Very Quick Review: ACT LIKE YOU GOT SOME SENSE by Jamie Foxx (Grand Central Publishing)

FoxxJ-ActLikeYouGotSomeSenseFoxx shares the story of being raised by his no-nonsense grandmother, the glamour and pitfalls of life in Hollywood, and the lessons he took from both worlds to raise his two daughters.

Jamie Foxx has won an Academy Award and a Grammy Award, laughed with sitting presidents, and partied with the biggest names in hip-hop. But he is most proud of his role as father to two very independent young women, Corinne and Anelise. Jamie might not always know what he’s doing when it comes to raising girls — especially when they talk to him about TikTok (PlikPlok?) and don’t share his enthusiasm for flashy Rolls Royces — but he does his best to show up for them every single day.

Luckily, he has a strong example to follow: his beloved late grandmother, Estelle Marie Talley. Jamie learned everything he knows about parenting from the fierce woman who raised him: As he puts it, she’s “Madea before Tyler Perry put on the pumps and the gray wig.”

In Act Like You Got Some Sense — a title inspired by Estelle — Jamie shares up close and personal stories about the tough love and old-school values he learned growing up in the small town of Terrell, Texas; his early days trying to make it in Hollywood; the joys and challenges of achieving stardom; and how each phase of his life shaped his parenting journey. Hilarious, poignant, and always brutally honest, this is Jamie Foxx like we’ve never seen him before.

I first came across Jamie Foxx’s work in Any Given Sunday. (In my late teens, I went through a football movie/TV phase.) He stole many of the scenes he was in, easily holding his own opposite Al Pacino and others. Since then, I’ve seen quite a few of his movies. I did not, however, really know anything about him. So, when I had the chance to review his new memoir, I jumped at the chance. It’s an interesting, honest, often funny memoir and examination of his experiences and the choices he’s made in life. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Upcoming: THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE KILLED HIS DOG by Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman (St. Martin’s Press)

GrossAltman-TheyShouldntHaveKilledHisDogUSHCLike many, I am a big fan of Keanu Reeves. Ever since his superb supporting part in Parenthood, I’ve always been on the look-out for new projects in which he appears. The Matrix blew my mind, Bill & Ted are totally awesome, The Replacements is still entertaining after multiple re-watches (even if they did rip off a lot of jokes from Little Giants — a movie I watched for the first time last week). And then there’s John Wick: Reeves’s most recent franchise, an extravaganza of action, violence, and superb world-building. Fans of the series will be happy to learn that, in May, St. Martin’s Press is due to publish They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog, an oral history of the franchise by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman.

There have been iconic moments in the action movie genre over the years, but nothing has come close to matching the kinetic, balletic gun-fu of the John Wick films.

In They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog: The Complete Uncensored Ass-Kicking Oral History of John Wick, Gun-Fu and The New Age of Action, bestselling authors Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross take you behind the scenes of a franchise that includes three films with more on the way, while exploring the action classics that led to John Wick as well as the films it inspired, like Atomic Blonde. They bring you right into the middle of the action of the John Wick films, detailing how the seemingly impossible was achieved through exclusive interviews with the cast, writers, directors, producers, stuntmen, fight choreographers, cinematographers, studio executives, editors, critics, and more. Together, they break down key action sequences while also providing a look back at the road the action genre has taken that led to John Wick, and a look at the character itself, an anti-hero who carries on the grand tradition of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, but with a twist — and a never-ending supply of ammo — while showcasing the enduring appeal of the action movie as well as John Wick’s unique reinvention of the genre.

Really looking forward to reading this. They Shouldn’t Have Killed His Dog is due to be published by St. Martin’s Press in North America and in the UK, on May 17th.

Follow the Author (Gross): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (Altman):
Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: BLOOD, SWEAT & CHROME by (William Morrow)

BuchananK-BloodSweath&ChromeUSHCIs it just me, or are we living in a bit of a golden age for movie and TV oral histories? It’s still not a massive sub-field in publishing, true, but I’ve seen quite a few upcoming books announced, and have also read quite a few over the past couple of years. As someone who very much enjoys behind-the-scenes content, I fully support this. To that end, let me draw your attention to Blood, Sweat & Chrome by Kyle BuchananNew York Times pop culture reporter and “The Projectionist” (awards season columnist). It is the “wild and true” oral history of Mad Max: Fury Road!

A full-speed-ahead oral history of the nearly two-decade making of the cultural phenomenon Mad Max: Fury Road — with more than 130 new interviews with key members of the cast and crew, including Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, and director George Miller, from the pop culture reporter for The New York Times, Kyle Buchanan.

It won six Oscars and has been hailed as the greatest action film ever, but it is a miracle Mad Max: Fury Road ever made it to the screen… or that anybody survived the production. The story of this modern classic spanned nearly two decades of wild obstacles as visionary director George Miller tried to mount one of the most difficult shoots in Hollywood history.

Production stalled several times, stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron clashed repeatedly in the brutal Namib Desert, and Miller’s crew engineered death-defying action scenes that were among the most dangerous ever committed to film. Even accomplished Hollywood figures are flummoxed by the accomplishment: As the director Steven Soderbergh has said, “I don’t understand how they’re not still shooting that film, and I don’t understand how hundreds of people aren’t dead.”

Kyle Buchanan takes readers through every step of that moviemaking experience in vivid detail, from Fury Road’s unexpected origins through its outlandish casting process to the big-studio battles that nearly mutilated a masterpiece. But he takes the deepest dive in reporting the astonishing facts behind a shoot so unconventional that the film’s fantasy world began to bleed into the real lives of its cast and crew. As they fought and endured in a wasteland of their own, the only way forward was to have faith in their director’s mad vision. But how could Miller persevere when almost everything seemed to be stacked against him?

With hundreds of exclusive interviews and details about the making of Fury Road, readers will be left with one undeniable conclusion: There has never been a movie so drenched in sweat, so forged by fire, and so epic in scope.

Really looking forward to reading this. Blood, Sweat & Chrome is due to be published by William Morrow in North America and in the UK, on February 22nd, 2022.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Very Quick Review: BRAT, AN 80s STORY by Andrew McCarthy (Grand Central)

McCarthyA-BratUSLumped in with the Brat Pack of the 1980s, this is McCarthy’s story of the era

Most people know Andrew McCarthy from his movie roles in Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire, Weekend at Bernie’s, and Less than Zero, and as a charter member of Hollywood’s Brat Pack. That iconic group of ingenues and heartthrobs included Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, and Demi Moore, and has come to represent both a genre of film and an era of pop culture.

In his memoir Brat: An ’80s Story, McCarthy focuses his gaze on that singular moment in time. The result is a revealing look at coming of age in a maelstrom, reckoning with conflicted ambition, innocence, addiction, and masculinity. New York City of the 1980s is brought to vivid life in these pages, from scoring loose joints in Washington Square Park to skipping school in favor of the dark revival houses of the Village where he fell in love with the movies that would change his life.

Filled with personal revelations of innocence lost to heady days in Hollywood with John Hughes and an iconic cast of characters, Brat is a surprising and intimate story of an outsider caught up in a most unwitting success.

I spotted this book in one of the publisher’s catalogues a little while ago, but I couldn’t place the author. The cover photo didn’t call to mind any movies that I’ve seen — although, after reading Brat, that kind of made sense: I have seen surprisingly few of the movies from the Brat Pack era, despite being quite familiar with the actors’ post-1980s work. After checking IMDb, I learned that I’ve only seen McCarthy in two roles (in The Joy Luck Club and two episodes of White Collar). I have, however, seen a lot of the stuff he’s directed. When the book became available for review, I was in-between books, and decided to dive right in. It’s a short memoir, but one that does offer some interesting tidbits for anyone interested in this particular segment of movie history. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: GREENLIGHTS by Matthew McConaughey (Crown Publishing/Headline)

McConaugheyM-GreenlightsA lively, entertaining memoir

I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.
 
Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges — how to get relative with the inevitable — you can enjoy a state of success I call “catching greenlights.”
 
So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.
 
Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.
 
It’s a love letter. To life.
 
It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights — and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.
 
Good luck.

An entertaining, quite uplifting memoir. I listened to the audiobook edition of the book, brilliantly and enthusiastically narrated by the author. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: MODERN FAMILY by Marc Freeman (St. Martin’s Press)

FreemanM-ModernFamilyUSThe Untold Oral History of the Long-Running Family Sitcom

An oral history, with the full participation of cast and crew, of one of the most popular sitcoms in television history.

Since premiering in 2009, the groundbreaking television sitcom Modern Family has garnered tens of millions of devoted fans, earning 75 Emmy nominations and 22 Emmy Awards, including five in a row for Outstanding Comedy Series (one of only two sitcoms to ever achieve that feat). Professors have written about it. Psychologists have lectured on it. Leading publications, such as The New York Times and Washington Post, have explained their love for it. With funny, heartfelt and relatable stories about family, Modern Family has gained a worldwide following of hundreds of millions of viewers in countries as diverse as England, Israel, The Netherlands, Germany, and South Africa.

As much as people love the show, few know the stories behind it. How did a kernel of an idea by Emmy-winning writers Steve Levitan and Chris Lloyd morph into a television juggernaut? Where did they find the cast? How did they come up with story ideas and film favorite episodes? What went on behind the scenes? Up until now, there have been individual stories and interviews about the show, but nothing comprehensive that captures the complete story of the series.

Marc Freeman’s Modern Family: The Untold Oral History of One of Television’s Groundbreaking Sitcoms is the only major book ever written that explores this show as told by those who created it. More than seventy people, including the entire cast, crew, and creators, detail the full history of this iconic sitcom. The cast recalls their memories of the trials and tribulations of casting. They share their impressions from the first table read through the last light turning out. Writers, directors, and performers walk readers through storylines, production and favorite episodes. Guest stars such as Elizabeth Banks, Josh Gad, Adam Devine, Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane recall their appearances on the show while others recount their experiences working with Kevin Hart, Barbara Streisand, Ed Norton and more. Readers get to go behind the scenes and experience the show like never before, including personal photos. They’ll also discover the never-told fallout and divorce of the two showrunners, making the show two separate series blended into one. Even people unfamiliar with the show will gain deep insight into what it takes to put a series on television.

I started watching Modern Family around season three, I think — I caught an episode when I was visiting my father in LA. It was funny, and I started watching it whenever I could. Like all long-running shows, it experiences ups and downs, but it held strong for a surprisingly long time. With the show recently ended, I thought this Oral History would be an interesting read. I was not disappointed: exhaustive, engaging and illuminating, I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE OFFICE by Andy Greene (Dutton)

GreeneA-OfficeUSHC“The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s”, an Oral History

The untold stories behind The Office, one of the most iconic television shows of the twenty-first century, told by its creators, writers, and actors

When did you last hang out with Jim, Pam, Dwight, Michael, and the rest of Dunder Mifflin? It might have been back in 2013, when the series finale aired… or it might have been last night, when you watched three episodes in a row. But either way, fifteen years after the show first aired, it’s more popular than ever, and fans have only one problem–what to watch, or read, next.

Fortunately, Rolling Stone writer Andy Greene has that answer. In his brand-new oral history, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, Greene will take readers behind the scenes of their favorite moments and characters. Greene gives us the true inside story behind the entire show, from its origins on the BBC through its impressive nine-season run in America, with in-depth research and exclusive interviews. Fans will get the inside scoop on key episodes from “The Dundies” to “Threat Level Midnight” and “Goodbye, Michael,” including behind-the-scenes details like the battle to keep it on the air when NBC wanted to pull the plug after just six episodes and the failed attempt to bring in James Gandolfini as the new boss after Steve Carell left, spotlighting the incredible, genre-redefining show created by the family-like team, who together took a quirky British import with dicey prospects and turned it into a primetime giant with true historical and cultural significance.

Hilarious, heartwarming, and revelatory, The Office gives fans and pop culture buffs a front-row seat to the phenomenal sequence of events that launched The Office into wild popularity, changing the face of television and how we all see our office lives for decades to come.

I was a latecomer to The Office. When the original UK version first aired, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ricky Gervais. This meant I didn’t rush to watch the American version. A few years ago, though, we gave it a try and quickly fell in love with the employees of Dunder Mifflin, Scranton, PA. I’ve now watched the whole series multiple times, and each time it keeps me entertained, laughing out loud. When I learned about this book, I quickly got in touch with the publisher and they were kind enough to send me a DRC. I started reading it almost immediately, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Continue reading

Quick Review: BEST. MOVIE. YEAR. EVER. by Brian Raftery (Simon & Schuster)

RafteryB-BestMovieYearEverUSAn excellent examination of “How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen”

In 1999, Hollywood as we know it exploded: Fight Club. The Matrix. Office Space. Election. The Blair Witch Project. The Sixth Sense. Being John Malkovich. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. American Beauty. The Virgin Suicides. Boys Don’t Cry. The Best Man. Three Kings. Magnolia. Those are just some of the landmark titles released in a dizzying movie year, one in which a group of daring filmmakers and performers pushed cinema to new limits—and took audiences along for the ride. Freed from the restraints of budget, technology (or even taste), they produced a slew of classics that took on every topic imaginable, from sex to violence to the end of the world. The result was a highly unruly, deeply influential set of films that would not only change filmmaking, but also give us our first glimpse of the coming twenty-first century. It was a watershed moment that also produced The Sopranos; Apple’s Airport; Wi-Fi; and Netflix’s unlimited DVD rentals.

Best. Movie. Year. Ever. is the story of not just how these movies were made, but how they re-made our own vision of the world. It features more than 130 new and exclusive interviews with such directors and actors as Reese Witherspoon, Edward Norton, Steven Soderbergh, Sofia Coppola, David Fincher, Nia Long, Matthew Broderick, Taye Diggs, M. Night Shyamalan, David O. Russell, James Van Der Beek, Kirsten Dunst, the Blair Witch kids, the Office Space dudes, the guy who played Jar-Jar Binks, and dozens more. It’s the definitive account of a culture-conquering movie year none of us saw coming…and that we may never see again.

Best. Movie. Year. Ever. is an excellent, illuminating discussion and examination of the movies that defined 1999: a year that produced an incredible number of excellent, ground-breaking movies. They broke the moulds of their respective genres, updated certain outmoded mores and tropes, or created something wholly new. A fascinating book that is a must-read for movie fans. Continue reading

Quick Review: I’LL BE THERE FOR YOUR by Kelsey Miller (Hanover Square Press/HQ)

MillerK-IllBeThereForYouUSA “definitive” history of the TV show Friends

I’ll Be There For You is the definitive retrospective of the classic TV phenomenon. From its low-profile debut in 1994, Friends grew over the next decade to be the must-watch prime-time hit of a generation, and a certified classic.

Join Kelsey Miller as she relives the show’s most iconic moments, examines some of its controversies, and shines a light on the many trends it inspired from oversized coffee cups to the much-copied 90s haircut, The Rachel’.

Weaving incisive commentary, revelatory interviews and behind-the-scenes anecdotes involving high-profile guest stars, I’ll Be There for You is the most comprehensive take on Friends yet, and the ultimate book for fans everywhere.

I have been a fan of Friends since, I think, the end of season one. It is a comfort watch, and a series I often have on in the background. When I still lived in the UK, it was almost impossible to go a day (an hour?) without being able to find an episode on one of the digital channels. It’s a huge show, and continues to be so even a decade-plus since it ended. I was very interested, therefore, when I heard that someone had written a book about the show, purporting to be the definitive story. I was lucky enough to get a review copy. I found it to be a mixed reading experience. Continue reading

Excerpt: MARLENE DIETRICH by Maria Riva (Open Road Media)

RivaM-MarleneDietrichORMOpen Road Media recently published Marlene Dietrich, a biography of the eponymous actress, written by her daughter, Maria Riva. To celebrate its release, the publisher has allowed me to share an excerpt. First, though, here’s the official synopsis:

With intimate detail, author Maria Riva reveals the rich life of her mother, Marlene Dietrich, the charismatic star of stage and screen whose career spanned much of the twentieth century. Opening with Dietrich’s childhood in Schöneberg, Riva’s biography introduces us to an energetic, disciplined, and ambitious young actress whose own mother equated show business with a world of vagabonds and thieves.

Dietrich would quickly rise to stardom on the Berlin stage in the 1920s with her sharp wit and bisexual mystique, and wearing the top hat and tails that revolutionized our concept of beauty and femininity. She comes alive in these pages in all her incarnations: muse, collaborator, bona fide movie star, box-office poison, lover, wife, and mother.

During World War II, Dietrich would stand up to the Nazis and galvanize American troops, eventually earning the Congressional Medal of Freedom. There were her artistic relationships with Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel, Morocco, Shanghai Express), Colette, Erich Maria Remarque, Noël Coward, and Cole Porter, as well as her heady romances. And in her final years, Dietrich would make herself visibly invisible, devoting herself to the immortality of her legend.

Capturing this complex and astonishing woman, Maria Riva’s insightful profile of her mother has the depth, range, and resonance of a novel, and takes us on a journey through Europe and old Hollywood during an era that is gone but not forgotten.

The excerpt, which starts after the break, covers how the actress decided on her stage name.

Continue reading