Turning real-life events into a motion picture can be a daunting and perilous task; that is even more risky when the events in question are both famous and important.  Selma tackles such a time and event -- the circumstances and choices that led to the 1965 civil rights march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery -- and succeeds by exploring the history and humanity of that time.

In 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) is both successful and challenged.  Laws have been passed and a fight is on to end segregation.  But state and local government still keeps black people from registering to vote, which in turn leads to an institutional oppression of black Americans; there's also daily violence and intimidation against black people in the South.  King wants every American to be able to vote, but he faces opposition from numerous fronts.  President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) wants to focus on ending segregation and thinks voting rights will stir up more trouble.  Alabama Governor George Wallace (a nicely evil Tim Roth) is happy to send troops to intimidate, beat, and even kill black protesters.  Even other black groups have issues with King's methods, from disliking his non-violence to believing they should raise up the black community instead of confronting the white power structure.  But King is adamant, and he decides that Selma, Alabama is the perfect place to get headlines and raise awareness of the cause.

Director Ava DuVernay makes Selma work by both explaining the importance of what happened in Selma, and looking at the humans behind what happened.  Selma is partly a history lesson, as we learn the full importance of what happened there, as well as how being able to vote was for empowering those who were kept from voting.  At the same time, we see King's public and private selves.  In public he was a firebrand, equally skilled at preaching in church and to reporters.  But in private, he struggled with the cost of his protests, as people were hurt and killed following his lead.  He also had problems with his marriage, as his wife Coretta (Carmen Ejogo) tries to raise their family (and deal with King's weaknesses as a man) in the middle of the threats against her husband and their family.

My only complaint with Selma is that the movie turns to slow motion almost every time there's any sort of violence; it works in the initial attack on a black church, but soon it becomes an unnecessary distraction.  But that's a small issue for a movie with a phenomenal lead, a very good and extensive supporting cast, and a dramatic, intelligent look at a seminal time in American history.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch



Live-action superhero television shows haven't always had a successful time on television, whether it's budgetary limits of providing special effects (The Hulk, The Tick) or having plots and stories that are just plain dumb (Wonder Woman, Smallville).  Fortunately, The Flash manages to follow the comic storylines fairly closely, show terrific action, and have enthusiasm as well as heavy subjects.
As a boy, young Barry Allen saw something impossible -- a man dressed in yellow (who comic books fans will recognize as Reverse Flash), blurred and surrounded by lightning -- who killed his mother; his father Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) was convicted of the killing, and Barry went to live with Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and his daughter Iris.

Years later, Barry (Grant Gustin) is a forensic scientist still out to clear his father's name, when something else impossible happens to him: He's struck by lightning.  Actually, he's struck by the energy from an accident caused by an experiment from scientists Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh), Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker), and Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes),  Their experiment send a wave of energy that put Barry in a coma for nine years (along with killing several people in Central City, paralyzing Wells from the waist down, and the disappearance of Snow's fiancee).

When Barry comes out of the coma, he's now the fastest man on Earth.  With the help of the scientists, Barry becomes the Flash, determined to use his powers to help others, find Reverse Flash, and clear his father's name.  But the accident also created other metahumans (who Cisco liked to give nicknames to -- matching their comic book names), not to mention normal criminals with advanced weapons, like Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller).  Since The Flash airs on the CW, there's also got to be romantic angst: In this case, Barry has a crush on Iris (Candice Patton), but when he comes out of his coma, she's dating Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett), Joe West's partner.  Oh, and Dr. Wells can walk, has a newspaper from the year 2024 that says the Flash disappeared, is willing to kill anyone he thinks may interfere with Barry's future as the Flash -- and may be Reverse Flash.

As a comic book fan, I really enjoy The Flash.  Unlike far too many superhero shows and movies, this isn't bogged down by darkness and angst.  Instead, much like Dash in The Incredibles, the Flash seems to have a joy in the fun of pure speed (along with helping others).  The actors all do very well (especially Grant Gustin, who mixes concern and responsibility with the fun of being a superhero), the special effects work great for all the metahumans, and the mystery of what will happen next is intriguing.  I hope The Flash lasts on the CW/

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Alien creatures mixed with immigration and third world-first world conflicts?  Why not?  Set in an alternate near-future, Monsters is a road trip turned social commentary.

Six years ago, a probe carrying samples of alien life crashed in Central America.  Soon after, horrific alien creatures (somewhat like giant insects with tentacles) began to appear, and roughly the upper half of Mexico was quarantined as the "Infected Zone," with the U.S. and Mexican armies fighting the creatures.

Andrew Kaulder (Scott McNairy) is a photographer, taking pictures of the creatures and their victims in South America, when he gets an unwanted assignment: Escort Sam Wynden (Whitney Able), his boss' daughter, back to America.  At first all they have to do is get to the coast, where she'll get on a ferry that goes straight to America.  But when their passports are stolen, they have to take a more expensive and dangerous trek, by car, boat, and foot, through the Infected Zone.

Monsters has its strengths and weaknesses.  The main characters are a nice balance: Andrew has been down there a long times and knows the culture, but he never learned any Spanish; Sam is the rich tourist, but she knows the language and does most of their talking.  The immigration parallels are obvious, sometimes painfully: There's a giant wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and people with passports have a much easier, safer, and cheaper route to the U.S. than those who are undocumented.  And the movie wisely gives hints of the creatures rather than throwing them on-screen all the time, giving up glimpses of them moving, or their remains.  And there's a surprising moment beauty at the film's end.

That said, Andrew and Sam aren't terribly compelling characters.  Using the darkness to hide the monsters works fine at first, but after a while the movie feels like it's spending half the time in the gloom and obscurity of night.  And there are times when the movie meanders, bringing boredom into the mix.

Monsters is an interesting movie: Not a great movie, but different and more thoughtful than other movies with aliens and, well, monsters.  (And the newer dvd edition has a massive amount of behind-the-scenes extras; the second disc is devoted solely to them.)

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch



In the world of superheroes, few things may be as well known and as polarizing as the 1966-1968 Batman television series.  To some, this represents the silly fun that made Batman a household name; to others, this series trivialized the character and reinforced the belief that comic books are juvenile.  Edited by Jim Beard, Gotham City 14 Miles: 14 Essays on Why the Batman TV Series Matters approaches the series from several angles, with writers who both enjoyed and hated the series.

There are some common themes through most of the essays in Gotham City 14 Miles: The series was camp; Frank Gorshin returned the Riddler from comic-book obscurity; Julie Newmar brought sexuality to Catwoman; "Batmania" was a commercialism/product craze that swept the country when the show began; and the third season was the worst and reflected the decline that led to the show's cancellation.

Beyond that, the essays focus on, and treat with different attitudes, a wide variety of aspects of the show.  Bill Walko's "POW!" Batman's Visual Punch" discusses the influence of the Pop Art movement on the tv series, relating the show quite convincingly to cultural trends led by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein; on a similar theme, Timothy Callahan's "Notes on Bat-Camp" is as concerned with Susan Sontag's essay on camp as on the show itself.  Jim Beard's "Such a Character: A Dissection of Two Sub-Species of Chiroptera homo sapiens" exhaustively compares the Batman character in the tv show and in the first eleven issues of the comic book.  The show's feminism and sexism are explored in Jennifer K. Stuller's "The Best-Dressed Women in Gotham City," youth culture is looked at in "Michael D. Hamersky's "'Holy Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor!'  Youth Culture in Batman," and the technology on the show is examined for both silliness and historical precursors in Michael Johnson's "Gotham City R&D: Gadgetry in Batman."  There's the show's music (Michael S. Miller's "May I Have This Batdance?"), it's decline (Will Murray's "Jumping the Bat-Shark: The Demise of Batman"), and, of course, the show's lasting impact (Paul Kupperberg's "Some Days You Just Can't Get Rid of a Bomb: The Legacy of Batman").  The essays also cite numerous other books on the show and interviews with many of its stars and behind-the-scenes people.

I wasn't a fan of the Batman tv show as a kid, and seeing it in syndication recently did nothing to alter that opinion.  But Gotham City 14 Miles gave me more respect for what the show wanted to do (appeal to adults with its campy humor, and kids with its traps and battles) and what it succeeded in doing (becoming a fad show (amazingly successful for a short time) and impacting pop culture today, for good or ill).  The essays aren't all good -- Callahan's essay is too distracted by Sontag to focus enough on the show, while Becky Beard's "Aunt Harriet's Film Decency League" simply lists the film and movie credentials of the show's famous guest stars and villains -- but whether the writers loved or loathed the show, most are intelligent and give intriguing views of the show.

2014 saw the first official release of the full Batman tv show, bringing it from convention bootlegs to retail and online stores.  Gothan City 14 Miles is a worthwhile look at the series, from what it did then to what it means now.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch



This past Thursday, the final episode of The Colbert Report aired on Comedy Central.  It's been a long, strange, amusing ride.

The Colbert Report began on The Daily Show as a fake tease for a fake program, with Stephen Colbert as a hyper-aggressive conservative commentator snarling that his opponents didn't have the balls to take him on.  Some time later, that fake persona got his own fake news show.

The Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report was something of a caricature.  As Stephen Colbert explained (on other shows), his persona wasn't just making fun of conservatives; he was making fun of all the television pundits who thought speaking the loudest meant they were right.  The fake Stephen Colbert wasn't evil or mean -- he'd just decided he knew everything he needed to know, and ignored and dismissed any facts or opinions that got in the way of those beliefs.  And he was always bombastic in his statements, even when they didn't make sense: "Just because the Pope is infallible doesn't mean he can't be wrong;" "I think fine art is like pornography: I know it when I buy it."  And he created the word "truthiness," reflecting something you feel in your gut mattering more than facts.

Of course, The Colbert Report mocked plenty of Republican people and positions, usually through Stephen's blind, vitriolic agreement with them.   Regular features included the Threatdown (Stephen Colbert's biggest dangers to the nation -- often, bears), Even Stephen (where Stephen would debate himself), Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger (where Stephen praised or trashed news items), Better Know a District (falling far short of every district in the U.S.), the Word (where written comments often contradicted what he was talking about) and fake medical items from Prescott Pharmaceuticals.  Stephen had lots of interviews (where he always pretended to be more popular than the person being interviewed), a crush/stalking of someone named Charlene (which was dropped in the first few seasons), Captain America's shield on his desk and Michael Stipe on a shelf.

So how did it all end?  There was a musical performance of "We'll Meet Again" with massive amounts of previous guests on The Colbert Report, from Jon Stewart and Bryan Cranston to Henry Kissinger and Big Bird.  Stephen killed Grimmie (the show's Grim Reaper) and became immortal, leading him to a magical sleigh ride with Santa, Abraham Lincoln, and Alex Trebek.  And in the end, it all looped back to The Daily Show, where Colbert had often been a correspondent before getting his own show.

Next up, Stephen Colbert will be taking over The Late Show from David Letterman in 2015.  Some writers have already expressed concern that Stephen Colbert the person won't be as engaging or interesting as the combative, idiotic Stephen Colbert from The Colbert Report.  But it's Stephen Colbert the comedian that made The Colbert Report such a success for nine years, bringing the same character to the viewers over and over again and drawing us back every time.  I'll miss The Colbert Report, but I think Stephen Colbert will bring his talent to whatever he does next.

And that's the Word.

Written by James Lynch



There are many ways to celebrate the December holidays, but scantily-clad supermodels walking down a runway gets my vote for the best tradition.  The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2014 is the latest hour-long commercial for the nation's largest lingerie company -- and it's as, er, entertaining as ever.

For this show,Victoria's Secret got 47 of their models - including Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, Karlie Kloss, Joan Smalls, Lindsay Ellingson, Shanina Shaik, Doutzen Kroes, Candice Swanepoel, and Behati Prinsloo -- and flew them to London to display the latest in lingerie, haute couture, the Pink line of, er, college-aimed lingerie, and lots and lots of wings.  There were also short features (like an interview with photographer Russell James and the making of all those wings), the multimillion-dollar fantasy bra, and musical performances by Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, and Hozier.

Except for the LED catwalk showing plenty of images to match the show's segments, not much has changed with the shows.  The models and outfits/costumes look spectacular, the music is a club-type mix of assorted current popular songs, and mishaps have been edited out (like Ariana Grande getting knocked down by some angel wings).  Oh, and during the commercial breaks there are commercials for Victoria's Secret: They're like the fashion show, but with products you can buy in the stores.

Yes, it's that special December magic that has Angels dressing as angels, a Fantasy Bra that costs $2 million, and Taylor Swift in not one, but two sexy outfits:

Life... is good.

Written by James Lynch


Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, CHEEK TO CHEEK (deluxe version)

I suppose if you shock long enough, you can eventually shock by not shocking.  Lady Gaga has supplemented her music with bizarre costumes, provocative music videos, and outrageous stage performances.  So it's surprising that for her latest music project, she skipped controversy for classics of big band and jazz -- and teamed up with Tony Bennett to do it!  Cheek to Cheek (deluxe version) is the result, and it's a very satisfying collaboration.

Cheek to Cheek has the duo singing well-known songs from such artists as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter.  The two mostly sing together (though each have two songs they sing by themselves), backed by the Tony Bennett Orchestra.  It's no surprise that Tony Bennett excels at this sort of music: He's been singing it for decades.  But Lady Gaga is a revelation here.  She manages to keep up with Tony Bennett in almost every song, managing longing love songs and up-tempo jazz riffing with equal skill.  She also does well singing by herself on "Lush Life" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered."

I'm normally not a fan of jazz, but Cheek to Cheek was quite enjoyable.  It's as good hearing Tony Bennett in his comfortable genre as hearing Lady Gaga switch out pop for jazz and do it with passion and style.  And the Target deluxe version (disclaimer: I work for Target; even more close to Christmas) has two extra songs for jazz fans.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch


U2: Songs of Innocence

U2 has been one of those bands with staying power that has gone on for decades.  Since their first album, "Boy," in 1980, they have evolved with the times, with their own unique sound.  At least in my mind, their best work was the albums "Achtung Baby," "The Joshua Tree," and "Rattle and Hum."One could argue they went off the rails a little bit (that may be an understatement) with their technopop sound in the 90's, but they worked their way back to their original sound.

That brings us to their current album, "Songs of Innocence."  Up front, two things made this album already revolutionary: the first is that it was released 5 years after their last album, and the second is that it was released on iTunes- for free.



Christmas is a season that, for many children has come to incorporate  Santa, toys, family, and cheer and good wishes for all.  It's also led to Christmas movies that vary from timeless classics to terrible ones.  And then there's the 1959 movie Santa Claus -- a truly awful one that, among other things is a poorly dubbed Mexican with mixed mythologies and a surprisingly racist opening.  In other words, it's perfect fodder for making fun of -- at Rifftrax Live: Santa Claus delivers.

For this holiday movie special, Mike Nelsion, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett (dressed as an elf, or "North Pole Person") have plenty to work with.  Following the fake preview items ("You sold your ears to get me these slippers?  I sold my feet to get you these earrings!" -- Eli Roth's Gift of the Magi) and a short about making Chrismtas ornaments out of sugar, they dive into Santa Claus.  This movie has Santa and his multi-ethnic and stereotypical workshop of children, plus Merlin and a shirtless blacksmith.  On the other side, there's Pitch, Satan or a demon or a devil or something out to destroy Santa and therefore Christmas (and dance awkwardly).  There's a girl who wants a doll, a rich kid who wants a brother, artificial reindeer who'll disintegrate in the sun, and Satna's tendency to gas people.

As often the jokes come fast and furious, whether it's pop culture references (from The Honeymooners to Inception), calling the movie out on its stereotypes, or referencing the deity "Craig."  (The latter makes sense in the movie.)  There are numerous laughs, and it's a nice contrast to the usual Christmas sentimentality; and if you're tired of Christmas songs and specials, the source material will make anything look good by contrast.  Rifftrax Life: Santa Claus is another funny celebration of a terrible movie -- this time, with curly shoes!

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch


Taylor Swift vs. Spotify

Taylor Swift is one of the biggest music performers today, and is currently touring -- but is she big enough to defeat a musical streaming service?  She recently opted to pull her music from the Spotify service, and she hasn't held back about why.

In Time and The Wall Street Journal, Swift has argued that artists should value their art and be certain that people are paying enough for it -- and she doesn't see that happening through Spotify.  According to Swift, Spotify lacks any settings or qualifications for who can get what music, which for Swift means anyone there can get her music without paying for it.  Swift still has her music available for purchase through many other avenues: iTunes, Beats Music, Rhapsody, even physical cds, such as the Target exclusive version of 1989 with bonus songs and material.

But can Taylor Swift have a substantial impact on Spotify -- and other music suppliers -- all by herself?  Quite possibly.  As I said at the start, she is one of the biggest musicians out right now.  Her album 1989 sold over a million copies in its first week, and her fans have followed her almost without question as she moved from country to crossover to pop.  And if they'll follow her wherever she goes, many of them will avoid what she says to avoid.  I don't think Taylor Swift will cause Spotify to immediately collapse -- but I wouldn't bet against her, or her massive fan base, either.

Written by James Lynch



Young romance can be tough to navigate -- especially when one of them is undead.  Life after Beth takes on the tribulations of a rocky relationship, tossing in zombies just for fun.

When we meet Zach (Dane DeHaan), he's in mourning.  His girlfriend Beth Slocum (Aubrey Plaza) had been hiking alone when Zach didn't want to go with her, and she got bitten by a snake and died.  Zack's gloom isn't helped by his parents or militaristic brother Kyle (Matthew Gray Gubler), so he spends more and more time hanging out with Beth's parents.  Geenie Slocum (Molly Shannon) is generally positive, while Maury Slocum (John C. Reilly) plays chess and shared weed with Zach.  When Zach confides that he and Beth were having problems, Maury advises him to focus on the good, not the ending.

Zach is surprised when Maury and Geenie stop taking his calls.  Investigating, Zach is more surprised to find... Beth!  At first Zach assumes that her family faked her death, but the truth is stranger:A few days after her funeral, Beth dug her way out of her grave and returned home.  Zach is concerned that Beth might be a zombie, but Maury is thrilled that she's been resurrected ("Like Jesus!") and wants to keep her hidden,
Eventually Zach comes around, seeing this as a chance to do everything with Beth that he didn't do before.  Soon, he's trying to get her out of the house, while Maury is becoming the overprotective dad who only wants his daughter doing things at night.  As for Beth, she's changing: She forgets a lot of things, she gets jealous and violent, and she's super-strong and impervious to pain.  Soon Zach starts experiencing the same problems he and Beth had before -- plus wondering if she's going to eat him.  Also, other people start turning up and acting like Beth...
Life after Beth is an interesting little idea that isn't really explored.  While Aubrey Plaza is suitably weird as the ex-girlfriend whose return is full of pitfalls, the movie starts too slowly and Dane DeHaan isn't that funny.  John C. Reilly does a good turn as the overprotective father, but Molly Shannon doesn't have much to do.  There are some funny moments through the later parts of the movie, but it doesn't go beyond the basic joke of what it's like to be dating a zombie.  I liked Life after Beth sometimes, but it doesn't come close to Shaun of the Dead as a brilliant zombie comedy.  (Dvd extras include deleted scenes and commentary.)

Overall grade: C+
Reviewed by James Lynch



With so many superhero movies aimed at adult fans of comic books, it's refreshing to have one made pretty much for little kids.  Big Hero 6, inspired by a Marvel comic book and made by Walt Disney Studios, is entertaining, if a little simple for the older viewer.
Sometime in the slightly futuristic city of San Fransokyo, robotics prodigy Hiro (Ryan Potter) is a teenager making money and getting in trouble by entering robot fighting games.  His older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) wants Hiro to do more, which Hiro resists until Tadashi brings him to his university.  Hiro loves the advanced technology, likes Tadashi's scientist friends -- burnout Fred (T.J. Miller), happy Wasabi (Daymon Wayans Jr.), flower power-type Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodrigues), edgy cool chick Go Go (Jamie Chung) -- plus robotics legend Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell).  Hiro also likes Tadashi's creation Baymax (Scott Adsit), an inflatable medical robot (that, for comedic purposes, sounds and acts drunk when its battery is low).

Hiro's application project for the school is microbots, small robots that all combine together and are controlled by a headband.  Everyone loves it; businessman Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk) wants to buy them, but Hiro passes.  Hiro's accepted, but before he can celebrate the school burns down, killing Tadashi and Robert, plus destroying all of Hiro's microbots.

Or did it?  Weeks later, as Hiro is moping and Baymax tries to help him, Hiro finds a microbot -- and it's pulling towards others.  That leads Hiro and Baymax to a villain in a kabuki mask controlling massive numbers of microbots -- that he uses to try and kill Hiro!

Hiro decides that "Kabuki Man" stole his microbots and set the fire that killed Tasashi and John to cover it up.  Since the police don't believe him, Hiro decides it's up to him to find and capture the villain.  He upgrades Baymax with everything from kung-fu skills to battle armor with jets and a rocket fist.  He also talks Fred, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Go Go to help, making them armors that match their interests and personalities.  And then they're off to find and expose Kabuki Man -- while unraveling a mystery about a bird logo.

Big Hero 6 is both fun and basic.  The animation is nice, and the action sequences are well done.  But this is fairly typical superhero origin story material -- loss, anger, redemption -- and the movie only has two sequences with the six heroes together.  Big Hero 6 is likable, but definitely more for kids than grown-up superhero fans.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch



 Here's an unusual mix of a movie.  Birdman: or, (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is part comedy, part drama, part roman a clef, part theater, part satire, and part insanity -- overlaid with a jazzy drumbeat.

Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, who's something of a dark parody of Keaton.  Riggan had been a blockbuster movie star playing Birdman in three movies over two decades ago.  Now he's a washed-up actor, staking everything -- his reputation, his finances, even his sanity -- on a Broadway production of  theRaymond Carver short story "What We Talk About When We Talk about Love"  that Riggan adapted, directs, produces, and stars in.
 Naturally, the play -- still in previews -- seems to have nothing but problems.  Riggan's lawyer and friend Jake (Zack Galifanakis) is working to keep everything working together.  Riggan's cynical daughter Sam (Emma Stone) is fresh out of rehab and wandering around as an assistant.  Laura (Andrea Riseborough) is one of the plays' stars, and tells Riggan that she's having their baby.  When a stage accident takes out an actor, Broadway newcomer Leslie (Naomi Watts) brings in her boyfriend Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), who's box office and critical gold; he's also amazingly hard to work with.  Oh, and when he's alone Riggan hallucinates that he has superpowers and that Birdman is talking to him to get him to do more Birdman movies.
Birdman is a whole lot of things, as it meanders from comedy to introspection to fantasy to drama as much as the (seemingly) single camera shot that jumps from characters to characters for the whole movie.   While it works, it's also disjointed and somewhat disorienting.  The movie has terrific acting, and there are plenty of laughs (especially the Times Square walk) and moments of tenderness and discovery.  But it's hard to settle in and enjoy or appreciate one scene or tone before the movie jumps into a new one.  Birdman is definitely unique and enjoyable, but I wish it had come together or held together a little bit tighter.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch



When Sports Illustrated released its Idyllic Shores magazine special, it was a taste of what was coming.  Well, that day has arrived with the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Portfolio: Idyllic Shores -- and its very familiar to those who read the magazine special.

The Portfolio contains all the photographs of the models that were in the magazine special, plus the exact same introduction and comments that introduce each model's photographs.  So why go with the Portfolio instead or or in addition to the magazine special?  A couple of reasons, actually.

The Portfolio is a coffee table book, meaning the photos are larger -- and the beauty of the models and the locales are brought out more with the bigger area.  Also, there are additional photos for many of the models, giving something with the Portfolio that's not available in the magazine special.

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Portfolio: Idyllic Shores might have been more exciting if so much of it wasn't already shown in its magazine preview.  But that's doesn't detract from the absolute beauty of these models and the locations -- or the extra photographs of this book.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch