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Halliwell's The Movies that Matter [Paperback]

David Gritten
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Oct 2008 Halliwell's

A major reworking of Halliwell's, the definitive brand in movie publishing, featuring the Editor's personal selection of 3,000 essential films – from the 1930s classics to the modern-day blockbusters. Includes over 350 new releases in the UK in the last year, plus stand-alone feature articles on new talent, film genres and movie news for 2008.

Long established as the first and last word in movie-going information, this new-look guide promises to be as cutting edge as it is wide-ranging. And as always, it’s a promise that Halliwell’s guarantees to deliver.

These are the movies that have created a benchmark – the 3,000 films that stand out through more than seven decades of movie making. From the black and white classics of the pre-War years, through the golden period of the seventies and eighties to the genre-breaking films of the 21st Century, these are the movies that matter.

This beautifully designed, perennially entertaining and indispensable guide includes plot synopses and evaluations, plus reader-friendly icons denoting films suitable for family viewing, Academy Award winners and nominees, and lists of best films by genre.

Brand new to Halliwell’s, editor David Gritten will introduce a series of features on topical issues, ranging from actor and actress profiles, the rise of the family movie and video-on-demand through to the glitz and glamour of film festivals, what’s hot in the current film industry and a look ahead to what the forthcoming cinematic year will bring.

Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (20 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007271069
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007271061
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 19 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 220,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'I just wish I could be as concise, accurate, well balanced and full of love for the movies as Halliwell’s manages to be year after year.' Simon Bates, Classic FM, Christmas 2005

‘At the end of the day, Halliwell’s is top of the pile.’ Film Review

‘The King Kong of movie reference works.’ Mail on Sunday

‘The indispensable reference guide for the avid moviegoer’s bookshelf.’ Empire

‘Often imitated, never bettered.’ Guardian

From the Author

The 2009 edition of Halliwell's represents a significant change of emphasis from previous guides in this series. This is a smaller-format volume, containing some 2,800 carefully selected films; as such, it is a response not only to feedback from readers but also to the future of film guide publishing in the early 21st century.

The accumulation of new film entries over the years has led to Halliwell's guides becoming bulky; last year's edition, containing more than 24,000 entries, ran to almost 1,400 pages and weighed around 5 lb and many regular buyers have voiced concerns about this.

Then there's the question of how people now access information about films. Most of those who came of age before the internet arrived still find automatic comfort in the printed page, while for lots of younger readers it is easier simply to click on a screen than to wade through the pages of a dense, formidable-looking tome.

We believe this edition represents a way of sustaining Halliwell's through a transition period; a volume that is more accessible and reader-friendly for first-time buyers but an invaluable companion work to those who peruse the guide each year.

The edition lists all films in alphabetical order, but consists of three elements. Firstly, it includes new UK releases, some 350 for the year ending June 2008. These exclude only Bollywood movies, re-releases of classics and a handful of films that received a tiny release (sometimes on one screen), were barely seen in cinemas and are primarily intended for the DVD market. But all this last year's major titles are in the 350.

Secondly, the bulk of this volume comprises 2,000 titles from the past 20 years, each one with a brand new review; for good or bad, most films seen today, whether on television, or bought or rented on DVD, come from this period.

We believe almost all the significant films of these last two decades are here. Many others are underrated or simply neglected. Inclusion in the 2,000 does not necessarily imply a hearty endorsement: titles such as Showgirls and Striptease confirm as much. Some films make the list only because they were a talking point at the time, even if it involved hand-wringing at the state of the film business.

Box-office success does not confer automatic selection: you will look in vain here for the two most recent Star Wars films, and for a few Harry Potters. We also judge each film on individual merit, rather than as part of a series: clearly, Lord of the Rings enthusiasts will have seen the entire trilogy, but we feel if you're neutral about the first, you could skip the second and head straight for the last one.

The third and final category is a group of 500 earlier films selected by myself. They range from early silents to the latter part of the 1980s; from Intolerance to Blue Velvet, if you will. It's a purely subjective list, and anyone can argue the merit or otherwise of any entry; but it's safe to say that acquainting yourself with all, or even most of them, would give you a solid grounding in film history.

Leslie Halliwell, the founder of these guides, wrote the original reviews for these 500 films. Some of his pithy assessments, especially for the older entries, are virtually unimprovable and appear here in their original form or close to it. But tastes change, reputations of films rise and fall, and many of these older entries, especially those from the 70s and 80s, have been given new reviews.

Speaking of Halliwell, he is the subject of one of 10 features sprinkled throughout this volume, most of them about people or subjects that were topical this last year. We hope you enjoy the innovative elements in this new edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Halliwell's, but not as we know it. 16 Oct 2008
Regular Halliwell's readers beware, the famous film guide has been pared to the bone. As the introduction states, the ever increasing size and weight of previous editions and the rise of the internet as an alternative for film reviews has led to radical changes, with the number of reviews in this edition only numbering approx 2,800 compared to over 24,000 in last year's.
So what has been kept? 350 of the past year's new releases, 2,000 from the last 20 years, and 500 notable films from pre-1988. Several films have been given new reviews, and although the format remains relatively unchanged, the drastic reduction has allowed for much bigger print size, making the book (with only half as many pages as last year and much lighter) easier on the eyes.
There have been a couple of editions, a top 10 films by genre list at the back and 10 well written essays on various film topics are scattered throughout the book, but whether this will make up for the deletion of almost 90% of film reviews is doubtful.
Halliwell's is still an essential purchase for any film buff, but it can no longer claim to be "the only film guide that matters." The drastic cuts made leave the Time Out Film Guide as probably the most comprehensive film guide currently on the market. Alternatively, movie connoisseurs may wish to purchase (or hang on to) last year's Halliwell's, it seems it may be the last of its kind.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars from the best to the worst 27 Jan 2010
Halliwell's (until recent editions) used to be the undisputed authoratitive, comprehensive and definitive guide to the movies. But unfortunately, under the new editorial regime, these attributes have successively been compromised at the expense of brevity. This latest edition has been scaled down to the point where it has effectively become useless. For example, many of the older 4 star films which remain historically significant have now been ommitted - a fundamental oversight that undermines the publisher's claims for the guide's greatness. There is, for instance, no longer any room for films of the stature of, amongst others, 'Being There', 'The Tin Drum' and 'The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith'. This latest edition is a travesty.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
'Halliwell's Film Guide' had been regarded as the bible of all film guides. It's author, Leslie Halliwell, was a very conservative film critic but he was often consistent with his criticism but his rather savage reviews of many modern films exposed his viewpoint as rather myopic. Leslie Halliwell would not have given any time to pretentious arthouse film makers like David Gretten has done in this shortened and slickly presented version. Gone are many of the films from yesteryear from what was the Golden Age of Cinema and a welcome has been given to the works of contemporary indie film makers such as Michael Haneke and Paul Thomas Anderson. The book has become less of a valuable guide and more of a collection of anecdotes from a Daily Telegraph arts critic whose entries can be a tad confusing, for example,'Ben-Hur' is referred to as a film classic but the movie ratings are rather low. 'From Russia With Love', possibly the best of the Bond films, receives only two stars now while the overrated arthouse flick 'The Piano Teacher' receives three stars (it originally had received none). For customers who argue that we should move on from the Halliwell style of reviewing should ask themselves then why his name is used in the title of the book? One point is certain that this edition is no longer the important film guide for genuine film enthusiasts.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A book that no longer matters 20 Oct 2009
By dmart7
Oh dear. This is awful to anyone who favoured Halliwell's in its original and updated form. It is hard to see that this pared down version could satisfy anyone but the most casual and undemanding user. It no longer allows the reader to ask the question - should I see this film? - since most are not covered. For the same reason, you can't look up a film you've seen or wish to recall. Halliwell's was THE home reference guide, even after John Walker took it over (albeit with increasingly tiny writing).

Halliwell wrote his brief entries with such colour and economy that they instantly told you so much about the film, whatever his or your own prejudices. Fortunately, these entries have not been rewritten for those that appear, but many thousands of entries have gone.

I'll have to keep my last version, or buy the Radio Times Film Guide - which seems to come closest to being the new guide of choice. There is still a market for these guides, despite the internet, but the new "Halliwell's" doesn't fit. What a shame.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Halliwell's certainly was the only film guide that mattered, covering some 24,000 films and offering a star system that listed (in the 2008 edition) 298 four-star and 863 three-star films; the combined list of films became, over the years, the core of my target list of films to see and it has served me very well.

I don't want to repeat the comments of other reviewers, many of which I share. This new book is more manageable and easier to read, for sure, but it is a shadow of its forbears and not, as it stands, "The Movies That Matter". It does list many great films and, of course, each editor will have his own style, so readers will always find reason to disagree.

I would like to see the next edition carry the full reviews of all the films that were listed in past editions as three-star and four-star films: it was wrong to delete so many of them. It was these lists that alerted me to many gems of cinema I might otherwise have missed. Then this book might be "The Movies That Matter (including some dross)". In fact, I'd rather see the dross (the one and no-star films) removed - one might then use this guide as a quality threshold: if a film is not listed, it's probably not a "movie that matters".

The removal of foreign-language titles is a big mistake and is the sort of dumbing down to be deplored. Some readers may be surprised to find that "The Four Hundred Blows" is in French, with sub-titles! Other alternative titles are also not listed and this will present problems when searching further for the movie, e.g. one needs to know that the film "Ivansxtc" is sometimes known as "Ivans XTC".

The order of listing films needs better editing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Desecration of a classic
This book was the death of the Halliwell's Film Guide Franchise. It is pompous, sketchy, and omits films which deserve attention and demand reappraisal. Read more
Published on 24 Sep 2011 by C. A. Thomas
2.0 out of 5 stars Some of the movies that matter and some that don't!
An American bias, but even some of my favourites, Vanishing Point, Two Lane Blacktop aren't there and rubbish like The Bucket List is? Read more
Published on 8 Jan 2010 by A Reader
1.0 out of 5 stars This Book is an Insult to Leslie Halliwell
I thought this book would be something like the Halliwell's 1000, 3000 or so of the most important films in history or at least the ones the authors felt that should be viewed by... Read more
Published on 21 Oct 2009 by Daniel Oconnor
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious and Biased
When i bought this, i was hoping for an accurate guide to which films are worth watching, and which to avoid. Sadly, what i found was a dated and biased mess. Read more
Published on 24 July 2009 by Lord K1tten
3.0 out of 5 stars hope this isn't the only 2009 release of Halliwells
Perhaps this is just a quickly bashed together gift idea aimed at the discount bookstores, lets hope so, there are a lot of films that don't matter in here and quite a few good... Read more
Published on 12 Mar 2009 by Duncan Disorderly
4.0 out of 5 stars Let's go to the Movies!
This was a Christmas present to one of the family and, we were told, is very much enjoyed - very comprehensive.
Published on 10 Feb 2009 by Mrs. Patricia A. M. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Film Fanatic
This was a present for my younger son (though not so young) He was thrilled to receive it and couldn't wait to get stuck into it. Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2009 by Eric Beckett
4.0 out of 5 stars Movies that matter
Excellent book that gives you hundreds of movies that really do matter, of course this is not an exhaustive work and there will be films that you think should be in there that are... Read more
Published on 7 Feb 2009 by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Halli-unwell?
Potential buyers of the new edition of this landmark film guide - often bought as a Christmas present - should be aware that Harper Collins have removed all of John Walker's... Read more
Published on 10 Nov 2008 by Kenneth F. Mcara
3.0 out of 5 stars The jury is out
Well, Halliwell's is back in a much different form. This is a film guide that was once upon a time the only one and for a time the best, if a bit Blimpy. Read more
Published on 3 Nov 2008 by Charles
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