DC Super Heroes Origami by John Montroll – Reviewed by James Ragsdale (a J!-ENT Book Review)

August 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall by Ryo Suzukake and Art by Thores Shibamoto (a J!-ENT Book Review)

October 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 


“Attack on Titan: Before the Fall” is an entertaining book that I recommend for those who have knowledge of the series. Many fans of the “Attack on Titan” series will no doubt enjoy the way of how the equipment was found and developed but also be entranced by the development of the characters and their unique skills. If you enjoy “Attack on Titan”, you will definitely want to give the prequel “Before the Fall” a chance!  Recommended.


TITLE: Attack on Titan: Before the Fall

BY: Ryo Suzukake and Art by Thores Shibamoto

PUBLISHER: Vertical Inc.


RELEASED: September 7, 2014

Before the fall, and before the trials of “the Titan’s son” Kyklo, a young smith by the name of Angel Aaltonen grappled with the giants as only a craftsman could…

The first of the three-part Before the Fall light novels, whose second and third installments have been adapted into a manga of the same name, this prequel of prequels details the origins of the devices that humanity developed to take on the mysterious Titans.

Back in 2006, Hajime Isayama wrote a 65-page one-shot of “Shingeki no Kyojin”. Inspired during an encounter with an irate customer while working at an internet cafe, the encounter would eventually be the basis of his hit series which is known internationally as “Attack on Titan”.

In 2009, “Shingeki no Kyojin” began serialization in Kodanasha’s “Bessatsu Shonen Magazine” and has spawned a popular manga and anime series, three light novel volumes, multiple video games, manga spin-offs and a live-action film set for release in theaters in 2015.

For author Ryo Suzukake, his book “Attack on Titan: Before the Fall” was not a series to feature the primary characters from the series, but to create a story that is based on whatever was left of humanity and needing the weaponry to fight against the Titans.

The first of the three-part “Before the Fall” light novels, whose second and third installments have been adapted into a manga of the same name, this prequel of prequels details the origins of the devices that humanity has developed to take on the Titans.

“Before the Fall” takes place when only less than 500,000 humans were left after being decimated by the mysterious behemoths known as Titans.   To protect what was left of humanity, three walls…Wall Maria, Wall Rose and  Wall Sheena were created in hopes that it would be enough to keep the Titans away.     This story takes place before the fall of Wall Maria (which more can also be read or viewed in the popular “Attack on Titan” hit manga or anime series).

But in the Shiganshina District, working in Wall Maria is craftsmen Angel Aaltonen, a craftsman who along with his  assistant Corina Ilmari and his close friends Solm, Maria and alchemist Xenophon are enjoying the peace behind the walls that protect them from danger.

Danger from behemoths known as Titans.  Who are they?  What are they?  Angel and his friends don’t know, but to see the Survey Corps decimated each time they go outside of the city, he knows that they need better weaponry but what kind of weaponry will defeat these Titans?

But one day, Angel’s life would change as the Titans would enter the city and nearly destroy everything in its path.

For Angel, he knows he has to craft something to give humanity a chance and through many adventures he will discover the materials that will no doubt give humanity a fighting chance!


For any reader and viewer that has been captivated by “Attack on Titan”, Ryo Suzukake’s book “Attack on Titan: Before the Fall” is an amusing and exciting side-story as it features an adventurous storyline that is less about those who fight with the behemoths known as the titans but regular normal people living within the city and trying to live a normal life and survive, despite a major threat looming outside their great walls.

Having not seen a Titan, they do know that the Survey Corps has dwindled each time they have gone outside to fight and with peace in the area, that peace is disturbed when body parts are thrown over the walls and it begins to cause panic and fear as they wonder what kind of thing could have caused such disturbance.

Suffice to say, society has a curiosity of what is outside the walls and as for craftsman, Angel Aaltonen, his work is creating weapons for the Survey Corps, as his words are “A Best Offense is a Best Defense”.

But when the Titans make their presence known inside the city and watch as humanity is slowly crushed.  Angel and his friends are in a panic and are attacked as their curiosity to see a Titan upfront leads to the demise of people that are close to Angel.  Watch the Titans, as the smiling behemoths would grab humans just to snap their bodies or trample them, and pick them up and eat them just to regurgitate and spit whatever is left of a person out of their mouths.

To find out that all weapons that have been created are not working and there is no weakness.  Could these Titans be invulnerable?

Just when you think that life for humanity shows no signs of any chance of fighting back, Angel and his friends learn about Iron Bamboo.  Bamboo laced with iron and despite its consistency, still remains light.  But can something be crafted with it and what is it about this iron bamboo that would make it a great weapon or perhaps a best offense or defense?  That is what Angel must find out and they need to get more of it.

Part of what is alluring about the storyline is seeing how Angel and his friends go from calm individuals to sickened and scared as the Titans invade their home and having to endure a journey to discover other artifacts in order to fight evil.  As the Titans are not the only ones causing fear, as there are anti-establishment forces also wanting to kill anyone who comes from within the walls.

But aside from the Titans themselves and those  who live behind the walls, the most important correlation are the contraptions that we see in the “Attack on Titan” manga and anime series.   For example, the importance of the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment, or the grappling hook and how was it discovered, how was it implemented and how it relates to the character, Angel.

For Ryo Suzukake, he manages to make the connection between the popular hit series and his manga by showing us how the Vertical Maneuvering Equipment was developed and the important materials that were needed to created it.  But most importantly, how the weak spot of the Titan was discovered with hopes that this will give humanity a fighting chance.

But for Angel and his friends, it’s the pursuit of how they came about these materials and how they were tested and the deadly adventures just to obtain the materials, is what makes this book so captivating.

This first light novel (of the three part “Before the Fall” light novels) does feature a few pages with illustrations by Thores Shibamoto but “Attack on Titan: Before the Fall” is a prequel that is all about the story and less about the illustrations.  A story about a craftsman, Angel who will eventually change after the experience and contact with the Titans but to see people he once knew, people he was close with, under the perilous attacks of the deadly Titans.

Overall, “Attack on Titan: Before the Fall” is an entertaining book that I recommend for those who have knowledge of the series.  Many fans of the “Attack on Titan” series will no doubt enjoy the way of how the equipment was found and developed but also be entranced by the development of the characters and their unique skills.

If you enjoy “Attack on Titan”, you will definitely want to give the prequel “Before the Fall” a chance!  Recommended.

FilmCraft: Screenwriting by Tim Grierson (a J!-ENT Book Review)

July 19, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 


Tim Grierson’s “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” is another fantastic book in the FilmCraft series!  Grierson interviews a few of the well-known screenwriters in the world today and also spotlighting some of well-known names from cinema past. Learn about the challenges that writers have faced when taking on a film or the relationship in working with a well-known filmmaker plus a lot more insight to the amazing films that these writers have written for and sometimes having to rewrite another screenwriter’s work! “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” is  recommended!


TITLE: FilmCraft: Screenwriting

BY: Tim Grierson

PUBLISHER: Focal Press


RELEASED: April 11, 2013

Screenwriting looks at the foundation on which every great film is built—the script. Whether an original concept or an adaptation, the screenplay is the key to the success of a movie—good dialogue, story pacing, and character development are the framework everything else hangs on. Featuring in-depth interviews with modern masters of film including Stephen Gaghan, Guillermo Arriaga, Caroline Thompson, Hossein Amini, and Jean-Claude Carrière, this book reveals the mysteries behind how the best scripts are written and reach the screen.

For any cinema fan, one can watch a film with great acting, cinematography but in the end, it comes down to writing a storyline that captivates the viewer.

Screenwriting, when effective, it can make a film become a blockbuster hit, a memorable classic or a film that may inspire you.

So, within the banality of cinema of cliche and lack of plot, there are those who can craft a screenplay by achieving what the studio wants, making a character and storyline relatable but also taking on challenges of making a screenplay that leads to a great film.

In the latest FilmCraft book series, writer Tim Grierson takes on “Screenwriting”.

While a screenwriter unfortunately is often behind-the-shadows of a director (an always debatable issue in Hollywood between who deserves credit for a film, a director or writer), the fact is that there are many people who have written a screenplay but only few succeed in creating a hit film.

Over the years, I have read and purchased a variety of books on screenwriting but what I have wanted to read is what influenced a screenwriter to focus on certain aspects of a character or a plot for these major films.

And this is where “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” comes in as Tim Grierson features 15 writers of different backgrounds and those who have created different types of films that have succeeded.

In order to get an idea of what a screenwriter does and how they utilized their skills, featured in this book are interviews and “Legacy” spotlights on the following writers from around the world:

  • Hossein Amini (Iran/UK) – Writer for “Drive”, “Snow White and the Huntsman”, “The Four Feathers”, etc.
  • Guillermo Arriaga (Mexico) – Writer for “Babel”, “21 Grams”, “Amores Perros”, etc.
  • John August (USA) Writer for “Big Fish”, “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Corpse Bride”, etc.
  • Woody Allen (USA – SPOTLIGHT) – Writer for “Annie Hall”, “Manhattan”, “Bananas”, “Midnight in Paris”, etc.
  • Mark Bomback (USA) – Writer for “Live Free or Die Hard”, “Total Recall”, “Race to Witch Mountain”, etc.
  • Jean-Claude Carriere (France) – Writer for “Cyrano de Bergerac”, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”, etc.
  • Lee Chang-dong (South Korea) – Writer for “Poetry”, “Oasis”, “Secret Sunshine”, “Peppermint Candy”, etc.
  • Ingmar Bergman (Sweden – SPOTLIGHT) – Writer for “The Magician”, “Wild Strawberries”, “The Seventh Seal”, etc.
  • Stephen Gaghan (USA) – Writer for “Traffic”, “Syriana”, “Rules of Engagement”, etc.
  • Christopher Hampton (UK) – Writer for “A Dangerous Method”, “Atonement”, “Total Eclipse”, “Dangerous Liaisons”, etc.
  • David Hare (UK) – Writer for “The Reader”, “The Hours”, “Page Eight”, etc.
  • Paddy Chayefsky (USA – SPOTLIGHT) – Writer for “Altered States”, “Network”, “Marty”, etc.
  • Anders Thomas Jensen (Denmark) – Writer for “In a Better World”, “Brothers”, “The Duchess”, etc.
  • Billy Ray (USA) – Writer for “The Hunger Games”, “Color of the night”, “State of Play”, “Flightplan”,  etc.
  • Whit Stillman (USA) – Writer and director for “Damsels in Distress”, “Metropolis”, “The Last Days of Disco” and “Barcelona”.
  • Ben Hecht (USA – SPOTLIGHT) – Writer for “Notorious”, “His Girl Friday”, “Spellbound”, “Scarface”, inc.
  • Robin Swicord (USA) – Writer for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Memoirs of a Geisha”, “Little Women”, etc.
  • Caroline Thompson (USA) – Writer for “Edward Scissorhands”, “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Corpse Bride”, “The Addams Family”, etc.
  • David Webb Peoples (USA) – Writer for “Blade Runner”, “Twelve Monkeys”, “Unforgiven”, etc.
  • Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond (Austria-Hungary/USA & Romania – SPOTLIGHT) – Writers for “Some Like It Hot”,”The Apartment”, etc.

As a person who has observed cinema and have written screenplays, I’m always often intrigued of the challenges these writers face.  Many who are signed to deals with studios after a successful film, but then having to take on a storyline that is much different than the films they tend to writer for.

But how does a writer prepare for these challenges of writing for a film that is much different, especially if that film doesn’t do well?   It’s not easy when after having written a top notch screenplay and following up with another hit.  But when it comes to various challenges that a screenwriter faces, this is where “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” shows its efficacy and its author Tim Grierson’s choosing various writers who have written for films of different genres and allows them to discuss these films, some giving more detail than others.

For example, one of the writers featured is Mark Bomback, known for having to do the re-writes or tweaking of others screenplays.  He worked on “Total Recall”, “Live Free or Die Hard”, “Race to Witch Mountain” and many more titles.

Bomback gives wonderful insight to some of the challenges he had faced.  For example, being approached to write the screenplay for “Total Recall” and having to work off Kurt Wimmer’s script.  While he writes of how concerned that people will have two strikes against the remake because people loved the original, while I enjoyed the film for its action, any writer would have hard time trying to surpass the original.

His rewrite for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” brought emotion to the characters but also making the viewer understand the emotions of the apes.  But the challenge he faced when rewriting the upcoming sequel to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and what he should bring to the character.   At the time of writing for that Wolverine sequel, he watched “The Avengers” and wrote about how the film was well-executed.  But I found it interesting for him to discuss the misconception that franchise movies is all the studios care about and that is action.  How studio execs are concerned with the character, the narrative but while I understand where Bomback is coming from, truth be told, there are many films that focus too much on the action and not so much on the film’s plot.

But as I was reading Bomback’s entry, the first thing that came to my mind was the “Total Recall” remake.  Sometimes I wonder if what the writer conveys, is what the director brings to the table especially for a special effects, green screen driven film such as “Total Recall”.

With the original 1990 film, it maintained some semblance to the original short story that it takes place on Mars.  This new film, there is nothing about Mars at all, nor are their aliens.  The original was darker, bloodier but that’s what makes the 1990 version a sci-fi classic.  The 2012 version doesn’t try to be anything like the original, it doesn’t want to be an exact remake and I like that.  I tend to dislike remakes of older films but if they can maintain some semblance to the original but yet be something different, I’m all for it.  But that was Kurt Wimmer’s original script and Bomback was hired to rewrite it.

Bomback worked with director Len Wiseman for “Live Free or Die Hard”, who worked on “The Underworld” films and when a director tends to focus on films that are geared to more popcorn action, is it more the direction because that director is used to making such films or is it the screenwriter that sets up the film to focus a lot on the action?

Still, Bomback does offer a good amount of information on the films he had worked on and the book does provide some insight to Bomback’s mindset and approach to writing a film.

Another wonderful writer featured is Christopher Hampton.  He writes smart dramas, well-thought out stories with a lot of detail and he goes into detail of his working relationship with the directors but also discussing what he did to make films such as “A Dangerous Method”, “Atonement” or “Dangerous Liaisons” work.

I have written before about my feelings towards Christopher Hampton’s work.  Amazing research, wonderful character development and may I say, I find his writing for his films to be quite intellectually stimulating.  But having written “A Dangerous Method”, which was based on his play “The Talking Cure”, Hampton’s approach as a writer for this film was amazing.

The film is fiction based on assertions that Sabina Spielrein and Carl Jung had a sexual relationship.  I enjoyed the film for giving attention to Sabina Speilrein, as she was the first person to introduce the idea of death instincts (best known for her published work “Destruction as the Cause of Coming into Being”), a concept that Sigmund Freud would incorporate into his own theory.  She was also known to introduce psychoanalysis to Russia and was an inspiration to future psychoanalysts, including Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget.

Always known as a footnote in Sigmund Freud’s book and considered as a “forgotten pioneer of psychoanalysis”, unfortunately Sabina Speilrein’s life in reality was cut short and her two children were killed by a German SS Death Squad.  But her contributions as a psychoanalysis should have been shown.  This woman’s work have been forgotten and now that she has been brought back to the masses, she is not seen for her accomplishments but her sadistic needs.

But as a writer, I find it fascinating of where Hampton zeroed in on this character for his screenplay.  Not many writers, especially for today’s cinema, would want to focus on Carl Jung for a film.  Perhaps a documentary but a film, even I found it maybe too cerebral for today’s audiences.  But how he carefully woven a story around Jung’s sexual relationship with a woman who was nothing but a mere footnote and bringing her to life, was amazing but also a bit troublesome.

It is known that Spielrein had wrote about masochism and the sadistic component of sexual drive as a “destructive drive” but does it mean she was a woman who loved to be spanked by Carl Jung?  I found a bit worrisome as people will see her more as Carl Jung’s sexual exploit rather than her contributions as a psychoanalyst but as a writer, especially taking on a characters in which a good amount of research would be needed.

But in “FilmCraft: Screenwriting”, Hampton goes into the discussion of writing for the film despite his bias towards Freud and also commenting how Jung’s books were hard to digest.  Considering the source material to write a film such as a “Dangerous Method”, not many screenwriters would overtake such a project.  But relationships and conflict has been Hampton’s cup of tea.

The way that Hampton approached this film was simply sensational and intriguing and as much many would give David Cronenberg and also author John Kerr praise for the film, prior to “A Dangerous Method”, Christopher Hampton as screenwriter has demonstrated his strength in the building the characters.  May it be for “Atonement”, “Total Eclipse” or most notably “Dangerous Liaisons”, it’s what makes Christopher Hampton one of the most intriguing screenwriters of today’s cinema.

You read about screenwriters who travel to a vacation home and lock themselves up to get away, for writer Anders Thomas Jensen, he discusses his rules of gaining privacy but the importance of creating something fresh and something not done before.

Then there are writers who are upfront and giving credit where credit is due.  For “The Hunger Games”, Bill Ray talks about how he came to do the writeup but also explains that Gary Ross went and rewrote and shot his movie and he’s amazed that his name was even shown in the credits as he gives Ross recognition for his work on the film.

One of my favorite writers and filmmakers is Whit Stillman.  having only made four films, each film that he creates is intellectual, humorous and just wonderful to watch. Often writing about society but giving a more intellectual side to the characters.  Most films can be easily doomed right at the start for having characters encourage in so much banter but the dialogue is what makes Whit Stillman films great. In fact, for his film “Metropolis”, there are people including myself who visit a Facebook page dedicated the to the Urban Haute Borgeousie and post various dialogue between characters from the film.

It’s so uncharacteristic for even me to participate in this type of fandom towards dialogue but that is what makes “Metropolis” so fun is because the conversations are so smart but yet entertaining.  The way Stillman is able to get into character and have conversations that go like this (from the film “Metropolis) which I find so fascinating:

Audrey: What Jane Austen novels have you read?.
Tom: None. I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelist’s ideas as well as the critics thinking. With fiction, I can never forget that none of it ever really happened, that its all just made up by the author.

It’s how Stillman conveys these upperclass characters but what happens when you have an intellect who is not rich trying to fit in with this group.  He manages to poke fun using his experiences with this crowd for the big screen and people continue to post various quotes from his film because they are just so fun and exciting.  And in terms of writers using music to write, Stillman discusses how writing to music brings a lot of pleasure because scriptwriting can be painful and discusses his appreciation for Woody Allen.

Another favorite chapter is with writer Robin Swicord who goes into detail about her writing for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”.  What’s interesting about this is that she wrote 16 drafts of the screenplay 20 years before it made it to the big screen.  She discusses the differences of Eric Roth’s rewrite of her screenplay.  For “Memoirs of the Geisha”, Swicord talks about how she wanted the job so badly and interviewed to be a screenwriter and rumor has it that 44 writers were interviewed.

But perhaps a chapter that I was surprised to see but also very happy was with writer Jean-Claude Carriere.  It’s one thing to have written book adaptations for Jacques Tati’s “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” or “Mon Oncle” but its the working relationship he had with one of my favorite surreal filmmakers in cinema, Luis Bunuel.

“Diary of a Chambermaid”, “Belle de Jour”, “The Milky Way”, “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”, “Phantom Liberty” and “That Obscure Object of Desire”… Six films that are required watching by cineaste but it doesn’t stop there.  He was also involved in writing other notable films such as Volker Schlondorff’s “The Tin Drum”, Philip Kaufman’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s “Cyrano de Bergerac”.

While there are many chapters with amazing writers, when it comes to legendary writers that are still among the living, the fact that Jean-Claude Carriere is featured and gives comments on working with the legendary Luis Bunuel the various films they have worked together, the information and advice is priceless!

I will say that I was surprised by the mention of Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon”.  The film is credited to primarily to Haneke and had no idea that Carriere even worked on the film as a script consultant. I really don’t know how much Carriere had a part in various rewrites for the film.

For years, I have championed Haneke’s film as his own true masterpiece as Haneke knows how to make the audience feel uncomfortable and its the point of the film to open the viewer’s eyes of idealism shattered and radicalism, extremism breeding and eventually planting the seeds to terrorism.  But now knowing that Carriere had worked on the film and his work with Bunuel, knowing how to usual visual’s to make one feel uncomfortable… I can see why Haneke turned to Carriere for help in trimming down 4 1/2 hours of Haneke’s film to its final 144 minutes. But it was a surprise for me to read that Carriere had any involvement in the film.

So, the chapter on Jean-Claude Carriere came to me as a surprise but also very thrilled that Tim Grierson had a chapter featuring this talented, legendary writer.

For those wondering if the book is primarily an American affair, fortunately not.  FilmCraft books have been magnificent in the fact they try to include a variety of people from different countries, granted you can’t fit every country but each author in the FilmCraft series has done well in trying to incorporate as many talented people in the industry as they can.

For “FilmCraft: Screenwriting”, Grierson includes Hossein Amini from Iran, Guillermo Arriaga from Mexico, Jean-Claude Carrier from France, Lee Chang-dong from South Korea, Christopher Hampton from the UK, Anders Thomas Jensen from Denmark and more.

And these are just a few tidbits from this wonderful book from Tim Grierson, “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” covers writers from the present but also giving spotlight to those from the past.  From notables such as Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, Paddy Chayefsky, Ben Hecht, Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond are each given the spotlight treatment.

For those wanting more from the spotlighted legendary writers and reading comments in their ow personal words, one can search out books such as Stig Bjorkman’s “Woody Allen on Woody Allen”, “Images: My Life in Film” by Ingmar Bergman and Cameron Crowe’s “Conversation with Wilder”.

Overall, “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” is a fantastic book in the FilmCraft series that interviews some of the well-known screenwriters in the world today and also spotlighting some of well-known names in cinema past. I really do hope that Tim Grierson considers doing a part two because his first book is well-written, informative and there is so many other writers from around the world that can still be featured and many can learn from.

You get a combination of those who have written screenplays from the past and many from the present featured in “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” and for those who have been considering a career or interest in screenwriting will find this latest book in the FilmCraft series to be worth owning.

I applaud Tim Grierson in featuring the variety of writers in his book, the research involved.  But also a person who is a cineaste and has an appreciation for cinema internationally, not just the United States.  And last, to showcase a variety of writers who are involved in different film genres. Once again, I really do hope Grierson does continue or at least is given the opportunity to write a “Screenwriting” sequel.  I really enjoyed this latest FilmCraft book!

If you are looking for an insightful and well-written book on screenwriting, Tim Grierson’s “FilmCraft: Screenwriting” is recommended! Logo - 225x79

Pepita: Inoue meets Gaudi (a J!-ENT Book Review)

April 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Takehiko Inoue’s “Pepita: Inoue meets Gaudi” is a fantastic book for anyone who appreciates Inoue’s work but also is passionate for Gaudi’s work as well.  Beautiful illustrations, detailed information with photos and just an overall entertaining book of one man’s passion of Antonio Gaudi’s work.  Highly recommended!


TITLE: Pepita: Inoue meets Gaudi

BY: Takehiko Inoue



RELEASED: April 16, 2013

Takehiko Inoue is the creator of one of the most popular manga of all time, Slam Dunk, which has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. He followed that series up with two titles lauded by critics and fans alike— Vagabond, a fictional account of the life of Miyamoto Musashi, and Real, a manga about wheelchair basketball. Inoue is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize and the Media Arts Festival Award. In addition to his work on manga, Inoue has worked on television commercials, character designs for video games, and is the founder of a scholarship to foster Japanese basketball talent.

For manga and anime fans, Takehiko Inoue is best known for creating popular series such as “Slam Dunk” and Vagabond”.  But when Takehiko visited Barcelona back in 1992 for the Olympics, the mangaka was captivated by the La Sagrada Familia.

In 2011, the artist decided to take a trip to Barcelona and visiting several of his architectural works and to experience as much of his work as possible and see if it changes his perception of when he went to Barcelona back in ’92.  But also to explore Gaudi’s longings and aspirations.

The illustrator took his sketchbook and detailed his travel to Barcelona and writing about the experience for his book “Pepita: Inoue meets Gaudi”, from looking at the tree in Casa Mila, visiting Montserrat, visiting Gaudi’s second home in Mas de la Calderera and homes of Gaudi from his childhood, including a visit to the Casa Museu Gaudi.  Talking with Gaudi scholar Ana Maria Ferrin, exploring Gaudi’s early works such as the Casa Vicens, featuring photos of his architectural work with detailed information about them, how Gaudi made sure the architecture blended into nature and not disturb it, preparing a chronicle of Gaudi’s work and more.

When it comes to the work of Antonio Gaudi, I have always been mesmerized by his work despite not having visited Barcelona.

My first glimpse of his work was through Hiroshi Teshigahara’s documentary “Antonio Gaudi”.  Hiroshi Teshigahara, known for films such as the 1964 “Suna no Onna” (Woman in the Dunes), “Otoshiana”, “Ako”, “Tanin no kao” was a painter and a sculptor (Hiroshi Teshigahara graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music).  Raised by Sofu Teshigahara, the founder of the Sogetsu School if Ikebana flower arranging, Sofu was also an artist and knew many well-known artists while growing up and introducing art to Hiroshi when he was younger.

As Hiroshi was pushing for an avante-garde style of art, he was also a blossoming filmmaker and one of his first early footage he shot was back in 1959 when he and his father going to Spain for the first time and even meeting Salvador Dali.  It was at that time when he and his father were both enamored with the works of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.  Teshigahara revisited Barcelona in 1984 and was able to create a film on the works of Antoni Gaudi.  Showcasing Gaudi’s unique architecture all including his unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona.  And through home films, this was probably the first Japanese connection I saw of coverage of Antonio Gaudi’s work.

And here we are in 2013, over 50-years since Teshigahara made his documentary and this time with established and well-known mangaka, Takehiko Inoue revisting Barcelona 19-years after his trip to watch the 1992 Olympics.  And his latest illustration book “Pepita: Inoue meets Gaudi” is not just a book of illustrations but it’s a celebration of Gaudi’s work.

I want to go to Barcelona and see these works of Antoni Gaudi! That’s how I felt after reading and seeing Inoue’s book.

Aside from illustrations (some combined with photos), there are also photos from Inoue’s trip with detailed information about the architecture but also about its surroundings.  Inoue also puts his own thoughts, putting himself in the shoes of Gaudi and wondering how life would have been for him, while working on various architecture throughout his lifetime.  May it be the way he was raised, or the work he did as a young man, Inoue tries to uncover a lot of information about Gaudi through his works but also even visiting a Gaudi scholar.

If anything, this book was born from Inoue’s passion for Antonio Gaudi’s work and wanting to know how people viewed him?  How did that affect his view of others?  Who is Antonio Gaudi?

And for an illustrator such as Inoue, the best way to convey and understand Gaudi’s work is by sketching his works one by one with his own hand, the best approach for him to take.

I felt that Hiroshi Teshigahara’s “Antonio Gaudi” gave us a look at his appreciation of Gaudi’s work from the late ’50s and revisiting it in the ’80s but a perspective from a filmmaker.  With “Pepita: Inoue meets Gaudi”, we have a Takehiko Inoue, a popular illustrator and a man who was captivated in the ’90s by Gaudi’s work but revisits Barcelona to be captivated once again by his work in 2011.

And here we are in 2013, and I am amazed about what is included in this book. This is a passionately written book by Takehikou Inoue that does not necessarily focus on illustrations, but includes his illustrations along with photos and information from his experience in Barcelona.

Overall, Takehiko Inoue’s “Pepita: Inoue meets Gaudi” is a fantastic book for anyone who appreciates Inoue’s work but also is passionate for Gaudi’s work as well.  Beautiful illustrations, detailed information with photos and just an overall entertaining book of one man’s passion of Antonio Gaudi’s work.  Highly recommended! Logo - 225x79

FilmCraft: Producing by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart (a J!-ENT Book Review)

February 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

“FilmCraft: Producing” is a fantastic book in the FilmCraft series that interviews some of the well-known producers in the world today and also spotlighting some of well-known names in cinema past.  I really do hope that Mcnab and Swart consider doing a part two because their first book was well-done!  For anyone wanting to learn about producers or wanting to become a producer, “FilmCraft: Producing” by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart is highly recommended!


TITLE: FilmCraft: Producing

BY: Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart

PUBLISHER: Focal Press


RELEASED: January 3, 2013

The FilmCraft series of books will offer deep insight into the working practices of the world’s most distinguished professionals, covering their inspiration, collaboration, and work on set. Each professional will be interviewed exclusively, discussing their training and their influences and will go into detail on specific scenes in their films to give concrete examples of their craft. The result will be to provide readers with a fascinating inside look at the art of filmmaking, and a wealth of knowledge that they can apply to their own work.

As a cinema fan and also a filmmaker, although I graduated from college, I did not major in film or attend a film school.  But despite not having majored in film, I do have a passion for cinema.

In fact, if one was to visit my personal library, you would see a plethora of film books. Books on theory, cinematography, editing, producing, books on execution and books that focuses on various filmmakers. And also along with those books is a dedicated cinema shrine of DVD’s and Blu-ray’s featuring the work of the world’s talented filmmakers since the late 1890’s to present-time.

But within my collection of cinema books, the FIlmCraft books are what I find magnificent as the books give insight to some of the leading professionals, may it come to cinematography, editing and now with producing with “FilmCraft: Producing” by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart.

For those not familiar with what a producer is, one can think of the producer as the ringmaster.  The one in charge of keeping things together, following the budget and making a sure a film can be made but working with both the creative side and the financial backing side.  One that can win over the investors, one that can win over talent and it’s one major role of the filmmaking process that is extremely important.

In order to get an idea of what a producer does and how they utilized their skills, featured in this book are interviews and “Legacy” spotlights on the following producers:

  • Peter Aalbaek Jensen (DENMARK) – Producer of “Dancing in the Dark”, “Melancholia”, “Dogville”, “Breaking the Waves”, etc.
  • Tim Bevan (UK) – Producer of “The Big Lebowski”, “Fargo”, “Love Actually”, “Shaun of the Dead”, etc.
  • Jan Chapman (AUSTRALIA) Producer of “The Piano”, “Bright Star”, “Lantana”, “Somersault”, etc.
  • Michael Balcon (UK – SPOTLIGHT) – Producer of “Kind Hearts and Coronets”, “The Lavender Hill Mob”, “Dead of Night”, “The Man in the White Suit”, etc.
  • Lorenzo di Bonaventura (USA) – Producer of “Transformers” films, “Red”, etc.
  • Ted Hope (USA) – Producer of “21 Grams”, “Adventureland”, “In the Bedrom”, “American Splender”, etc.
  • Martin Karmitz (FRANCE) – Producer of “Three Colors”, “Every Man for Himself”, “Au Revoir Les Enfants”, etc.
  • David O. Selznick (USA – SPOTLIGHT) – Producer of “Gone with the Wind”, “Rebecca”, “King Kong”, “Spellbound”, etc.
  • Kees Kasander (NETHERLANDS) – Producer of “Fish Tank”, “Prospero’s Books”, “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover”, “Ken Park”, etc.
  • Jon Kilik (USA) – Producer of “The Hunger Games”, “Babel”, “Inside Man”, etc.
  • Bill Kong (HONG KONG) – Producer of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Hero”, “House of Flying Daggers”, “Fearless”, etc.
  • Dino De Laurentiis (ITALY) – Producer of “Red Dragon”, “Hannibal”, “Army of Darkness”, “Dune”, etc.
  • Jon Landau (USA) – Producer of “Titanic”, “Avatar”, “Dick Tracy”, “Solaris”, etc.
  • Andrew McDonald (UK) – Producer of “The Beach”, “28 Days Later”, “The Last King of Scotland”, etc.
  • Edward R. Pressman (USA) – Producer of “American Psycho”, “Das Boot”, “Wall Street”, “Thank You For Smoking”, etc.
  • Erich Pommer (GERMANY – SPOTLIGHT) – Producer of “Metropolis”, “Blue Angel”, “Jamaica Inn”, “Faust”, etc.
  • Lauren Shuler Donner (USA) – Producer of “X-Men” films, “Constantine”, “Free Willy”, etc.
  • Jeremy Thomas (UK) – Producer “A Dangerous Method”, “The Last Emperor”, “Sexy Beast”, etc.
  • Ron Yerxa & Albert Berger (USA) – Producer “Little Miss Sunshine”, “Cold Mountain”, “Election”, etc.
  • Alexander Korda (HUNGARY – SPOTLIGHT) – Producer “Richard III”, “The Third Man”, “Jungle Book”, etc.

“FilmCraft: Producing” by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart is a book that shows us how these producer’s approached films that they were best known for.

While I have never produced a big budget film and only have produced smaller productions, I’ve always wondered how producers managed to do work on these huge, big budget films and of course, their thoughts on productions for these films.

There aren’t so many books from the producers compared to the filmmakers who have the opinions on creating the film or the challenge they had with producers who were strict about the money, but I have always felt that it’s important for the producer and the director to have a great working relationship and that there is great communication.

I have read a number of books on the French New Wave to Italian Neorealism and other time periods of cinema around the world where there was constantly challenges between filmmaker and producer, but that was then, and with so much at stake today with films priced in the millions, location and big name talent or directors, you just want to know how these producers did it.

In “FilmCraft: Producing” by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart, big name producers took part in this book and some were very straightforward with their advice, discussing their success but even troubles that they had experienced.

For producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, he has worked on expensive action films from “The Matrix” and “Transformers” films and these films are known for their visual effects and 3D.  In his segment, Lorenzo talks about how it is important to reinvent and not go back to how things were done before.  And it makes sense with films such as “The Transformers” or “G.I. Joe”, people expect over-the-top special effects and one to outdo the other visual effects-wise.

Producer Marin Karmitz has had a long career from working with Agnes Varda in the French New Wave film “Cleo from 5 to 7” as an Assistant Director to working with notable directors such as Krzsztof Kieslowski for the “Three Colors” trilogy, “Melo” with Alan Resnais, “L’enfer” and “Madame Bovary” with Claude Chabrol, “Au Revoir Les Enfants” with Louis Malle, “Close-up” with Abbas Kiarostami.  But this is a producer who has worked with many filmmakers who speak a different language and he gives wonderful insight of how he has been able to do that.

In the other hand, Kees Kassander discussed the perils of co-production as he learned in 2009 with “Fish Tank” as the British side of funding tried to push him out and how their can be major challenges if you deal with partners with different attitudes towards production.

For Jon Kilik, he gives wonderful insight on how a big name can help towards the making of a film.  Such as “Babel” and having Brad Pitt who was instrumental in getting more of a budget dedicated to the film and getting the 60 extra days to create the film as opposed to the 40 days they were originally had been given.

Bill Kong gives great insight to producing in Hong Kong.  But the importance of working with directors who are organized and also why he hasn’t produced a film in the U.S.

One of the biggest features is with Jon Landau.  If Lorenzo di Bonaventura is known for working with filmmakers on big budget films with wonderful visual effects, only one producer and filmmaker is known for creating the most expensive films ever made and that is Jon Landau with filmmaker James Cameron.  From “Titanic” to “Avatar”, the production that was needed for those two films but also learning from experience of what his director needs and Landau had worked with Cameron for “True Lies”, David Fincher for “Alien 3” and Michael Mann for “The Last of the Mohicans” and one thing I liked about this interview with Landau is how his mind is set for global and creating films that work internationally.

These are just some of the examples but the fact is that Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart really did a fantastic job in finding producers from all over the world, those with extensive experience, expensive experience and those who have worked in a variety of situations or with filmmakers worldwide, these producers give good insight and wonderful advice to the budding producer or those who feel they are good at managing production and want to learn how the professional producers do it.

While some producers discuss the challenges they experienced, the book doesn’t get too involved with those who failed with a film.  You have someone like Bill Kong who accepts that some films will very good and some that will do bad but I would like to hear from producers who get into major binds but were able to bounce back.  I’m not sure what happens to successful producers who get into “John Carter” territory (budgeted at $250,000,000 and made only $73 million), part of me is curious how one is able to bounce back from that.

Overall, “FilmCraft: Producing” is a fantastic book in the FilmCraft series that interviews some of the well-known producers in the world today and also spotlighting some of well-known names in cinema past.  I really do hope that Mcnab and Swart consider doing a part two because their first book was well-done! And it’s another wonderful addition to the FilmCraft book series.

For anyone wanting to learn about producers or wanting to become a producer, “FilmCraft: Producing” by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart is highly recommended! Logo - 225x79

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous by Brian Smith (a J!-ENT Book Review)

January 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A photography book that is inspirational, full of ideas and enjoyable to read.  “Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous” by Brian Smith is recommended!


TITLE: Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous

BY:  Brian Smith


PAGE COUNT: 258 Pages

RELEASED: October 8, 2012

In this sexy, bold, beautiful book, photographer Brian Smith tells the stories behind the photos and lessons learned in 30 years of photographing celebrities and people in all walks of life. A Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Smith is the luckiest guy on the planet. He’s told Bill Gates exactly what to do for an entire hour, exhibited at the Library of Congress, appeared on The X Factor, dined with the President and 3,000 of his closest friends, shared cupcakes with Anne Hathaway, and gotten drunk with George Clooney . . . all in the service of getting the perfect portrait.

In this juicy guide to shooting professional portraits, Smith shares his insider tips on connecting with people, finding the perfect location, telling a great story through portraiture, getting just the right pose, capturing emotion and gestures, arranging unique group shots, and getting just the right light. Throughout, you’ll stay inspired by the breathtaking images included of the famous and infamous-Venus and Serena Williams, Gene Hackman, Cindy Crawford, Donald Trump, Bill Gates, The Bee Gees, Antonio Banderas, Shaquille O’Neal, Anne Hathaway, Ben Stiller, Sylvester Stallone, and others.

You might not be shooting the rich and famous yourself, but after reading Smith’s tell-all guide, you’ll know how to make every person who makes their way in front of your camera look and feel like a celebrity.

Are you a photographer who has looked at an issue of Newsweek, Time Magazine, GQ, Vogue and other major publications and wondered, how did this photographer capture this moment?

Author and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Brian Smith has been a person who has had his photos of celebrities, business executives and major athletes grace the cover and also featured in major publications and with his book “Secrets of Great Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous”, Smith shares his stories of how photographs came to be.

But what Smith does to help photographers learn from his experience by breaking down his advice in several chapters.

Featured are the following chapters in the book:

1.  Connect With Your Subject

In one example, Smith discusses the importance of connecting with the person you are going to shoot.  A photo shoot for “Art & Soul” and how he was able to capture celebrities laughing naturally.  And Smith discusses how he tries to keep people relaxed and try to get them to laugh.  But also how shooting strangers, especially many of them can help and more.

2.  Find the Place

Location is always important.  But what happens when you only have so much time or the weather is not exactly cooperating?  In this chapter, Smith discusses how one should get to know the area where a photoshoot takes place, to also try to capture what an editor wants.  For “Us Weekly”, Smith had to photograph “Burn Notice” star Jeffrey Donovan and capture the feel of Miami.  But with the clouds dark and gray, what can Smith do?  So, he found a blue mosaic tile and managed to use that as his shot as a backdrop and it worked!

3.  Find the Angle

Smith discusses how finding the right vantage point can set the mood for your photo.  One shot featured Calvin Ayre, CEO and founder of the online gambling site and as a billionaire, he chose to shoot Ayre in pool for Forbes.  But to show the high life, feature a woman’s legs spread and you can see Ayre right between the legs in the pool and balancing the shot with two more women in bikini on his right.  The photo shot ground level, was able to capture Ayre but also the high life via poolside.

Another example was to capture pro golfer Camilo Vilegas in his Spider-Man push up move on the green, but to shoot with a wide-angle lens capturing the hole, the golf ball but behind it is Vilegas with his signature move.  And the decision to shoot via wide-angle led to the photo’s efficacy for the cover of “Golf Magazine”.

4.  Tell the Story

Smith knows that not every picture is worth a thousand words but the value of an image depends on how much you give it to say.  One example is of Burger King VP Russ Klein for “Advertising Age”.  Smith wanted to capture Smith eating a burger with the actual Burger King and not do the banal office shot but something fun and also related to the company.  Originally wanting to take Smith to an actual Burger King store, the franchise offered the company cafeteria and for the most part, achieving a successful photo.

5.  Sweat the Small Stuff

Sometimes to get the photo, you need to get someone to do things that is necessary for the shot.  For a “Business Week” photo shoot, Smith wanted to capture a photo of Bill Gates with stars in the background but didn’t want him wearing his button down shirt.  Back then (before Steve Jobs was known for his black turtlenecks), he wanted Bill Gates to wear one and his assistant was able to get him to wear one.

Another example is with tennis star Daniela Hantuchova for “The Players Club”.  With only two hours to shoot multiple shops and also factoring hair and make-up, Smith talks about the importance of scouting the locations and pre-light multiple setups.

Another example is being creative with a set budget that one has for a photoshoot.  And for The Bee Gees, he came up with an idea for having a room painted in gold, along with 100 LP’s painted in gold.  And then shooting all three men in the gold interior with LPS hanging on the walls, ceiling and floor.

Also, is behind-the-scenes information with Fazia Ali, producer and stylist with what is important duties for a stylist during a photoshoot, also behind-the-scenes on what crew may be involved in a major celebrity photoshoot and more!

6.  Don’t Mess With a Good Thing

In a photo shoot, know when to stand back and let your subject take over.  One example features Shaquille O’Neal for a photoshoot for “USA Weekend” and when actor Jamie Foxx came to visit.   And because of the height difference, instead of shooting closeup, Smith chose to shoot the two with Foxx on his tip-toes and it became a cool shot.

Another example was for “Premiere” magazine and capturing Antonio Banderas for “Desperado” and Banderas improvising on camera.

7.  Pose Gesture Emotion

Making your subjects relaxed, comfortable and engaged.  Examples include how Smith used a 70mm lens to shot a portrait of Anne Hathaway for “Art & Soul”.  How he wanted to focus on Hathaway’s eyes and the use of a wind machine to give a right amount of wind for the shot but how her hands were positioned.  Other photos show how hand gestures can make a shot.  From Antonio Banderas caressing a glass block to Meatloaf having his hand on his head.

8.  Less is More

Clearing all distractions from a photo can be very important.  Keep it simple!  An example features Smith working on a cover for “Forbes” and in order to get an eye-catching cover of Don King, he focused on the hair and the lighting with a black drop.  Keeping the photoshoot simple but capturing things brilliantly.

9.  See the Light

Understanding portrait lights is important and concentrating on what light can do and the quality of light can affect the mood of a shot.  An example features model Cindy Margolis as he had eight strobes used in the shot.  One at the model while six were gaffer taped behind the back of the large beach balls and how illuminating the beach balls made a difference.  Another example featured Mireya Manor for “National Geographic Books” and in a jungle with not much light.  So, he used strobist techniques to light the model.

The chapter has the most pages as it shows how Smith accomplished lighting for several photos.

10.  Group Portraits Without Formality

How to shoot group photos and position them.  An example would be with Crispin Porter + Bogusky who was agency of the year and would be featured in “Advertising Age”, and for this shot, Smith discusses how important it was to have subjects in various distances.  For another photoshoot for “Sports Illustrated” on the men who created Gatorade, Smith wanted too have the yellow Gatorade show up on the shot and how he used an Octobank to capture this group photo.

11.  Create the Look

This chapter deals with Film Look photo filters in apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic.

12.  Lights, Camera, Lens

Brian Smith talks about the lighting gear he uses and discusses the various lighting gear used on the photos featured in the book.  Also, what kind of gear you would expect to see inside Brian Smith’s bag when traveling to a photo shoot.  Also, discussion on his favorite lens.

EXTRA: Assignments

Excited after reading the book?  Brian Smith gives you an assignment such as “One Lens One Week”, “One Light One Week”, “Shoot 50 Strangers”, etc.

EXTRA: Q&A with Brian Smith

A short Q&A with the Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer.

“Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous” is not a book about lighting placement or strobist techniques, nor is it a book about how one is able to setup a shot such as one of Brian Smith’s famous photos.  But what Smith provides the reader and photographer is how he was able to capture a shot and the story behind it.

How was he able to capture this athlete in this position?  Why did he use soft light to shoot an actress?  How did he get this actor to shoot at a local restaurant or bar?  There is a story behind every photoshoot but what makes this book quite special is you are learning from one of the well-known photographers out there, one who’s work has been featured on covers for major publications, featured in many articles and more than likely, shots that you have seen in one of the major entertainment or industry-related magazines.

The book is well-written, not to cerebral, easy to follow but most importantly down to the point of telling the story and possibly helping inspire the reader to go out and go out shooting and experimenting with various shots.

Granted, not everyone is going to have the kind of gear that Brian Smith owns, nor will they have a several thousand dollar budget for a photoshoot but what Smith wants to people to learn is how the basics apply to his work.  Keeping things simple.  Learning about lighting, learning about your lens, learning about how you can connect to your subject.

Overall, “Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous” by Brian Smith is a fantastic book written by a photographer who has taken well-known photos with great advice, but it’s important to note that if you are a photographer who wants to know about strobist techniques or learn of how he shot these images, this is not the book you are looking for.

“Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous” is about ideas but also that priceless advice that one can learn from a veteran and well-known professional photographer.

A photography book that is inspirational, full of ideas and enjoyable to read.  “Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous” by Brian Smith is recommended! Logo - 225x79

The Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe 1982-1994: 2nd Edition by Mark Bellomo (a J!-ENT Book Review)

June 13, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

For collectors of “G.I. Joe”action figures, vehicles and playsets from 1982-1994, this is a must-own book!  Highly recommended!


TITLE: The Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe 1982-1994: 2nd Edition

BY: Mark Bellomo

PUBLISHER: Krause Publications

PAGE COUNT: 304 Pages

RELEASED: June 30, 2009

This guide to the guts-and-glory of G.I. Joe identifies every figure with all its weapons and gear, every vehicle with all the easy-to-lose pieces and every accessory related to Hasbros stellar team of soldiers. Use The Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe to expand your knowledge about Joe and the team, or Cobra and his cronies, and to identify and assess the value of any of the series 350 action figures and 240 vehicles and accessories..

When I was a child, I grew up with “Star Wars”, “Transformers” and “Master of the Universe” toys and action figures.  But there was one toy line from the 1980’s that  was a huge part of my life and that was “G.I. Joe”.

I can remember as a child, going into a mom & pop pharmacy and they would have G.I. Joe’s sold at the store and my mom would purchase these action figures once in awhile in order to keep me and my brother entertained.  While my brother wasn’t as big as a fan, for me and my childhood friends, “G.I. Joe” was a chance for us to use our playful minds and create awesome adventures for these 3 3/4 action figures.

I can also remember Christmas Day when my grandmother would have us look at the old bulky catalogs and have us select what toys we wanted.  And for me, it was always “G.I. Joe”.  From the V.A.M.P. jeep to my mom buying me Airborne, Doc and getting enough purchase points, so I can order the M.A.N.T.R.A  and see if my figures can really float in the bathtub.

Granted, the toys weren’t perfect then.  Often, the thumbs would break off and earlier on, they were not even poseable.  But over the years, these toys, along with the animated cartoon and Marvel comic books, kept my childhood alive and just full of fun.

Until I entered high school and my parents had me get rid of all toys and comic books as I was to transition from child to teenager.

It was one of the most devastating experiences a child can go through.  Your childhood possessions all gone and suffice to say, while I never forgot those moments, I felt I could never look at “G.I. Joe” ever again (this also goes for “Transformers”, “Star Wars” toys, etc.), because it would be too painful.  Even knowing that I had really cool toys, playsets and vehicles that are probably worth something but I just didn’t want to think about it.

That was until the early 2000’s.  I was at a local Target and Kay-Bee Toy Store and saw figures and vehicles on clearance while looking for baby toys for my son.  I’ve never looked at a “G.I. Joe” toy probably for over 15-years until that day.  And I came home with a Jungle Assault Humvee and a few action figures for the “G.I. Joe versus Cobra” and “G.I. Joe Valor vs. Venom” line.

And then, that experienced made me think… Hmm.. What if I tried to re-purchase some of the G.I. Joes that I owned back in the ’80s?  And lo and behold, through online auctions, I was purchasing mega lots from parents or grandparents who just wanted to get rid of the “G.I. Joe” toys that kept in their homes.  Next thing you know, I was eventually collecting nearly complete lineups from the 1982 to the early 1990’s.  But bare in mind, these auctions that you win…they were not complete or the rubber band that kept the body and torso together were snapped.

Fortunately, I found a way to repair those but I was out of the blue of what was missing and with no cards, while there were online resources, it was becoming difficult to know what I have and didn’t have, because I needed a checklist that I can easily mark off or write notes on.

In 2004, a collector named Mark Bellomo created “The Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe 1982-1994”.  In the first edition of the book, he was able to take photos of each action figure, vehicle and playsets from 1982-1994 with information on the toys but also how much they are worth mint in sealed box, mint or loose.

I heavily used the book to keep in track of what I have, what accessories I’m missing or what figures I did or didn’t own of a certain year.  A book used so much to the point that the pages started to come out.

But it was a book that I loved and was proud of Mark Bellomo from creating it.  But then I heard from various fans on and (two incredible G.I. Joe online sources) that Bellomo was creating a second edition.

In this second edition, he would have a photographer (supplied by the publisher) to take better pictures with a DSLR versus the photos via point-and-shoot camera that he used in the first edition.  Also, to fix errors or additions of accessories that were not in the first book.  And you have to admire what Bellomo had done because not only did he have to purchase ALL of these toys in order to take pictures of them, even he knew that the chances of buying something, you never know if they were 100% complete (until someone wrote to him and saying it was missing from the book).

In fact, the creation of this book was documented in “Collectable Spectacle” and showing how much work and how challenging it was for him this time around.  Because he had to obtain some hard-to-find toys that didn’t make it into the first edition.

But having enjoyed the first book so much, this second edition features so much information (also including comments and notes to Bellomo courtesy of from Larry Hama, the writer of the Combat Command File Cards and the original Marvel Comics “G.I. Joe” run.), better pictures and is bigger better (the first edition had 258 pages, the second edition has 306 pages).  Everything has been updated from the original 2004 book to this 2009 edition from copy, pricing but most importantly, bigger pictures.

In the previous book, Bellomo would utilize four figures per page.  This time around, its’ 2-3 figures and thus, bigger photos and more detail can be seen.

There is no doubt that a lot of work was put into this second edition and with so many variations released of the ’80s figures, vehicles. playsets and accessories, not only in America but in other countries, there is so much more that can be featured in a future 3rd edition (if Bellomo intends to purchase these expensive, hard-to-find figures).

So, right now…for anyone collecting G.I. Joe and are planning to collect the original ’80s and early ’90s toys, this is a must-buy book.

While I do hope that there would be another book that would feature the “G.I. Joe” toylines from the late ’90s, the 2000’s and present (which may be even more difficult because a price of an action figure today in retail has nearly doubled), no matter how great the sculpts are of today’s figures, for me, just to be able to find the old figures that I enjoyed as a child and many that I didn’t own, has been a wonderful feeling as a collector and “G.I. Joe” fan.

And I don’t know how I could have done without Mark Bellomo’s “The Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe 1982-1994”.

If you are looking for the definitive “G.I. Joe Book” for the action figures, vehicles. playsets and accessories covering 1982-1994, this second edition of “The Ultimate Guide to G.I. Joe 1982-1994” is highly recommended! Logo - 225x79

The Monogram Checklist: The Films of Monogram Pictures Corporation, 1931-1952 by Ted Okuda (a J!-ENT Book Review)

May 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

For fans of Monogram Pictures films, Ted Okuda’s index “The Monogram Checklist” is a valuable reference book.  Definitely worth the investment!


TITLE: The Monogram Checklist: The Films of Monogram Pictures Corporation, 1931-1952

BY: Ted Okuda

PUBLISHER: McFarland Classics


RELEASED: October 1999

Monogram Pictures Corporation, one of several famed “poverty row” studios, produced over 700 feature films-cheap, often inept, frequently forgettable, but so inexpensive profit was unavoidable. The Bowery Boys and Charlie Chan series were extremely popular. This, the first such reference book, corrects errors in other sources while giving movie titles, casts, credits, plot synopses, running times, release dates, alternate and remake titles.

I watch and review a lot of films each year and each time I sit down and watch a Monogram Pictures film, I get a little excited and that is because I’m a big fan of B-films made from the 1930’s-1940’s.  More specifically, I’m a fan of films from Monogram Pictures.

For those not familiar with Monogram Pictures and those who do know the company and roll their eyebrows and the mention of the Hollywood Studio,  Monogram Pictures is a known for producing and releasing low budget films between 1931-1953.

Considered a leader among the smaller studios at the time (which have received the distinction of being called “Poverty Row”), Monogram Pictures was created in 1931 by the merger of two companies, Sono Art-World Wide Pictures and Ray Johnston’s Rayart company.

And while the Hollywood Studio will be known for its Charlie Chan films or films featuring the Bowery Boys, as MGM and other companies are releasing Monogram Pictures films they acquired through their made-on-demand DVD services or for those who have discovered Monogram Pictures films from those huge Mill Creek classic DVD sets or released by other public domain companies, after watching a few of these films, some that are fun and a sign of the times to films that are just so terribly written that you can’t help but laugh at the production quality or horrid writing.

Fortunately, I have seen more of these rare gems rather than craptastic low-budget cinema that I have begun to enjoy them.

From the fun and crazy adaptation of “The Shadow” in the second Monogram Pictures “Shadow” 1946 film titled “Behind the Mask”, the silly murder in a department store in the 1945 film “Role Model”, the Private Investigator who will take the job for the right price in the 1942 film “The Living Ghost” to one of my favorite music-driven romantic comedies in the 1943 film “Campus Rhythm”.

Suffice to say, I have seen probably on two dozen Monogram Pictures film and I have been wanting to watch more and some that I do during my non-reviewing days, where I just want to sit back and laugh.

But I want to watch more and with so many collections being released by Mill Creek, DVD’s via the major companies through Made-on-Demand services, I just need to make sure what I’m getting is actually Monogram films or find out which are Monogram films.

And similar to silent films which I tend to look for indexes and review collections as reference, it’s not easy to find information on Poverty Row films because frankly, a lot of these films are just inaccessible and because they weren’t big blockbuster films, you just feel lucky if you ever find any DVD releases.

But for Monogram Pictures, while there is no review book for these films, there is an index book titled “The Monogram Checklist: The Films of Monogram Pictures Corporation, 1931-1952” courtesy of Ted Okuda published back in 1997 through McFarland Classics.

“The Monogram Checklist: The Films of Monogram Pictures Corporation, 1931-1952” is a book that lists every Monogram Pictures films by date of release from 1931-1952 and features information on who directed, who wrote, who starred in the film with a brief synopsis, duration and release date.  Also, included are the short subjects released by Monogram Pictures.

Also, included in the book are some photographs and posters of the films, which is a nice addition as most cinema indexes that I own are just straight text and no images.

For any Monogram Pictures fans, Ted Okuda’s “The Monogram Checklist: The Films of Monogram Pictures Corporation, 1931-1952” is a wonderful reference guide to all films released by Monogram Pictures.

While it would have been nice to have a book with reviews of these films, as mentioned, accessibility to these films are difficult.  But as more and more are being released via DVD collections or made-on-demand services, hopefully by using this book as a reference can possibly help in looking for these films and obtaining them on video.

If anything, Okuda’s book is well-researched and while I’m not an erudite to know if every films released by Monogram Pictures are in this book, I wouldn’t be surprise if most of them are.  Okuda did a thorough job in featuring these films in the index.

Once again, this is an index, not a review book.  It’s a straight-up reference book and something that I have been looking for as I become more and more interested in obtaining Monogram Pictures films.  And while index books for silent films to classic Hollywood films are typically never cheap, with this book being published over 15-years ago, you may be able to find it used.  But still, it’s worth the investment if you are wanting to watch and obtain Monogram Pictures films.

If you are looking for a valuable reference book on Monogram Pictures, “The Monogram Checklist: The Films of Monogram Pictures Corporation, 1931-1952” by Ted Okuda is highly recommended! Logo - 225x79

Bleach: The Official Character Book 2 (a J!-ENT Book Review)

March 13, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Full of detailed information for a wonderful price, if you are a fan of Tite Kubo’s “Bleach”, “Bleach: The Official Character Book 2” is a wonderful resource guide and reference. Definitely recommended!


TITLE: Bleach: The Official Character Book 2

BY: Tite Kubo



RELEASED: March 6, 2012

Uncover the secrets of Bleach! This profile book contains extensive information on the characters and story from Bleach volumes 21-37. It includes exclusive color art, a poster, bonus materials and an interview with Tite Kubo. Step into the ghostly world of Bleach like never before!

“Bleach”, is currently of the most successful Japanese animation and manga series in Japan.  It’s popularity reaches worldwide and since 2001, many fans have clamored for it’s action-based storyline featured on television, manga series, films and video games.

And it’s all thanks to series creator, writer and illustrator Noriaki “Tite” Kubo.

For those who have watched this series since the very beginning, they have watched the amount of characters grow from five characters to a number that I have no idea how many there are at this point.  And aside from the characters, they also have incredible attacks and abilities that they are mentioned so much during the series, fans may easily have remembered them but to tell you the truth, there are so many, it’s hard to keep in track unless you are a dedicated hardcore fan.

But fear not, in 2008, Viz Media released “Bleach: The Official Character Book” which not only gave information and trivia regarding its characters, fans also got to read a summary of what had taken place in the series so far.

Since 2008, there have been an explosion in terms of how many characters were featured on the manga and anime series.

And so, it is time once again for a new “Bleach: The Official Character Book 2” as many soul reapers and antagonists such as the Arrancars and characters such as the Visoreds have been featured on the anime and manga series as well as their special abilities.  Things are becoming a bit more difficult to keep in track, so for many fans, the release of this book will be a blessing.

Here is what is featured in “Bleach: The Official Character Book 2”:

  • Weekly Jump Covers
  • Bonus Poster
  • Chapter 1: World of the Living Character Correlation and Diagram Index and World of the Living Character Profiles
  • Chapter 2: Detailed Explanation of Soul Reapers, Soul Reaper Character Correlation Diagram & Index, Soul Reaper Character Profiles
  • Chapter 3: Detailed Explanation of Arrancars, Arrancar Character Correlation Diagram & Index, Arrancar Character Profiles
  • Chapter 4: Visored Character Correlation Diagram and Index, Detailed Explanation of the Visored, Visored Character Profiles
  • Chapter 4B: Turn back the Pendulum, Comprehensive Thirteen Court Guard Companies Chart
  • Chapter 5: Historical Facts, Terms Explanation Vol. 2, Tite Kubo Interview, Extra Scene, The Next Beginning, Postscript
  • Chapter Kon: Kon Introduction, Kon Column #1-#3

Full of detailed information for a wonderful price, if you are a fan of Tite Kubo’s “Bleach”, “Bleach: The Official Character Book 2” is a wonderful resource guide and reference.

The character profiles for this second volume showcase profile data of a character, their Zanpaku-to (a special ability that the user and their sword can unleash).  There are humor for example Tite Kubo’s reference to Rangiku’s “watermelons” and there are experienced events (brief summaries) that were featured in the series in regard to that character.

For me, my confusion has always been in regards to the Arrancar and Visoreds.  There are so many of them and it’s got to the point where I am confused.  So, I was happy that we have the character references to each of these new characters that were featured.

It’s important to note that if you owned the first book, you definitely want to keep it as the antagonists from the earlier storyline are featured in that book.  Also, the first book goes into detailed information about Karakura and the structure of the Soul Society.

In short, for anyone who wants to “Bleach” experience and wants to know every detail of every featured character up to the Arrancar/Visored storyline will want to own this book.

Highly recommended for “Bleach” fans! Logo - 225x79

FilmCraft: Editing by Justin Chang (a J!-ENT Book Review)

February 8, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“FilmCraft: Editing” by Justin Chang is an excellent resource and is one of the best cinema books out there when it comes to interviews with editors for some of the greatest film ever made.  Educational, intriguing and overall, a wonderful book that is highly recommended!


TITLE: FilmCraft: Editing

BY: Justin Chang

PUBLISHER: Focal Press


RELEASED: November 17, 2011

The value of the editor’s craft to a finished film cannot be underestimated, and it’s no surprise that directors rely heavily on the same editor again and again. This book employs stills and screenshots to show how an editor created a scene with the filmmaker and explores the complex relationship between a director who has just shot a movie and the editor who must complete the director’s vision. Includes perspectives from Dylan Tichenor who has worked on Boogie Nights, Brokeback Mountain, There Will Be Blood and many others and Pietro Scalia, the great editor whose partners include Bertolucci, Van San, and Ridley Scott.

Each book in the FilmCraft Series focuses on a specific aspect of the filmmaking process, presenting a visually strunning look at the subject through the eyes of notable professionals in each field. Each book offers deep insight into the working practices of the world’s most distinguished professionals, covering their inspiration, collaboration, and work on set. Each professional has been interviewed exclusively, and goes into detail on specific scenes in their films to give concrete examples of their craft. The result is to provide readers with a fascinating inside look at the filmmaking art, and a wealth of knowledge that they can apply to their own work.

As a cinema fan and also a filmmaker, although I graduated from college, I did not major in film or attend a film school.

But despite not having majored in film, I do have a passion for cinema.

In fact, if one was to visit my personal library, you would see a plethora of film books. Books on theory, books on execution and books that focuses on various filmmakers. And also along with those books is a dedicated cinema shrine of DVD’s and Blu-ray’s featuring the work of the world’s talented filmmakers since the late 1890’s to present-time.

And having reviewed many films on Blu-ray and DVD and also cinema-related books, there is one area in filmmaking that is important is the editing process.

Filmmaking is a collaborative process and an editor is responsible for assembling the shots while the film is in production and through this, a director knows if an adjustments or additional shots need to be taken.  But of course, for an editor, it’s the post-production phase that is the primary role of an editor and works with the director (and producers) for the final cut.  A meaning of the film, the clarity of the film and enhancing the visuals of a cinematographer, it all comes down to the editing in post-production.

And for anyone who has watched a big budget action film, an artistic surreal film or cinema that required a good amount of editing that made us feel in awe of the film, in essence, we are seeing that collaboration involved in filmmaking but most importantly, cinema fans can notice how much editing plays a big part in a film.

“FilmCraft: Editing” by Justin Chang is a book which focuses on 21 editors from all over the world.

Featuring priceless interviews and article spotlights on the following editors:

  • Walter Murch (USA) – Worked on “Apocalypse Now”, “Ghost” and “The Godfather” films.
  • Anne Voase Coates (USA/UK) – Worked on “Lawrence of Arabia”, “The Golden Compass”, “Erin Brokovich”, “The Elephant Man”, etc.
  • Richard Marks (US) – Worked on “The Godfather: Part II”, “As Good as It Gets”, “You’ve Got Mail”, etc.
  • Peter Zinner (Austria/US) – Legacy spotlight on Peter Zinner’s career.  Zinner worked on “The Godfather” films, “The Deer Hunter”, etc.
  • Stephen Mirrione (US) – Worked on “Ocean’s Eleven”, “Babel”, “Traffic”.
  • Dylan Tichenor (US) – Worked on “There Will Be Blood”, “Magnolia”, “Brokeback Mountain”, “The Town”, etc.
  • Tim Squyres (US) – Worked on “The Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Sense and Sensibility”, “Syriana”, “Godford Park”, etc.
  • Valdís Óskarsdóttir (Iceland/US) – Worked on “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “The Celebration”, “Finding Forrester”, etc.
  • Dede Allen (US) – Legacy spotlight on Dede Allen’s career.  Allen worked on “Dog Day Afternoon”, “The Breakfast Club”, “Bonnie and Clyde”, “Wonder Boys”, etc.
  • Virginia Katz (US) – Worked on “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I”, “Dreamgirls”, “Gods and Monsters”, “Kinsey”, etc.
  • Michael Kahn (US) – Worked on “Schindler’s List”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Jurassic Park”, “War Horse”, etc.
  • Joel Cox (US) – Worked on “Gran Torino”, “Million Dollar Baby”, “Mystic River”, “Unforgiven”, “J. Edgar”,  etc.
  • Ralphe E. Winters (Canada/US) – Legacy spotlight on Ralph E. Winters who worked on “Ben-Hur”, “The Pink Panther”, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”.
  • William Chang Suk-ping (China) – Worked on “In the Mood for Love”, “2046”, “Chungkind Express”, “My Blueberry Nights”
  • Liao Ching-sung (Taiwan) – Worked on “Three Times”, “Millennium Mambo”, “Cafe Lumiere”, etc.
  • Hervé de Luze (France) – Worked on “The Pianist”, “The Ghost Writer”, “The Ninth Gate”, “Carnage”, etc.
  • Barbara McLean (USO) – Legacy spotlight on Barbara McLean, McLean worked on “All About Eve”, “Twelve O’ Clock High”, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”.
  • Angus Wall & Kirk Baxter (US & Australia/US) – The editing duo worked on “The Social Network”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Zodiac”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, etc.
  • Lee Smith (Australia) – Worked on “The Truman Show”, “The Dark Knight”, “Inception”, “Batman Begins”, etc.
  • Christopher Rouse (US) – Worked on the “Bourne” films, “The Italian Job”, “United 93”, etc.
  • Sally Menke (US) – Legacy spotlight on Sally Menke who worked on “Pulp Fiction”, “Inglorious Basterds”, “Kill Bill: Vol. 1”, “Reservoir Dogs”, etc.

“FilmCraft: Editing” by Justin Chang is a book that shows us how these editor’s approached films that they were best known for.  Rules that the follow when editing and the editing methods used.

But most importantly, while these editors have communicated with many viewers around the world through the film that they have worked on, through “FilmCraft: Editing”, it gives these editors a chance to communicate through their own words.

When it comes to editing, there are books that explain the concept of editing and the technique of editing but when it comes to editors in general, especially those who have worked on well-known films, there have been a few.

From Gabriella Oldham’s 1995 “First Cut: Conversation with Film Editors” to the 2008 book “British Film Editors: The Heart of the Movie” and books featuring on a sole editor such as “An Evening with Film Editor Chistopher Tellefsen” by Manhattan Edit Workshop or “When the Shooting Stops…The Cutting Begins: A Film Editor’s Story” by Ralph Rosenblum, there really has not been many editing books featuring editors worldwide.

But fortunately, Justin Chang’s “FilmCraft: Editing” does just that.  While it does focus on mostly American cinema, there editors featured in this film who have worked on a variety of films ranging from big blockbusters with Steven Spielberg, those who worked on “The Godfather” films, those who worked on the visual Wong Kar-wai films, etc.  This book is a wonderful resource to anyone who are upcoming editors or even a curious cineaste.

But before I get into the good, let me talk about any negative aspects…trust me, there are not that many. Interviews and articles on a collective are typically subjective and when it comes to cinema, especially if you watch cinema worldwide, one thing that you want to see is a good representation of interviewees from around the world. As mentioned, the book does focus on a lot of American filmmakers, two in Asia, one in France, Australia, Iceland, UK, etc.  So, for those hoping for representation of editors who have worked on Italian cinema, Russian cinema, Japanese cinema, etc. You are not going to find them in this book.

With that being said, the representation of editors from many great films is quite appreciated and I also feel that for a book of this caliber, there is always room to feature more editors from other countries in hopefully a future volume.

But on this book alone, I found this book to be fantastic in many levels.  For example, Walter Murch goes into his personal take of the “Rule of Six” with percentage values, Anne Voase Coates wrote about working on “Lawrence of Arabia”, Richard Marks talks about working on “The Godfather” films, Stephen Mirrione on the challenges of working on “21 Grams” and “Babel”, Tim Squyres working on Ang Lee films and using Avid, Virginia Katz talks about working on a Chinese film, “Fearless” after working on “Dreamgirls” but also working on action sequences.  Michael Kahn talks about working on how he became an editor and began editing for Steven Spielberg, William Chang Suk-ing talks about working on Wong Kar-wai films, Liao Chung-sung talks about working on Hou Hsiao-hsien films, Christopher Rouse working on the “Bourne” films, Lee Smith on working on “Inception”, “The Dark Knight”, etc. and there are more interviews with talented editors that are featured throughout the book.  And you also get a few “legacy spotlights” on editors who have passed away.

I can continue to gush about this book about why I loved it but this is one of those books that those who are interested in editing, will want to own.  To learn from the best editor’s out there, their approach to film, how they took on challenges but most of all, just that opportunity to learn from these individuals.

The fact is that unless you spend a lot of money on Blu-ray or DVD’s which you can hope has an audio commentary track or interview with a editor, it really is awesome when you come across a book written by a writer who is passionate about cinema and really went out to gather considerable names for their book. And this is easily one of the best books on interviews with editors out there!

In fact, I recommend getting this book along with “FilmCraft: Cinematography” by Mike Goodridge & Tim Grierson which are similar in presentation but as Chang’s book focuses on editing, Goodridge and Grierson’s book focuses on the cinematographers.

Overall, “FilmCraft: Editing” by Justin Chang is an excellent resource for those who are considering a career in editing or just passionate about cinema and want to learn from those who worked on the editing of the film.  If you are a film student, an observer of cinematography or just a cineaste who are passionate about the films and the people who edit these films, make no doubt about it… “FilmCraft: Editing” is highly recommended! Logo - 225x79

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