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Book Review: Movie London
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Movie London (2008)
Written by Tony Reeves
Titan Books
184 Pages

After the film Notting Hill was released, I had a business trip to London. When I asked a good friend if there was anything she’d like me to get her while I was there, she had one request: “a picture of the blue door from William’s flat in Notting Hill.” She wanted to frame it and put it in her bathroom, which was also blue. It seemed like a simple enough request, and a quick search of the internet revealed the location. Unfortunately, it was all for naught, because once I finally got there, the famous blue door was now black. Just for fun, I decided to see how many other sites from the movie I could find… and quickly got very lost.

Enter Movie London by Tony Reeves.

This meticulous guide is jam-packed with hundreds of movie filming locations throughout London, both past and present. Everything from the obvious (James Bond, Harry Potter) to the obscure (Laughter in Paradise, The Nine Ages of Nakedness) is represented. For the movie buff traveling to London, few guide books could be as indispensable.

The good news is that the guide is very well organized, taking London region by region and detailing anything of movie-related interest that happened there. Handy maps lay out exactly the route you need to take to see all the sites, and small black & white photos help you to make sure you’ve found the right spot (more important sites get color photos in an 8-page inset). If you’re content to follow along with Reeves’ walking tours, you’re guaranteed to be exposed to a side of London that’s every bit as exciting as the most popular tourist destinations.

The bad news is that the guide is not very intuitive for researching specific films, and not every location gets a photo.

Right on the back cover of the book, the introductory text starts out with “Where is Hugh Grant’s famous front door from Notting Hill? How do you find the secret entrance to the Ministry of Magic from Harry Potter, or James Bond’s office? Comprehensive, entertaining, and exhaustively researched, Movie London contains detailed coverage of over 500 films…” Reading that, you’d think that this book was exactly what I needed when I promised my friend to photograph that exact same door. But this is simply not the case. When you look up Notting Hill in the index, you quickly realize that you’ve got your work cut out for you…

NOTTING HILL 8, 38, 40, 48, 52, 78, 81, 82, 83, 95, 98, 125, 146, 157, 158, 161, 168, 169, 172

But which of those nineteen pages has what I’m looking for? What should have been a simple quest has turned into a full-scale investigation. It’s my understanding that previous editions of Movie London were organized by film, instead of location, which makes a lot more sense. Wouldn’t it be easier to have all the Notting Hill locations on a single page for easy reference? Scanning one section to find that blue door would be a lot less work than having to burn through nineteen pages of tiny text!

So… should you buy this book? If you’re heading to London and a walking tour of movie locations sounds appealing, this guide will serve you well. The text is entertaining, educational, and witty… and reading along as you walk the tour route could be a lot of fun. But if you are hoping to scout out locations of specific films, Movie London may be more trouble than it’s worth. A better option might be to use internet searches to get what you need (including the book’s official site at movie-locations.com, which is incredibly well-organized).

At the very least, the book is a fascinating enough read that I recommend checking out the book at your local library. If you’re not already planning a trip to London, this book might make you want to start.

1 Comment »

  1. Not only is the blue door now black, but it’s not even the same door any more, the original having been sold off for charity.

    Comment by The Scribe of Rotten Hill — August 25, 2008 @ 3:05 am

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