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Time Out Film Guide
editor: John Pym
Penguin paperback £19.99 / $24.95

review by Christopher Geary

The 2004 edition is a weighty beast of a reference book, sharing many key contributors with the BFI's magazine Sight & Sound, yet having a rather brighter and less conservative and even more international outlook than you might expect from a book that musters a largely British team of critics into play against Hollywood blockbusters, classy (if not always classic) oldies re-minted for DVD, and subtitled pictures alike. Particularly interesting in this volume's nearly 1600 pages of over 15,000 reviews are the results of a Time Out readers' poll, 100 obits for 2002-03, a nine-page feature which spotlights 150 films on DVD, and 101 illustrated 'Cinefiles' (mostly picked by Geoffrey Macnab) focusing on the grey areas between cult and classic movies. Also, for the first time in this always lively and authoritative film guide's history, there are full colour pictures, seemingly at no extra cost.
   Unlike most cinema books, Time Out Film Guide also features handy and informative appendices separately listing films by category, country of origin, indexes of actors and directors, a pricelessly comprehensive index of general subjects (abortion to zoos, and everything in-between), and rather more familiar info like academy and festival awards. All supplementary texts aside, where this film guide really comes into its own is the quality of the writing, as erudite prose needn't be academic in tone or dryly humourless. What makes this book so extraordinary is the sheer enthusiasm for films of its reviewers - always at pains to discuss and critique everything - from cheap tacky sexploitation to bravely ambitious creativity - on its own merits, instead of simply dismissing high- or lowbrow material with a thoughtless one-liner (as Halliwell's, and the Variety Movie Guide do frequently).
   Although this is very much an all-purpose cinema guide, without any special attention being given to genre pictures, Time Out Film Guide is never condescending or obviously trite in its appraisal of SF/fantasy/horror films and, in my view, this attitude places it well above all the competition in this regard. I recommend this edition, without reservation, to all readers of The ZONE who want an unbiased and intelligent general film guide.
Time Out Film Guide

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