Ico, Transformers and more nostalgia in new releases this week, September 27, 2011
Today is unofficial nostalgia day: One of the greatest games of all time gets an HD rerelease today alongside one of the best books about gangsters. It's certainly a little retro-tastic when you combine that with the hilariously dumb new Transformers movie, but thankfully, we're saved from only consuming old content with a documentary about fringe religious communities, a book about a comedian who only performs with his fist in his mouth and more.
The Funny Man, by John Warner Comedians will tell you that gimmicks aren't really the best way to go -- not because they don't work, but because they force you into working within the constraints of the gimmick for the rest of your career. So in John Warner's novel, he puts his middling comic into the face of that struggle, with the gimmick of stuffing his fist in his mouth for every joke he delivers. As the novel moves forward, his family leaves him, he goes to trial for shooting a man six times and he finds true, real love. It's as much about the price of fame as it anything else, and as a darkly comedic social satire, it delivers.
Wiseguy: The 25th Anniversary Edition, by Nicholas Pileggi Wiseguy has been called the best book about organized crime by a number of publications. It's also the book that spawned Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, which is why he provides the introduction here. The book takes a journalistic look the life of Henry Hill, a young Brooklyn kid wanting to get into the wiseguy business in one of very few stories about the mob told from the point of view of someone who was actually in it. It's a rather amazing story, perfectly fit for the screen, which is likely why Scorsese took it on in the first place.
American Mystic We're all aware that fringe religious groups exist in the United States, but we rarely get the opportunity to actually see what they're like. American Mystic covers witchcraft, becoming a medium, Native American rituals and more. The film looks at spirituality in as many ways as it can, in order to understand the important role it plays to the people in the film. Being a fringe film, its full of quirky and odd characters as well, but it represents each without a feeling of irony or disrespect.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon You know, sometimes you just need a stupid movie about stupid robots blowing shit up, which is exactly what Transformers: Dark of the Moon is. It's an unintentional parody of everything that is wrong with summer blockbuster film culture, but in being that, it manages to deliver a film that can only be described with critic cliché's like "high-octane," "thrill ride" and "explosive." Stupid? Yes. Enjoyable? Shh, just don't tell anyone.
The Ico and Shadow of Colossus Collection (PS3) Both Ico and Shadow of Colossus have been called two of the greatest games of all time because of their focus on art direction and storytelling methods. Time hasn't treated the awkward control scheme all that well, but if you can get past that barrier of entry, you'll be in for a treat: They're both slow-paced, big idea-oriented games that can actually impact you in more ways than one by the end. Even if you can't get past the controls, they're a beauty to look at.
Batman: the Widening Gyre, by Kevin Smith and Walt Flanagan While DC is busy rebooting itself into oblivion, a few of it's pre-new world ideas are trickling through in trade paperback form. One of those is the Kevin Smith-led Widening Gyre series. This book collects together the six-issue miniseries from last year, detailing Batman's mysterious new partner and his, well, crime-fighting, since that's what Batman does. Smith was supposedly deeply infused with marijuana at the time of writing this, so expect a few oddball circumstances to arise for our pointy-eared hero.
Pure Pajamas, by Marc Bell Marc Bell's Pure Pajamas is one of those strange syndicated comic strips that's just weird enough to leave you feeling a little odd -- but happy -- by the end of one. This collection brings together the best of his work, and since his syndication lays mostly in Canada, this is the first chance for most Americans to check it out. If you've always wanted a goofier version of R. Crumb, then this is your book.