Leonard Maltin Annual Movie Guide-290

Some people are amazed that I am still editing an annual movie reference guide, and I am one of them. But it’s true: Leonard Maltin’s 2014 Movie Guide: The Modern Era is now available from booksellers everywhere, in two editions, a mass-market paperback from Signet and a large-format version from Plume. Sharp-eyed customers will notice that they have different colored covers, but they are otherwise identical.

Almost everyone uses the Internet for information nowadays, and I am no exception, yet in researching this annual guide (with my loyal colleagues) I find it just as hard as ever to ascertain basic facts about even the newest releases. Variations in actors’ names, billing order, running time, and plot points continue to plague us all year long. That’s why we take a certain pride in the finished product: what we offer is “curated information” which we hope is user-friendly. The advantage we have today that wasn’t afforded us years ago is that we can check a copy of the film itself, fairly soon after it debuts in theaters.

For the second year, we have adopted a subtitle, The Modern Era, to notify longtime users that many older titles have migrated to our companion volume, Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide. Some readers still haven’t gotten this message, which is why we include random cross-references to that spinoff volume throughout the Annual. Even a 1,600-page paperback can’t contain 100 years of movie reviews.

On the other hand, we’re entitled to have some fun. That’s why I asked one of our editors, Michael Scheinfeld, to add something new to this year’s edition: a healthy sampling of so-called spaghetti Westerns, those Italian “oaters” that redefined the Western in the 1960s and early 70s. Savvy revival theaters have featured tributes to these unique genre titles in recent years, and that was our cue to respond, even though many of them are not readily available in the U.S. (If you have an all-region DVD or Blu-ray player you may have better luck. We only indicate those which are legally available from U.S. distributors, and we’ve calculated their running times based on America’s NTSC format, not PAL, which runs at a higher frame rate.) And just to keep things from getting dull, many of the actors and directors in these movies used Americanized pseudonyms, so it’s not uncommon to find their names being spelled differently from film to film in the onscreen credits and movie posters. We’ve done our best to select the most common spellings.

As always, we’ve combed existing reviews to add early screen credits for such now-familiar actors as Tom Hardy, Octavia Spencer, John Hawkes, Jacki Weaver, and Chloë Grace Moretz. It’s always fun to look back to the not-so-distant past and spot people who have found their place in the spotlight.

We’re already hard at work on next year’s edition. There are just enough people who still like the idea of a reference guide sitting on their coffee table or nightstand to keep us in business, and for that my cohorts and I are extremely grateful.