any book that calls itself the Great Movies and includes Body Heat is suspect. Kathleen Turner is amazing in her debut, but it doesn't deserve to nestle up against Dr. Strangelove, The Bicycle Thief and The Shawshank Redemption. Wait a minute. The Shawshank Redemption? OK, author Roger Ebert says the book does not offer the greatest movies or an introduction to cinema; it's supposed to tour the landmarks of cinema's first century.
Even with the inclusion of The Shawshank Redemption, which I've always thought of as Beaches For Boys, it's not a bad introductory course.
Ebert makes the occasional interesting choice -- Broken Blossoms is his Griffith rather than Birth Of A Nation -- and he makes some very personal picks, like Hoop Dreams, his choice as best film of the 90s.
Each picture gets a short commentary and a little production history. There's good journalism here except for a few factual errors in the film descriptions, but Ebert is infamous for those. It is not, however, a work of important scholarship or criticism.
Drop by the library, photocopy the table of contents and start renting the movies he recommends. You can probably watch three movies in the time it takes to read the book.
Write Books at email@example.com
THE GREAT MOVIES by Roger Ebert (Broadway Books), 511 pages, $41.95 cloth. Rating: NNN