy in your package. Then, make sure you have a nice set of screwdrivers of various types and sizes because the package doesn't come with any tools. The first step of the installation is the unscrewing of your graphics card's built-in fan and cooler. If your card is like my EVGA GeForce GTX 480, be prepared to unscrew about 15 tiny screws, nearly all of which are tightly screwed and located near circuitry that you don't want to damage. A couple of screws are even concealed under foams. Make sure you have GOOD screwdrivers so that even if the screws are stripped, the screwdrivers themselves are not. And if you stripped a screw, find another way and another tool to take it out. You may need to consult a guide for how to remove a stripped screw, or use your creativity. For instance, I used a flat-head screwdriver to pry the screw upward a little bit, then used pliers to rotate the screw until it came out. If you really get stuck in the unscrewing, don't force it and risk damaging your expensive card; just return the Arctic cooler. Having your card die in a few years because of high GPU temperature is better than having it die right here and now because of a failed cooler installation.

If you manage to dismantle the stock cooler, the rest of the installation is relatively smooth and safe. And best of all, most of the parts are designed not to leave any trace on your graphics card should you need to remove the cooler in the future. There is NO THERMAL GLUE involved as in older Arctic models, since the included thermal pads are self-adhesive. Instead of using a multitude of screws to attach the cooler and heat sink to your card, the Arctic Xtreme IV uses only 4 screws (with washers) to attach the cooler, and only six clips to attach the heat sink. Don't forget to connect the fan's power cord to the card, because the instructions don't mention it. Also included is a graphics card holder, in case your computer case doesn't come with any (many high-end computer cases have it already, however). Your computer case also needs to be full size to accommodate the length of the Arctic cooler. After installation, the cooler is AN INCH longer than my GTX 480 used to be.

The Arctic Xtreme IV has 3 large and quiet fans for the cooler on the front of the card, as well as a large heat sink at the back of the card. This is undoubtedly a big improvement over my stock cooler that only has one small, noisy fan and no rear heat sink. Do not confuse Arctic Xtreme IV with the Arctic Xtreme IV 280X model, because each supports different graphics cards.


Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (64 GB, Intel Core i3, Windows 8.1)
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (64 GB, Intel Core i3, Windows 8.1)
Offered by Supreme Deals 18
Price: $558.99
40 used & new from $389.00

29 of 46 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Has many issues that make it hard to be a tablet/laptop replacement, August 17, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Surface line has represented Microsoft's best and most ambitious effort in the mobile market in the last 3 years, but sadly the competition is that much better, making it hard for anything else to catch up. The Android and iOS ecosystems are simply too big and too developed for any challenger to take their place. The latest Surface Pro 3, again, comes up short.

The $800 Surface Pro 3 sports a larger, 12" touchscreen, 64GB built-in memory (only 38GB free), Intel i3 CPU, one regular USB port, one microSD port, and Windows 8.1 Professional Edition. For the same amount of money, you can have a Dell notebook with 14" touchscreen, 500GB solid-state drive, multiple USB ports, standard SD card slot, and Win8.1 Pro. As long as the Surface Pro doesn't offer comparable specs, it won't be a laptop replacement anytime soon.

And can it replace other tablets? No. Three years after the Surface line debuted, Windows Store still has nowhere near the wide selection of apps offered by iOS and Android app stores. A tablet is a "thin client" that NEEDS a strong cloud ecosystem to function, which in turn needs a strong user base to exist. Windows Store has neither. It is tough enough to compete against one platform, and it may be insurmountable against two.

Is the Surface Pro 3 itself a good device? Once again, negative. At launch, the device was rife with Wi-fi issues, lockup issues, and bugs, which I have experienced first hand. Even after several updates from Microsoft, including a firmware update on 8/12/14, many problems persist.

This device tries to be a "2-in-1", tablet & laptop device. At its heart, it is really a regular laptop running regular Windows 8.1, which happens to have the so-called "Metro" interface that creates that tablet-friendliness. But its Windows core means that the Surface Pro 3 inherits ALL of the shortcomings and annoyances that any Windows user has sadly come to expect of Windows. It can crash, it can freeze, and it just seems buggier than other platforms. That is just the nature of the Windows environment.

Yes, Windows lets you run ANY Windows programs, which is possibly the biggest selling point for the Surface Pro 3. If you need to have true desktop Windows, also need a tablet, and don't want to carry two devices, the Surface Pro 3 may be for you. But you have to put up with all the usual baggage of Windows.

What Microsoft doesn't seem to realize is that while annoyances in desktop Windows may be tolerable in the desktop environment, they may not be so in the tablet environment. That is the risk of making a 2-in-1 device.

One common problem for the Surface Pro 3 is Wi-fi issues, from slow connection to freezing up the whole device. One workaround is to go into Windows Device Manager and manually remove the network driver and reinstall it. While desktop users may not mind the hassle of doing that, tablet users simply would not expect nor tolerate such inconvenience.

Front and rear cameras are included on the Surface Pro 3, but they have very few features and cannot even auto-focus. The rear camera can only focus far away objects, while the front camera only near objects. They seem to serve only as webcams as those on regular laptops. So once again, laptop users may not mind the shortcoming, but tablet users would simply expect much better cameras such as those on Android or iOS devices.

The Surface Pro 3 comes with an active stylus, which makes it one of very few Windows 8.1 2-in-1 devices that comes with a pen. There are some issues with it as well. The pen contains THREE batteries inside, making it a touch heavier than other stylii, a possible issue for some users. There are two buttons on the middle of the pen for erasing and selecting objects. I find myself hitting those buttons by accident too many times, and there is no way to disable or re-configure those buttons.

The Surface Pro 3 has a built-in kickstand that allows multiple viewing angles, but it only works in landscape mode. Also, when the kickstand is opened at the widest angle, it blocks the rear camera partially. If you use the kickstand on your lap, your lap not only has to support the keyboard (which costs $130 extra), but the bottom of the kickstand as well.

If you forgo the $130 physical keyboard, you need to rely on the on-screen keyboard, which does not automatically appear if you are typing in desktop mode. You need to manually turn it on or off by tapping the keyboard icon on the taskbar.

Users of Android devices are used to the fact that during network file transfer, Android is able to stay awake to prevent disconnection of the transfer. Sadly, the Surface Pro 3 can't do that. If it is set to go to sleep after certain time, it will go to sleep unless there is user input such as a keystroke or mouse movement. Your only recourse is to set the Surface Pro 3 to never sleep.

As mentioned, Surface Pro 3 comes with Windows 8.1 Pro, which lets you log on to Windows network domains. I had no problem logging on to the Windows Server 2003 domain at work. However, there is one issue regarding tablet usage. By design, in a domain environment, once a workstation goes to sleep, the user needs to enter the password to wake it up. The same is true with Surface Pro 3: even if you set it to never ask for a password while waking up, it WILL always ask for it in a domain environment. That makes it ill-suited to be used as a tablet, because tablet users are used to having an option to be asked for a password or not. This is the kind of risk that building a 2-in-1 device would run into. Some things are just not meant to be mixed together.

Even multi-window is lacking on the Surface Pro 3 compared to Android devices such as Galaxy Note. Surface Pro 3 allows only two windows opened simultaneously, while Galaxy Note allows multiple windows.

On the positive side, the Surface Pro 3 has much louder volume than all my Android and iOS devices, and that really helps media playback.

And I also appreciate the fast startup time of the Surface Pro 3 as well, which is only 10-15 seconds from complete shutdown to fully on. This is, of course, due to the high speed of the solid state drive that Windows was installed on. My benchmark shows a reading speed of over 400 MB/s for the SSD. Traditional 5400rpm disk drives usually just read at 80 to 100 MB/s, as do many SD cards.

Another positive is the if you buy the Surface Pro 3 here or directly from Microsoft, it doesn't come with any bloatware at all. One thing you need to have, however, is an anti-virus program. If you use the Surface Pro 3 in desktop mode a lot, you need one.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2014 7:10 AM PDT


Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide (Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide)
Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide (Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide)

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Review of print edition, Kindle edition, and iOS app, January 29, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This historic reference book is sadly losing its relevance in today's world of IMDB, Wikipedia, Rotten Tomatoes, and many other movie sites. When Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide was first published in 1969, its thousands of capsule movie reviews were an indispensable reference source when such a comprehensive collection of movie info was rare. The book had its biggest success during the 80s and 90s, when home video sales exploded and movie fans couldn't get enough of renting and buying movies and learning more about them. Many copycat movie guides were also published, but Maltin's book had always remained the benchmark. When multimedia PCs gained popularity in the 90s, Maltin again capitalized on the new technology by teaming up with Microsoft to create an electronic version of his book, Cinemania CD-ROM, which also included Roger Ebert's movie guide and several other movie books, all with fully-searchable text and cross-reference links. It seemed Maltin's Book was poised to transition successfully to the new electronic age. But sadly, that was not to be. In the early days of IMDB and Wikipedia, if you were to tell me that a site that gets info primarily from volunteer online users would one day be more useful than Maltin's book, I would laugh at you. But that's exactly what has happened. As IMDB and Wikipedia grew bigger and bigger, it became apparent that the team of experts who edit Maltin's book would never be able to contribute as much as the millions and millions of volunteers (from movie professionals to regular viewers) who contributed for IMDB and Wiki. Even though errors can occur on IMDB and Wiki, but if an entry has been edited millions of times, the errors are bound to be corrected eventually.

I guess Maltin's book would still be relevant to those who don't have access to the Internet or computers. But the shortcomings of the book are becoming more and more apparent every year. While IMDB has millions of titles, Maltin's books (both his "Modern Era" and "Classic Movies" editions combined) only have about 26,000. Such lack of depth has been the norm for years due to the lack of space of the print edition. Made-for-TV movies, which were once present in the book, are all gone. You won't find Dustin Hoffman's telefilm version of "Death of a Salesman", the great suspense films by Levinson and Link such as "Rehearsal for Murder" and "Murder by Natural Causes", the classic 1983 nuclear holocaust telefilm "The Day After", or even the many great HBO telefilms such as Emma Thompson's 2001 "Wit". You won't find any short films, since Maltin has never included them. Classic shorts like "The Red Balloon", "Un Chien Andalou", all the classic Disney shorts, and modern masterpieces like 1993 Cannes winner "The Debt", Oscar winners "Tin Toy" (1988), "Harvie Krumpet" (2003), "Visas of Virtue", and on and on, are absent in the book, even though many of them are available for home video and/or online viewing nowadays.

Regarding foreign films, this book has always been hit or miss. As expected, it has the established classics such as those by Kurosawa, Fellini, Truffaut, etc. Anything that is less mainstream is less likely to be included. You won't find the 1921 classic Swedish silent "The Phantom Carriage". You won't find the great French comedy films by Pierre Etaix, whose films have been rediscovered and shown on prime-time on TCM, and were recently released on Blu-ray and DVD. You won't find any of the groundbreaking films by Chantal Akerman, whose films have also been rediscovered and released on home video. You won't find any Hong Kong Shaw Brothers' martial arts films, many of which have become widely known in the west since the 70s and are also available on home video. A lot of films from South Korea have gained international fame the last decade, but you won't find "A Tale of Two Sisters" or "My Sassy Girl" in this book. More and more so as time goes on, this book seems to be stuck in 1969 mode and is unable to reflect the diversity of tastes and demands of 21st century viewers.

The 2014 Modern Era edition does add, according to Maltin's foreword, a "healthy sampling" of Italian spaghetti westerns. But again, they are hit or miss. I recently bought a spaghetti western double feature Blu-ray set of the films "The Grand Duel" and "Keoma". Maltin's book adds "The Grand Duel" that wasn't in last year's edition, but it doesn't add "Keoma".

Maltin may not necessarily want to exclude any films. But the lack of space of the print edition plus the lack of manpower (compared to the huge Internet community that serves IMDB) are just never going to enable him to include as many titles as he wants. Ideally, the coverage of the book should at least keep up with what is available on home video, since most people mainly use the book for rental/purchase suggestions. But as the years go on, as the selections of DVDs and Blu-rays continue to grow, we are sadly aware that this book will probably never catch up to that level of coverage.

Even for the movies that are included, the information provided is fairly lacking. Maltin's pithy, often witty capsule reviews are the heart and soul of the book. But in this day and age of DVD commentaries and bonus material, when viewers can't seem to get enough of movie information, a mere few sentences of summary are just not going to be very satisfying compared to the much more detailed info available elsewhere. A cast list is provided for each review, but only for major roles, and minor roles played by notable actors. The director's name is the only crew listed, and there is no mention of writers, editors, producers, and other crews, unless Maltin mentions them specifically in his review. Silent films are often not indicated as such. While a review does show a movie's country or countries of origin, it doesn't mention a movie's language. While reading this book, you get the feeling that due to the lack of space, it is unable to include some of the most basic information.

An electronic medium doesn't have the space limitation that the print edition does, but sadly, the eight-dollar Kindle edition of Maltin's book is an exact duplicate of the print edition. Only the "Modern Era" edition of Maltin's book is available on Kindle currently. The Kindle edition doesn't make it user-friendly to browse or search for movies either. There is no title search. You can only do a full-search on all the text to find a title, which, on my quad-core Windows PC, takes several minutes per search (!) due to the large amount of text, and the Kindle reader's lack of a good search engine. To browse the book, you can only advance one page at a time, which is not efficient for a 1600-page book. There are no hyperlinks of titles and people within reviews, making quick navigation impossible. The ability to change font size is probably the only positive of the Kindle edition.

Currently, the best electronic version of Maltin's book comes in the form of a two-dollar iOS app for iPhone and iPod Touch. iPad users can use it too, but the app is made for the small screen of iPhone and iPod Touch only. The app actually has more movies than the current print edition. But disappointingly, it still has fewer movies than some of the past print editions. My 1997 print edition has "Rehearsal for Murder" (1982), "Special Bulletin" (1983), Guilty Conscience (1985), Death of a Salesman (1985, Dustin Hoffman), and many others that are not in this app. Hopefully the developer will later add the old ones that are still missing. But again, this app, just like the print edition, surely doesn't have millions of volunteer editors that IMDb does. The app is updated only about once a year, but it does periodically add reviews of new movies, even while they are still in theaters. The new reviews are lengthier, but less well-written, and are clearly not written by Maltin and his regular staff. You can also read reviews while offline. You can search for titles quickly, which is a needed improvement over the Kindle edition. But you can only search for words that begin a title. E.g. Searching "lambs" doesn't give you "Silence of the Lambs"; only searching "silence" does. You also cannot search full text of reviews, and can only search title, cast, and director. Searching cast returns a list of movie titles, not cast names. E.g. searching for "John" gives you all movies with an actor who has the word "John" in his or her name (e.g. Johnson, Johnny, St. John, Katterjohn, Keith-Johnston, etc.), which is not very useful. Other shortcomings of the app include the lack of landscape view, the inability to change font size, and the lack of home video availability info as in the print and Kindle editions. I would rate the print and Kindle editions 2 stars, and the iOS app 3 stars.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 8, 2014 4:42 AM PDT


Only Yesterday [Blu-ray]
Only Yesterday [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Miki Imai
4 used & new from $45.35

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Blu-ray editions from Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, January 15, 2014
This review is from: Only Yesterday [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
A single woman reminisces about her bittersweet childhood while trying to find her place in the world in this moving animated film from Japan in 1991. Rarely shown in the US due to its very Japanese settings, this beautifully crafted film breaks some ground in using animation to tell a non-sci-fi, non-comedic, adult, realistic drama, something which is still rarely done in the west. Like many Japanese animated films, "Only Yesterday" originated from graphic novels. The film was based on the semi-autobiographical manga of the same name, and was directed by Isao Takahata of "Grave of the Fireflies" fame. The hand-drawn, painterly drawings are perfect for the nostalgic nature of the story, and they are sheer beauty to look at on this high-definition Blu-ray I'm reviewing.

"Only Yesterday" was produced by Japan's legendary Studio Ghibli, which made other animated classics like "My Neighbor Totoro", "Kiki's Delivery Service", and "Spirited Away" that are quite well-known to western viewers. "Only Yesterday", however, is its only film that has never been released in North America. Other than a one-time broadcast on TCM in 2006, there has been no theatrical nor home video releases. Those who wish to see it will have to import foreign home video editions.

(Edit May-06-2016: This film will be released for North America on Blu-ray, ASIN: B01E9O0Q0Q, and DVD, ASIN: B01E9O0QVU, by Universal on July 5, 2016. It will feature a new English dub as well as the original Japanese audio track.)

"Only Yesterday" has been released on DVD and Blu-ray in Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The DVDs came out about 10 years ago and they used old prints that may not look as good today. The Blu-rays, however, came out within the past year and have beautiful, restored picture. North America is fortunately in the same Blu-ray region ("A") as these East Asian countries, so the Blu-rays made there are playable here.

All 3 Blu-ray editions come with well-written, optional English subtitles. But none has English dubs. No English dub has ever been made for this film. All discs have a lossless surround Japanese audio track. The Taiwanese Blu-ray also has a lossy Mandarin track and optional Chinese subtitles, while the Hong Kong disc has a lossy Cantonese track and optional Chinese subtitles.

The Japanese Blu-ray also includes lossy German and Korean audio tracks and French, German, and Korean subtitles. But the Japanese disc costs more. Including shipping charge, it could cost you 60-70 US dollars. At Yesasia, the Hong Kong and Taiwanese Blu-rays each costs about 40 USD only. The Taiwanese package costs a little more because it comes with a DVD copy (which is in Region-3 NTSC format).

Regarding bonus features, all three discs come with storyboard presentation of the film. These are high-definition, high-quality scans of the original drawings by the filmmakers, so they look exceedingly good here. Even if you have never bothered to look at these storyboards in past video editions, the Blu-ray's much-improved picture should make you more appreciative of them. In Japan, these storyboards are highly regarded and have been published in book form. That is the reason storyboards are present in nearly all home video editions of Studio Ghibli films.

The Japanese and Taiwanese Blu-rays also include a 46-minute making-of feature. Shown in upconverted 1080i, this piece is narrated in Japanese, unsubtitled on the Japanese disc and subtitled in Chinese on the Taiwanese disc. The Hong Kong Blu-ray has no such feature. This is an excellent and fairly in-depth documentary on the making of "Only Yesterday" as well as the history of director Takahata and producer Hayao Miyazaki, with a number of film clips of their early works. But as I mentioned, no English subtitles are provided, unfortunately.

The cover image shown currently at the Amazon page is of the Japanese Blu-ray edition, but the thumbnail picture you see when you search for this Blu-ray shows the cover of the Hong Kong Blu-ray edition. Be sure to check with the seller which edition is being sold.

For parents who are concerned with showing this film to young children, note that no MPAA rating was ever given due to its never having been shown theatrically in the US. But when it was broadcast on TCM, it was given a TV rating of PG.


Puzzle Agent [Online Game Code]
Puzzle Agent [Online Game Code]
Price: $4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great artwork, simplistic gameplay, December 23, 2013
"Puzzle Agent" is a puzzle game released in 2010 by independent game publisher Telltale Games, a company known for snagging licensing rights to popular franchises like "Back to the Future" and "Walking Dead" and turning them into popular video games. "Puzzle Agent" utilizes the striking artwork by cartoonist Graham Annable to create a one-of-a-kind look and feel that you won't likely forget. Annable's bare but expressive drawings instantly captivate us, and fit nicely to the comical Fargo-like settings of the game's missing-person mystery set in snowy Minnesota.

Unfortunately, the gameplay is as bare as the landscapes shown in the game. There are 36 puzzles in the game only, which can be finished in just 2-4 hours. Some of them resemble the ones you find in puzzle books: an almost static, minimally interactive screen with a simplistically-constructed puzzle. There are a few "guess the next number or symbol in the sequence" puzzles. There are quite a few "control the flow" puzzles when you set the necessary directions to pass through obstacles. And there are way more tile puzzles, the old standby in puzzle games, than I care for. Some puzzles just offer too little interactivity, such as those "he says, she says, guess the answer" type of puzzles that I'm never too keen on. All in all, there is hardly any puzzle that I find memorable. I have seen IQ tests that had more interesting puzzles. There are better-designed puzzles to be had in even some of today's casual games. Sadly, the artwork is the most outstanding feature in "Puzzle Agent".

The game ends in a cliffhanger, to be continued in "Puzzle Agent 2" from 2011, which is more of the same, puzzle-wise. Both games are already heavily discounted from their original prices. During holiday sales, they are discounted even more. The two games are available for PC, Mac, Playstation, and iOS. PC and Mac users can buy them on Steam, Amazon, or Telltale's website.


Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition (16GB, Black)
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition (16GB, Black)
25 used & new from $219.95

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars State-of-the-art stylus and note-taking app, great tablet specs that compete well with iPad Air, some useless features, December 12, 2013
Samsung's latest stylus-equipped tablet, Galaxy Note 10.1 2014, which came out In October 2013, was met with disappointing sales that many believed to be due to the increasing popularity of mini 7" to 8" tablets. But the fact is the Note 10.1 2014 is the best tablet yet from Samsung, with advanced specs and a state-of-the-art stylus that make this device a worthy competitor to Apple's iPad Air.

The biggest selling point of the Note 10.1 2014 is its advanced stylus, called "S Pen", which should benefit those who handwrite and draw a lot. The 10.1-inch touch-screen doubles as a Wacom digitizer board that senses pen pressure and displays pen stroke thickness accordingly. The S Pen also "talks" to the Note tablet: if you hold the tip of the S Pen close to the screen, the Note will sense its presence and automatically disables the touch-screen, so your hands won't accidentally touch it while you are writing or drawing.

The S Pen has a fine-point tip that allows precise interaction with the screen. The tip is replaceable if it gets dull over time (5 spare tips are included). The tip is short and thin, but the end of the tip is round, not sharp. The Note tablet has a pen holder at the corner for docking your S Pen, so you won't lose it so easily.

Samsung doesn't offer a comparable, pen-less version of the Note 10.1 2014. The other 10" tablets from Samsung, Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Nexus 10, both have less advanced specs compared to the Note 10.1 2014. Wait for the rumored upcoming release of Nexus 10 2013 edition, which may have better specs such as the latest Android OS 4.4, if you want just a vanilla 10" tablet. Or, if you prefer iOS, get an iPad Air.

S Pen is obviously for those who draw and/or write notes a lot. But if your notes consist mainly of text and you mainly type your notes, then probably any tablet or device will do. If you need handwriting recognition for text, there are already apps with such ability made for regular tablets, so you don't necessarily need the S Pen. Rather, the Note and its S Pen are best for people who HAVE to handwrite and draw. They are for those whose note-taking involves a mixture of words, symbols, and drawings, or any type of activity that necessitates handwriting or drawing.

For instance, the S Pen would be useful for students who take notes in class, professionals who make quick visual notes, or anyone who needs to jot down any info that isn't only text. Useful scenarios for the S Pen include designers who need make some quick drawings, mathematicians writing down equations, writers of East Asian languages who may find it more convenient to handwrite than using complex input methods, or anyone who needs to make a lot of handwritten annotations on pictures, documents, etc.

The S Pen's handwriting recognition for text is supported system-wide. Wherever the regular keyboard pops up, once you take out the S Pen from its holder, the Note immediately changes the keyboard to a writing pad that recognizes your writing. This only works if you specify the default Samsung keyboard in system settings. If you install and use third-party keyboard apps, this will not work.

The S Pen's handwriting recognition for SHAPES, however, is supported only in a few apps. By "shape recognition", I mean the Note will turn your rough drawing of a square, circle, or any recognizable shape into a perfectly drawn shape. This results in neater and more presentable notes.

Three bundled apps are able to recognize hand-drawn shapes. "Polaris Office 5" is able to recognize simple 2-dimensional shapes only: squares, triangles, stars, etc. "S Finder" is able to search for symbols you have written in your notes, but sadly this only works for 5 symbols: star, circle, heart, question mark, and smiley face. "S Note" is a powerful app that links to your Evernote or Samsung account. It recognizes 2-dimensional and cubic shapes more accurately, and also lets you edit them more easily.

S Note is a richly featured app that recognizes handwritten text of all languages, shapes, and mathematical formulas. It lets you tranform (and undo transforming) handwritten words to real text that can be copied and pasted elsewhere. It lets you transform (and undo transforming) handwritten mathematical formulas into PNG image of properly-typefaced formulas. It lets you resize any part of your note when you run out of room on a page. You can change colors of any object. You can even adjust the thickness of the pen strokes already written. You can use the eraser to erase any portion of your note, down to individual pen strokes. You can also choose different pen styles: ball-point pen, pencil, caligraphy brush, hi-lighter. You can customize pen color, thickness, and even set pen presets. And of course, there is S Pen's ability to sense pen pressure and draw thickness accordingly. Every action is undoable or redoable. Most importantly, the plethora of features work really WELL.

Needless to say, Samsung did a great job with S Note, which really shows off the S Pen's capability beautifully. This will probably be the most used app for many who buy the Note 10.1 2014. As I said, all notes are linked to your Evernote account. If you use the Evernote app to view or edit your S Note creations, you will be taken automatically to the S Note app.

But the excellent S Note lacks one good feature that only "Action Memo" has. Action Memo is another bundled app for note-taking, but it is a much more primitive compared to S Note. While it recognizes handwriting, it does not transform. Handwriting stays as is. It lacks many advanced editing features found in S Note as well. But Action Memo has the unique ability to perform actions on your handwriting, such as adding your handwritten name and phone number to your contacts, sending an email address directly to a new email composition, sending an address to the map app, or sending a search word to a browser's search field. Of course, you could just open up the individual contacts, email, map, and browser app and make your entry there. Hence, this feature's usefulness is somewhat suspect. Other than this lone capability of Action Memo, I think most of you would use S Note most often instead.

The S Pen costs thirty dollars should you need to replace it. Make sure you get the one specifically for the Note 10.1 2014 tablet, so it will fit into the pen holder. Do not buy the one for the Note smartphones, nor the one for last year's Note 10.1. Samsung's website shows that only the black S Pen is available (part# ET-PP600SBEGUJ). Hence, owners of the white edition of Note 10.1 2014 need to make sure they don't lose their white S Pen.

The S Pen itself has a button that launches the "Air Command" menu, which lets you launch any of 5 apps: Action Memo, Scrapbooker, Screen Write, S Finder, and Pen Window. Sadly, S Note is not among them, and the Air Command menu is not customizable.

Scrapbooker lets you free-hand "lasso" any image on the screen and save it to the "Scrapbook" app. This is essentially just a screen-capturing function that also lets you cut out only the part you want.

"Screen Write" lets you capture a screen and write on the image afterwards. The bonus in doing so is that words written in this manner are SEARCHABLE by S Finder, provided that your writing is legible enough for recognition, and that the words are written on solid backgrounds with color that contrasts nicely with font colors, so that recognition is more likely.

You can screen-capture the traditional way by pressing the Home and Power button simultaneously. Captures are saved in the "Gallery" app, where you can add writings to the pictures. But writings made in this manner are NOT SEARCHABLE by S Finder. Apparently, words are not "indexed" here, thus making them not searchable.

S Finder is the "global search" function of the Note 10.1. It searches contacts, visited webpages, note content, help content, handwriting created in S Note, Action Memo, and Screen Write, and online content via Google as well. As I mentioned, it also searches for five symbols: star, circle, heart, question mark, and smiley face. You are supposed to use these symbols to tag your items, allowing them to be searched more easily. But as I said, 5 symbols are just too limited to be useful for such a purpose.

"Pen Window" is a multi-tasking, multi-window feature. It opens up a small window, lets you choose another app (which must be one of the built-in apps such as Calculator, browser, etc.) which will then open up in a smaller window on top of your current app.

More useful is the ACTUAL multi-window feature, which works like this: you open up a tab on the left of the screen, choose an app (which must also be one of the built-in apps), and it will run SIDE BY SIDE with your current app. You can share info between the two apps by dragging and dropping, if both apps allow it. This is useful when, for instance, you are composing a document in Polaris Office and you need to drag a picture from the Gallery app to the document.

The Note 10.1 2014 has voice recognition as well. Whenever the Samsung keyboard or writing pad appear, there is a button for voice command, which functions for any language you select. It works pretty well also. Technology has advanced to the point where voice recognition works pretty well for everyday vocabulary. Of course, you may not want to do this in a crowded environment where other people can hear everything word you enter. You may want to turn off the keyboard tapping sound as well, which also helps to conserve power.

Regarding battery power, the Note 10.1 2014 has a few features that drain power and may even overheat the CPU. I installed the third-party app Android Tuner to monitor the CPU's temperature. One day, I was shocked to see that it went up to 70-80°C, which is too hot even for desktop CPUs. I turned off the Note's "palm gestures" and "smart screen" features and the temperature went right back to a normal 30-40°C. "Palm gestures" let you take screen captures or pause video playback by moving your palm in specific ways, and they don't always work. "Smart screen" is supposed to let you motion your eyes to perform certain basic tasks, but again it doesn't work reliably. Better to turn these features off to save battery AND the CPU.

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COMPARISON WITH IPAD AIR

Choosing between a Samsung tablet and an iPad may come down to whether you are a bigger fan of Android or iOS. In terms of apps, both operating systems offer many of the same apps in their respective ecosystem. There are some notable differences in OS features, however.

Android lets you enhance the home screen with "widgets", such as stock market ticker, weather tracker, news headlines listing, etc. Both Android and iOS let you install third-party apps to enhance your home screen appearance.

Both Android and iOS let you install third-party keyboard apps. iOS comes with East Asian keyboards with handwriting recognition. Android doesn't, so you need to get third-party apps for that.

Many Android devices come with a microSD card slot so you can add extra storage. With iOS devices, the only way you can get extra storage is to pay a hundred dollar more to get the model with more storage.

The micro-USB port on many Android devices can connect to external USB hard drive with the necessary cable. The micro-USB port on iOS devices cannot connect to anything other than iOS accessories.

Former iOS users who are new to Android may be disappointed that Android doesn't have the ability to let you tap on the top of the screen to return you to the top of the page. You have finger-scroll all the way up.

Also, Android does not have audio notification for sent email, the way the iOS email app does (the "swoosh" sound).

Here are some comparisons specific to the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 and iPad Air:

In terms of looks, the Note 10.1 2014 has a shiny, silvery outer edge that makes the device look quite cheap, and a faux leather back cover that looks even cheaper. iPad Air has a sleek, clean look, and an aluminum body that is beautiful to the eyes and great to the touch as well. Both devices are the lightest 10" tablets available, weighing slightly over a pound each.

A blessing for some but an annoyance for others, the screen of the Note 10.1 2014 is wider and shorter than iPad Air's due to its 16:10 aspect ratio as is the case for many Android tablets, while all iPads are in 4:3 aspect ratio. A wider 16:10 screen benefits those who watch movies and TV shows, since most of today's shows are shot in wide-screen. A 4:3 screen is better for photographs and reading, since 4:3 is the common aspect ratio for photography, and a printed page (typically letter size 8.5" by 11") is also close to 4:3.

Both the Note 10.1 2014 and iPad Air display in very high resolutions that exceed 1080p HD resolution: 2560x1600 for the Note, and 2048x1536 for iPad Air. They enable the shooting and viewing of high-quality and detailed videos and photos.

The Note 10.1 2014 supports the latest Wi-fi 802.11 "ac" protocol in addition to a/b/g/n protocols, while the iPad Air only supports a/b/g/n. "ac" supports greater frequency, range, and data rates. But routers that support "ac" are currently more expensive.

The Note comes with 8MP rear and 2MP front cameras. Both allow you to shoot videos at 1080p or lower, at 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio. You can shoot stills in 16:9 or 4:3 ratio as well. The rear camera also has LED flash. The camera app also lets you set a timer. In comparison, iPad Air has 5MP rear and 1.2MP front cameras. The rear camera only shoot videos at a fixed 1080p 16:9 format, and the front front camera at a fixed 720p 16:9 format. Both cameras only shoot stills in 4:3 format. There is also no LED flash nor timer.

Some iOS devices do have LED flash, like iPhone and iPod Touch. In iOS 7, the LED flash doubles as a flashlight as well. Note's LED flash is just a flash.

The speakers on the Note is noticeably louder than the iPad Air's, but you need to adjust the audio with an equalizer app to get better sound quality. With headphones on, both devices have similar audio quality.

The Note has two speakers on the left and eight sides, both pointing away from you instead of towards you. You may need to cup your hands around the speakers to redirect the sound towards you, sort of like cupping your hands around your ears to listen better.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 21, 2013 1:44 PM PST


Corruption (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Corruption (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
DVD ~ Peter Cushing
Price: $20.19
14 used & new from $18.04

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Review of Grindhouse Blu-ray edition, December 9, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Peter Cushing's maniacal performance in the 1968 British horror flick "Corruption" was released on home video for the first time in North American this past October. Cushing defies typecasting and plays an obsessed, knife-wielding, Ripper-esque, Gladstone bag-toting surgeon who harvests vital female organs from his unfortunate victims in order to heal the wounds of the woman he loves. The story vaguely resembles the elegant 1959 French classic "Eyes without a Face". But "Corruption" depicts it in fairly sensationalized manner that befits late-night, grindhouse viewing of the time: from over-the-top silliness, gratuitous nudity and gore (at least in the uncut version), to cliched fish-eye camera shots magnifying Cushing's madness. There are a few calmer, surprisingly effective dramatic scenes that depict the doctor's devotion to his task, owing much to Cushing's acting ability. Cushing used to portray gentlemen in films, and he once called "Corruption" one of the worst pictures he had made. But the film has endured, and is regarded today as a cult classic.

A publisher aptly named "Grindhouse" released a 2-disc region-free Blu-ray/DVD combo set for North America. It contains both the stronger, uncut version and the milder US/UK version. If you want to see it uncut, go right to the "International" version on the disc, which actually runs shorter at 90 minutes, due to one scene that is shorter but gorier. The US/UK version runs 91 minutes, with a longer but milder scene. The two versions have no other apparent difference other than that one scene.

The uncut "International" version is on the Blu-ray disc only, while the milder US/UK version is on both the Blu-ray and DVD.

An informative audio commentary runs on both versions. When you play the uncut version, you will hear different comments that apply to the gorier scene.

Both discs have great picture quality. The Blu-ray's 1080p picture should look sparkling to those who saw old video editions, while the DVD has a nice down-converted picture. The lossless mono 1.0 audio track on the Blu-ray is bright and clear. The DVD's Dolby Digital mono track is fine too.

No subtitles nor closed captioning are present for the film and bonus features.

Bonus features include nice present-day interviews of 3 cast members (Billy Murray, Jan Waters, and Wendy Varnals), a vintage audio interview of Cushing, and an extensive photo gallery comprising hundreds of full-screen, high-quality scans of production stills and publicity stills. Various trailers, TV spots, and radio spots are also included.

The DVD also includes a PDF file of the shooting script, which comprises of high-quality scans of original typewritten pages with the filmmakers' annotations.

This well-packaged release also includes a reversible cover sheet (the reverse side shows a gorier version of the front cover), and a liner sheet that unfolds into an enlarged version of the cover art.

There are even a couple of easter eggs on the discs. In the trailer section, to the left of "international trailers", there is a hidden "TFH" hotspot that takes you to a two-minute review of the "Corruption" trailer by Edgar Wright of "Trailers from Hell". To the right of "Jan Waters interview" is a hidden UK flag that takes you to another interview segment of Wendy Varnals, where she talks briefly about the rock stars she had met in her days as a TV host. Both easter eggs are on both discs.


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