Solid information, but bland, wan execution.

Computers and rogue clones are unlikely to exterminate humanity, but an asteroid might.

Perkowitz (Physics/Emory Univ.; Universal Foam: From Cappuccino to the Cosmos, 2000, etc.) takes the measure of a cross section of Hollywood films that contain scientific content, pointing out what “movie science” gets right and, more frequently, wrong. The author evaluates films about alien life, natural disasters, genetic manipulation and artificial intelligence—the majority of the movies in question are in the science-fiction genre and are largely apocalyptic. Each chapter provides a plot summary of a handful of high-profile films, then presents the real-world possibilities suggested by those films. Perkowitz presents the information in an accessible manner, but the text feels like a high-school science lecture delivered by a teacher eager to engage students with pop-culture relevance. The author projects an obvious enthusiasm for movies, but little discernible critical facility. His objections to 2003’s ludicrous turkey The Core are based largely on the scientific gaffes, rather than the appalling quality of the writing, acting and directing. This perhaps explains his fondness for the egregiously terrible The Saint (1997), whose scientist-heroine, played by the comely Elizabeth Shue, apparently made quite a favorable impression on the author. The book is intermittently interesting: Cloning and robotics are almost always incorrectly portrayed, while cataclysmic stories of meteor collisions and plagues are frighteningly viable. Still, this material would have been better served by a long magazine article or a short documentary. The concluding chapter makes a few perfunctory points about the influence movies can wield—as children, writes the author, many scientists were inspired by sci-fi flicks—and the potential of film as an educational tool.

Solid information, but bland, wan execution.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-231-14280-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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