Check It Out Category: Picks by John

Staff Pick: The Time by The Time (a side project by Prince)

Picture of JohnRumor has it that The Time’s eponymous debut album is effectively a Prince solo side project:  written, produced and performed by the legendarily prolific artist, with Morris Day’s vocals the only other contribution.  True or false, this slice of outstanding pop-funk can easily stand alongside the Purple One’s Dirty Mind/Controversy-era peak.

Staff Pick: The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero

Disaster Artist Book CoverGreg Sestero’s memoir The Disaster Artist details his time as a reluctant star of the modern cult classic movie The Room, exploring his awkward friendship with the film’s bizarre writer-director-star Tommy Wiseau.  Sestero’s narration of the audiobook allows him to show off his uncanny Wiseau impression across a series of hilarious anecdotes.

Staff Pick: Dead Alive

Picture of JohnPeter Jackson’s Dead Alive reigns undisputed as the messiest zombie movie ever made. In Jackson’s gleefully over-the-top, relentlessly gory, black comedy, Lionel’s overbearing mother receives a bite of an evil Sumatran “rat monkey”. Soon she’s snacking on the neighbors, who rapidly zombify – and then things escalate (watch for the lawnmower).


Staff Pick: Jodorowsky’s Dune

Picture of JohnThe documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune chronicles the cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mid-70’s attempt to mount an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic SF novel Dune.  Jodorowsky is a magnetic raconteur, detailing plans (A score by Pink Floyd!  Designs by Moebius!  Casting Salvador Dali and Mick Jagger in roles!) that suggest a fascinating divergence from the eventual 1984 David Lynch film.

Staff Pick: Here by Richard McGuire

Cover of HereJohn of Fiction/AV/Teen Services suggests Here by Richard McGuire

Richard McGuire’s inventive graphic novel Here is set in a single location for its entire duration: the corner of a room in a house.  However, each double-page image depicts this fixed space at a different moment throughout time, ranging the complete span of human history and beyond.   Grand changes play out over the years, juxtaposed against mundane still moments in the lives the home’s various inhabitants.  Events echo throughout time, such as when a window into the décor of 2014 is used to resonate with a scene from 1775.   Styles change, children grow older, and lives unfold in unexpectedly affecting fragments.  Here demonstrates that both the beautiful and ordinary qualities of life alike can remain strangely similar in any era.

For more formally complex graphic novels, try…

Cover of Ice HavenA series of stylistically diverse chapters mimicking comic strips collectively offer a multifaceted portrayal of a small Midwestern town in Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes.

Cover of An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True StoriesMcGuire’s original 1989 short story version of “Here” is featured in An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons & True Stories Volume 1 edited by Ivan Brunetti.









Cover of Building Stories Building Stories by Chris Ware follows the dissatisfactions of a young woman and her neighbors across fourteen distinct printed comics.

Cover of BodyworldDash Shaw’s Bodyworld tells its futuristic tale of drug-induced telepathy as a vertical scroll of expressionistic imagery, illustrating a full range of sensory experiences.

Cover of Asterios Polyp Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli concerns a story of architecture and design, mirrored in its own elegantly crafted visual construction.

Staff Pick: Upstream Color

Picture of JohnUpstream Color unfolds in an elliptical manner, inviting viewers to deduce the narrative with limited dialogue and an absence of exposition.  However, it would be a mistake to dismiss this as some gimmicky puzzle film:  Amy Seimetz’s outstanding lead performance reveals the powerful emotional heart at the center of this ecological sci-fi love story.

Staff Pick: Are You Serious? by Van Duren

Photo of JohnVan Duren came out of the same 70’s Memphis music scene as the cultishly adored band Big Star, so it isn’t too surprising that his 1977 debut album Are You Serious? draws heavily from shared influences like Badfinger and Todd Rundgren.  Melodic almost to a fault, Are You Serious? is an overlooked gem of 70’s power-pop.

Staff Pick: Little Murders

John staff picks photoAdapted from Jules Feiffer’s play, 1971’s Little Murders is a pitch-black paranoid satire which follows a couple and their supremely dysfunctional family through an absurdly (and disquietingly) chaotic New York City.  Don’t miss Donald Sutherland’s legendary extended cameo as an unorthodox wedding officiant.