5 films or collections worth giving this year
Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Innovation. (Abrams Books, $50) Pamela Glintenkamp's photo-laden coffee-table tome offers an exhaustive survey of the visual effects produced by the house that George Lucas built - and that's responsible for some of the most iconic screen images of the last 35 years. From Star Wars to Harry Potter, Titanic to Transformers, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to Iron Man (its director, Jon Favreau, writes the book's foreword), this detailed history celebrates the innovation and imagination of ILM's digital (and pre-digital) wizards.
Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection. (Vivendi Entertainment, $99.98) A 10-disc set of every short and feature Stan and Ollie made for Hal Roach Studios from 1929 to 1940: Way Out West, Hog Wild, The Music Box, and, yes, Another Fine Mess are just a few of the gems in this treasure chest of classic comedy. Special features include interviews with Jerry Lewis, Dick Van Dyke, and other comedy stars oohing and ahhing over the genius of Messrs. Laurel and Hardy. But it's the genius of Laurel and Harvey that makes this set so worthwhile.
Oscilloscope's "Circle of Trust." (www.oscilloscope.net/cot/, $99) Launched three years ago by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, Oscilloscope Laboratories has consistently released cutting-edge and provocative indie fare, and here's a chance to subscribe, or give a gift subscription, that'll get you the next 10 Oscilloscope releases on DVD or Blu-ray. Just think, if you had already signed on, you would have the Oscar-nominated Exit Through the Gift Shop, Kelly Reichardt's lovely western Meek's Cutoff, and James Franco doing Allen Ginsberg in Howl on your video shelf right now!
Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark (Viking, $27.95)
The Age of Movies: Pauline Kael. (Library of America, $40) Influential, inspiring, infuriating, Kael was a deft writer with an amazing eye and a wonderful voice - her criticism, whether or not you agreed with it, was always a thrill to read. Brian Kellow's biography looks at what drove Kael, and how she arrived at her lofty perch at the New Yorker; The Age of Movies collects some of Kael's most trenchant, insightful work.
Spencer Tracy: A Biography. (Knopf, $39.95) The awesome cover image of Tracy, taken by Irving Penn, hints at the depths and discoveries inside James Curtis' doggedly researched book. From Tracy's personal and professional relationship with Katharine Hepburn, to his affairs with actresses Gene Tierney and Loretta Young, and of course, from his work on stage and screen in the 1920s to his swan song (with Hepburn) in 1967's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, the bio offers a revelatory view of this complicated and talented Hollywood star.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. (Acorn, $49.99) The buzz on the new screen adaptation of John le Carre's espionage masterwork (coming next month, with Gary Oldman as George Smiley) is good - and a good reason to revisit the 1979 BBC mini-series, starring Alec Guinness as Smiley, just released on DVD.
The Trip. (IFC, $24.98) Need a laugh, or more like close to two hours of laughs? Then climb into the Range Rover of British funnymen Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they roam the Lake District, sampling fine wines and food and letting fly with some of the greatest improvisatory riffing and movie icon mimicry imaginable. Impossibly funny, but more than mere shtick, The Trip is an instant classic of a road pic.
- Steven Rea,
Inquirer movie critic