Katherine Rife | If You Like Quentin Tarantino/Scott Von Doviak | If You Like the Terminator (Limelight Editions)

ifyoulikequentin…Here Are Over 200 Films, TV Shows, and Other Oddities That You Will Love

Thanks to DVDs and internet streaming, movies are so readily available today that the problem of finding something to watch has been mostly replaced by the problem of deciding what, among the riches available, you want to watch. Netflix has spent a lot of money trying to come up with a recommendations algorithm, but a new series by Hal Leonard (under their Limelight and Backbeat imprints) takes an even more direct approach: the application of human intelligence to fill in the blanks in the “if you like X, you’ll love Y” references. The net is cast wide in this series, and the subtitle for each book, “Here Are Over 200 Films, TV Shows, and Other Oddities That You Will Love,” really says it all.

Katherine Rife’s If You Like Quentin Tarantino… devotes a chapter to each of Tarantino’s films, from Reservoir Dogs to Django Unchained, and begins each by briefly discussing the Tarantino film in question and the particular aspects of that film that form the basis for the recommendations that follow. So for Jackie Brown, the hook is Blaxploitation, while for Reservoir Dogs, it’s the heist flick, and for Pulp Fiction, it’s film noir. Rife devotes one to three pages to each film or series she recommends, and these mini-essays are a combination of plot summary and stylistic commentary, with an emphasis on the particular traits of the film that influenced Tarantino and/or might particularly appeal to Tarantino fans. Each chapter includes at least one sidebar on a related topic, such as the partnership between Goblin and Dario Argento, or the rape/revenge cycle in film from Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring (1960) to Joseph Guzman’s Run! Bitch! Run! (2009).

Rife’s tone throughout is non-academic but knowing, and this volume provides great reading material independent of its usefulness as a source of “what to watch next?” recommendations. Given Tarantino’s well-documented cinephilia and occasionally obscure tastes, this volume is particularly useful in pointing general readers to films they might not have thought of, because they’re foreign, old, obscure, or all three, yet are likely to delight said fans if they take the trouble to track them down (which might be as simple as clicking the “watch instantly” button on one of the many streaming services available today). Two appendices cover films distributed by Rolling Thunder Pictures (a now-defunct Tarantino project) and the films chosen by Tarantino for showing at the “Best of QT-Fest 2006,” the final installment in an Austin festival curated by Tarantino from 1997 to 2001 and in 2005.

Scott von Doviak’s If You Like the Terminator… focuses on the first (1984) Terminator film, its influences (“nearly a century of cinema,” according to von Doviak), terminatorlikeand its influence. After an introduction sketching out the origins and success of The Terminator, 10 chapters are devoted to topics such as early science fiction cinema, the TV series The Outer Limits, films about time travel, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s other films, James Cameron’s other films, and the influence of The Terminator on “tech noir” films such as Blade Runner and The Adjustment Bureau. Sidebars address topics like the Planet of the Apes movies and Sylvester Stallone’s career as “the other ’80s action hero.”

Von Doviak casts his net wider than Rife, and sometimes his reach exceeds his grasp—the first chapter discusses, among other things, A Trip to the Moon (1902), Un Chien Andalou (1929), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)—but he’s always interesting to read, and if you take this book as a starting point rather than an end in itself, it can be quite useful. An appendix provides a list of “100 Great Moments from Science-Fiction History,” arranged chronologically from publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1818 to release of the video game Portal 2 in 2011.

If You Like Quentin Tarantino… and If You Like the Terminator… are part of a new series published by Hal Leonard, all based on the idea of making explicit the connections among objects and creative forces in popular culture; other topics covered in the series include Monty Python, The Sopranos, Metallica, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin. You can read more about the series, and read excerpts from the volumes already published, on the publisher’s website. | Sarah Boslaugh

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