Solid information, but bland, wan execution.

HOLLYWOOD SCIENCE

MOVIES, SCIENCE, AND THE END OF THE WORLD

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2007

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NUTCRACKER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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