________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 12. . . . February 14, 2003

cover Reel Adventures: The Savvy Teens' Guide to Great Movies.

John Lekich.
Toronto, Annick Press, 2002.
173 pp., pbk., $11.95.
ISBN 1-55037-735-3.

Subject Heading:
Motion pictures-Catalogs.
Video recordings-Catalogues.
Young adult films-Catalogues.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Julie Chychota.

***1/2 /4


Election (1999)

Directed by Alexander Payne.

Starring Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein.

The Short Story * Semi-dark satire about a Nebraska high-school teacher who's bothered by the fact that one of his seriously overachieving students is running unopposed for class president. Witherspoon gets top marks as a perky, super-organized know-it-all who pushes all the wrong buttons in her envious teacher. Broderick has great fun playing a guy whose life peaked during his days as a high-school student. Think of it as the flip side to Broderick's role in Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Memorable Line * "Just tell me who won!"

Message * Here's a scary thought. Maybe your high-school years really _are_ the best years of your life. (p. 135)

From Casablanca (1942) to Clueless (1995), from The African Queen (1951) to The
(1984), from Frankenstein (1931) to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(2001), John Lekich profiles 250 films in Reel Adventures: The Savvy Teens' Guide to Movies. The author's 18 years as a journalist and movie critic recommend him as a competent guide on this expedition that covers a wide range of big screen gems produced over the last 70 years. Predictably, the guide contains Gone with the Wind, Rebel Without a Cause, and A Clockwork Orange - films conventionally labeled as "classics." Yet alongside these, the author embraces with equal enthusiasm quirky films such as Heathers, Tremors, and Happy Gilmore. According to Lekich, his selection process was informed as much by the attempt to incorporate variety as it was influenced by his own long-standing personal favorites.

     The appeal of Reel Adventures owes a great deal to its simplicity and sense of balance. In a brief introduction, Lekich explains that his guide groups the 250 entries into five categories or sections which essentially encompass the following genres: coming-of age stories; action, adventure, and romance; drama and satire; horror and suspense; and comedy. Introductory remarks about each genre occupy approximately one-third of the initial page in a section. Entries are arranged alphabetically by title, with 50 being the mode per category. At the conclusion of every one of the five "chapters," Lekich lists ten classics, visually separated from the rest by a heading and shaded in gray. In addition, the book contains not one, but two indexes: the first for movie titles, the second for actors. In fact, even titles and actors referred to merely in passing are indexed; one wishes that the same was true of directors.

     Contributing further to its organization and ease of use is the guide's neat and consistent layout. Each entry follows a standard format: the first line displays the title of the movie and the year of its release, the second names its director(s), and a third line identifies its principle cast members. Thereafter a reader finds "The Short Story," a 50- to 75- word abstract of the plot. Lekich adeptly shares just enough to tantalize readers without revealing too much of the action or characterization. As an extra lure, he shares some inside information in the form of either a memorable line or moment for every title in his collection. Subsequently, "The Message" portions sum up the movies' themes in one liners that are noble, witty, flippant, or trite by turns, while the occasional "Check this out" section refers readers to movies directed by or starring the same individuals, or exhibiting related themes. Should a movie be based on a true experience, a novel, or short story, the author makes note of this also.

     Strategically placed throughout the book as fillers, sidebar texts are set off in an inverted color scheme as white text against black boxes. They serve an additional purpose; that is, they offer interesting insights into actors' and directors' lives, as well into film-making in general. One of these sidebars focuses on Canadian actor John Candy and his SCTV compatriots. Keanu Reeves's performance as Hamlet on the Manitoba Theatre Centre stage warrants attention in yet another. Besides Candy, other noteworthy Canadians peppering the text include actors Jim Carrey, Colleen Dewhurst, Donald Sutherland, and Mike Myers, and directors James Cameron and David Cronenberg. The Vancouverite Lekich deserves to be congratulated for his subtle endeavors to raise awareness of Canadian (or former-Canadian) cinematic influences.

     Designed for "teens (technically 17+) and young-minded adults" (back cover), Reel Adventures would also benefit younger video buffs. Since what constitutes age appropriate material is subjective, the guide's condensed plot summaries and themes can assist readers in making informed viewing decisions. (The guide is written for a specifically North American audience, though, so do not expect to find any foreign-language films.) A refreshing honesty permeates Lekich's reviews, so that assessments of "uneven tone," "bad haircuts," "slow at first," and "crude" humor intermingle with "first-rate performances," "clever scripts," "keepers," and "loopy charm." Fortunately, Lekich's eclectic taste ensures that there is something in the mix to appeal to everyone. If you're like me, you'll want to consult Reel Adventures before you make your next trip to the video rental outlet - maybe even take it along for reference.

Highly Recommended.

Julie Chychota is an alumna of the University of Manitoba.


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ISSN 1201-9364