Friday, 18 December 2009

Avatar - A Cinematic Breakthrough

OK then, once again I have singularly failed to write a 1,000 word or fewer review for the Sci-Fi channel. o for those who like to know a little more I'm putting the full monty on here. A little short of 2,500 words, I wrote this immediately upon my return from one of the most important films in cinema history,and fortunately one of the best too. So a sprawling, rambling middle of the night attempt to convey in poor, pathetic words just how different, how awe inspiring and how emotional this film is. Virtually nothing looks anything other than real and there are nothing but excellent performances throughout.

Anyway here it is.........

All of this has happened before? No, it hasn’t.

Kick Ass, hella cool, ill, sweet, wicked, sick, dark, quality, Stunning, amazing, dope, the shi*, off the hook, or just plain bloody good stuff. Pick your superlatives, your adjectives, your colloquialisms, your slang and just plain made up words that sound good, for shizzle. They are all useless, redundant and not fit to lace the boots of the person who cleans James Cameron’s toilet. The man is a cinematic genius. Unparallel in his ability to convey visually and through complete and utter total Mise-En-Scene. You have not seen anything like this before; ever.

I'm writing a review but feel that I can't do it justice on one pitiful viewing. I’m insulting the film, insulting the readers and perhaps showing a little hubris in thinking that I’m going to be able to sum up and appraise the work of YEARS, work that took 47 hours per FRAME to bring to life in a few short paragraphs; having seen, no having experienced this event just once. I feel I should be doing what I had to do for G.C.S.E Media studies or A-Level film studies; that I should see the film 2, 3 or 4 times before I dare to write it up. I wrote a fairly decent essay on Cameron’s The Abyss, a criminally underrated movie, for Media Studies.

I’d already watched the film umpteen times but watched it again several more, taking notes and I even screened in the common room at college and observed people’s reactions to the film. I did the same for the classic Western “The Searchers”. I was certain I was going to hate the film but fortunately I loved it. I watched the film several times and wrote several thousand words about it. Sure it was work I needed to do for academic reasons as opposed to a movie review but I’m not just reviewing a movie here. It’s an event, a pivotal moment in cinema history at least on a par with “The Jazz Singer (1927) the first feature length “talking picture” with Synchronised sound in several scenes. How about the first full length Technicolor films, or watching the Wizard Of Oz for the first time and seeing the Sepia tinged “black & white” world of Kansas disappear and get replaced by a stunning vivid primary coloured world?

 In the film the character Quaritch, played to absolute perfection by Stephen Lang, states “You are not in Kansas anymore”; almost as if to remind the viewer that a jump has been made in this film too. It may not be as obvious as going from sepia to colour, the entire film is in glorious yet invisible 3D, (stereoscopic 3D for the nitpickers), but a nudge in the direction that whilst what you are looking at may not seem too different from the 2D film you saw last week with “only” the depth of field to remind you at first, no spears or yo-yos flying into your eyes saying THREE DEE, look we’re in THREE DEE! But the whole experience is just, better because of it. Sure you can watch Star Wars & Star Trek or Goodfellas, The Godfather or Crouching Tiger on an old style 24 inch CRT TV set; the films are still good, well acted, well made but you’re in no way going to enjoy the experience or get close to what was intended visually as much as you will with a 40 inch plus 1080p HD TV with digital 5:1 or 7:1 surround sound. You just aren’t.

Avatar is filmed in a way no other film comes close to. Not Beowulf, not Coraline, certainly not the soulless “Disney’s A Christmas Carol”. Everything is just that bit more real, that extra bit more thrilling or heart breaking. Here is the use for 3D. All movie making tools, like tools in real life, can be used well or used poorly. The reverse Zoom remains one of the most potent and useful tools in a directors armoury. Though it may as yet never have had a better use than in Jaws when poor Chief Brody sees a shark in the water and that magnificent reverse zoom draws the background in close and keeps his face in close up focus is movie legend. In the hands of a lesser director, Roland Emmerich please step forward, it gets wasted, not only because it is used more than once in quick succession completely taking away the impact of the technique but also because it was poorly paced and, in one case, cut partway through. The green screen colour shenanigans of Sin City and 300 are central to the success of those films but, sadly, a complete waste of space in The Spirit. Cameron is a master for sure and he has shown what can be done if 3D is used as a means to further the story, to better tell a story in a visual medium with the best, most immersive visual tools available.

Once again it is a must see film. Whether the story appeals to you or not, whether it is the kind of film you would normally watch or not it is simply a film that anyone who has any idea that they are a film lover simply must see.

To take it back to film studies I had to study a film called “The Birth Of A Nation”. It’s an infamous film for two reasons. Firstly the film is about the birth of the Ku-Klux-Klan. It portrays them as brave heroes banding together to protect the poor white Southern belles who were left behind whilst their husbands, brother and sons went off to war with the slave freeing North. The ladies all being at the mercy of the nasty, savage lusty Negroes. All important black characters played by white actors in black make up of course. The other reason is because it is simply a magnificent film. So many of what we still take for granted in film lore was showcased in that film. Cross cutting with dramatic music from one set of characters racing to get somewhere and another set being attacked, or setting up an ambush. A horrible film, but very important. What has this got to do with Avatar? It’s just a reminder that you don’t always have to like something, or what something has to say to appreciate its significance or that it is a genuine milestone. You may find the film’s nature VS technology storyline isn’t to your tastes, being a huge Miyazaki fan I loved it, but you can still appreciate the sheer beauty of the film and the way that the 3D enhances the genuine three dimensional feel of the film. Swooping up and down Pandora, through Pandora is just so much more vital, kinetic and real because of the enhancements of the 3D filming.

There were tears at the screening I went to, from several people. I don’t know if it’s because I went to the film with women, and there were several others around where I sat that made it seem to have more of an emotional resonance with the audience than it actually did but yes there were tears. I found myself in the bizarre situation of feeling sad about the death of a tree. A tree “dies” in this film and it is tragic, heartbreaking I dare say as tragic as any death I may have seen in any film. A TREE! That’s how good this film is. It is so well directed, so well written, so well performed AND with an amazing motion capture system that translates the facial expressions, the nuances and most importantly the eyes of the actors. You get a genuine performance here and it serves to make the Na’vi look even more real than the fantastic FX guys could have dreamed. James Cameron gets everything right here, including the dialogue. The perfect use of two simple words “my Jake” shows as much. Still a master of banter, see Aliens & The Abyss for a refresher course, Avatar is sprinkled lots of subtle jokes and a decent share of laugh out loud moments to counter balance the many themes and allusions. From both Gulf wars, in particular the treatment of wounded or ill soldiers, to the dangers of losing sight of nature through the support of ever better technology, the pursuit of money at all costs; The displacement of “weaker” species and the assumption that we are smarter than everyone else. The film is not, by any means, anti technology, here Sigourney Weaver and her colleagues are using cutting edge tech to learn and enhance mankind’s knowledge and understanding. Like Star Wars before it this film draws on many others; from Last of The Mohicans to The Princess Mononoke and Castle in The Sky, the story of Pocahontas, The Mission and more. Once again Cameron takes social commentary and hides it in a spectacular film.

Here’s where I get to the problem. You see I liked Iron Man. I thought it was lots of fun and very well made. I have been looking forward to the trailer for Iron Man II and have high hopes for it being even better than 1. But here in Avatar we’ve had flights on the back of “Dragons”, taking us in all 3 dimensions. Again it isn’t the fact that we get a lot of objects thrown in our faces, it’s the depth of field, the way that the makes the action come alive. In a way that 2D just cannot replicate. So no matter how good it looks or how fantastic the action it will be it won’t be in 3D. It won’t have that extra thrill that bit of good old movie magic.

Yes the state of the art has improved people and it’s going to be a while before we see the likes of Avatar again. It will be interesting to see if the Screen Actors’ Guild finally gets over their fear of being supplanted by Synthespians and look at the performances here. The eyes the facial expressions as well as the body language has been masterfully captured and transferred, unerringly to the CGI Na’vi and Avatars. If you’ve ever seen Sigourney Weaver act you can see that her Avatar, her young mid 20s looking Avatar, is a perfect transfer of her performance. Zoe Saldana gets a larger role than she had in Star Trek but delivers another excellent performance. Here she acts as well as any other actress I’ve seen this year and there is a real chemistry between her and Worthington’s Jake Sully. A chemistry that transcends the CGI rendering of their performances. Whilst Saldana had the privilege of being in another good Sci-Fi film this year, playing Uhura in Star Trek, Worthington had the misfortune of being one of only about 3 good things in the poorly written and poorly realised Terminator Salvation. He has remarked that he’ll have to take a much closer look at his scripts in the future to make sure the quality of film he is in better in the future. Well I doubt he thought twice when offered the chance to be in a James Cameron film and there’s a whole universe of difference in the calibre of Avatar as compared to Terminator Salvation. Of course this is again there’s some irony here given that Cameron created the Terminator and his writing and directing skills have been sorely missed in parts 3 & 4 of that series. I cannot overstate how “real” everything looks. Whilst talking about the film on the way home we were all talking about how much we’d like to live there and how we’d love to live there as Na’vi.

So there you have it as spoiler free as it can be. I know it meant I spent a lot of words on things not directly to do with Avatar itself but I really wanted to put the film into a proper context, to show why it is the most important film at least 30 years and to convey that despite what has been sinfully dubbed as a “tree hugger” storyline we have a film that without 3D would go down as one of the most exciting AND best Sci-Fi films of the 21st century and of all time and that may, in the fullness of time and repeated viewing, Join a few of Cameron’s earlier films in the list of best films of all time.

Golden Globe nominations for best film and Director are sure to be replicated come Oscar nom time, the only question remains will any of the actors will make it. Some of them deserve to, I’ll let you make up your own minds as to who they are when you watch the film. I haven’t seen a better film this year, although I have yet to see “Up in The Air” or “Invictus”. There have been several comments made about the film’s ability to surpass Titanic as the biggest film of all time. Such talk is daft and putting way too much pressure on the film.....

Not because of the quality of it compared to Titanic but just because that film was such a freak in modern movie going times. Making more money every week then dropping tiny amounts in it’ weekend grosses for weeks then months at a time. In the era of huge openings then large drop off Titanic performed like a film from the golden age when TV was still a novelty and black & white there were no video games and going to movies was a way of life. It certainly has the quality to make a LOT of money and to do so for a long period. Having seen it in 3D many people will want to go IMAX, people will watch this film again and again, especially as there will be no way to own this movie in True 3D, at an affordable price, for some time yet.

I have to go but I’ll say it again. A tree “dies” and people in the audience cried. A film has made me feel an emotional tie to a TREE. That’s how good it is.

You are the resistance.

See this film, see it again in IMAX show Hollywood that whilst popcorn movies are fun this, this is our kind of film and we want more please. Clone Cameron now!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Avatar. Too good for words.

I'll get a real review up soon.I was blown away. Simple as that.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Avatar: The Weight of Expectation | Sci Fi UK

Avatar: The Weight of Expectation Sci Fi UK

Avatar: The Weight of Expectation | Sci Fi UK

I wrote this this very afternoon. Well i suppose yesterday afternoon and it pretty much got edited and on site straight away. The latest in a soon to be exhausted line of Avatar articles. It could well end up being the film the decade. In fact in several, technical, ways it already is.

Avatar: The Weight of Expectation Sci Fi UK

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

I'll be back..............................

Sorry people, I know I've been away for a while. Long story short I've been really ill and truth be told had a lot of bad news on a family level.

Still here I am and late or not Sci-Fi Channel have finally put up my New Moon review. It's meant to be a lead in to a few more articles about the anti-Twilight fervour and Vamps and Werewolves in the 21st Century. It went on a bit as the website articles have a word level of 900 - 1100 words max and my review came out at around 2,200 words. I did put in a break point so there was a chance to split it in two but it's ended up as a shortened 1 piece instead. That's fine and it still reeads well but I'm putting up the full, unedited version here. Like Twilight, loathe Twilight, it's all up to an individual reaction, but regardless of that I just don't buy into the idea that it's somehow inferior and devoid of meaning. As you can see here.......

Does this make them look fat?

Buffy, Blade and Twilight in the underworld.

New Moon. Vampires do NOT exist!

OK I’m a little late with this as far as the release of New Moon goes but I have my reasons. By now you should have read the two, differing, reviews of New moon here;

This time last year was at “war” with the usual internet bad boys over on such sites as Aint It cool News. War is their term not mine I assure you. You see there was the film, which none of us had seen based on a book I’d never heard of called Twilight. I’d seen the trailers and marked it down as film that looked worth 2 hours of my life. But you see apparently these film was aimed at female viewers, Cardinal sin number one and it had a slightly different take on what a Vampire is, Cardinal sin number 2. There was also a lot of stuff flying around about the books being Mormon Propaganda. Again as I’d never read it I couldn’t speak to that point but as for the rest I couldn’t have cared less. I’ll get into that whole thing in the next part of this series but the thing that amused me the most was that for a few minutes I allowed myself to get into a debate as to what vampires can or can’t do, or should or shouldn’t do. Then my inner voice did a roundhouse kick on my brain and reminded me that Vampires DO NOT EXIST (as far as we know) so it doesn’t matter what any author says they can or can’t do. It’s with that point in mind, and extended to Vampires and other mythical creatures that this review is written. I can’t go into the borderline sexists, borderline misogynistic fervour that surrounds reviews, commentary and so called banter re: Twilight without first reviewing New moon.

So let’s crunch the numbers

According to Variety a little over two years ago when Twilight was being offered to non-US distributors there had been a little over one million copies sold. By last week that had risen to over 84 million! That’s a pretty impressive jump by any standards! It probably goes some way towards explaining how New Moon took the opening midnight ($26.3m) and opening day ($72.7m) records in the US; both taken from The Dark Knight. Even more impressive the film had a global opening weekend take of $266.9m with $142.8 from North America and $124.1 from the rest of us. For those that care we little ol Brits contributed $18.7m to that total.

So why all the borax Ev? Well I just needed to point out how insanely popular both the books AND the films are; there’s also the exit polls giving the movie an A- rating and mostly good vibes from the majority of people who went to see it. (As far as exit polls can tell anyway). Better yet the get out clause for the “haters”, that it’s all just mindless, insipid teen / tween, (who else hates that word? TWEEN bah!!), girls watching these films. Well the percentage of patrons under 21 may have increased since Twilight but there’s still 50% of the audience over 21. In other words there are more people like me, adults 18 or over, watching new Moon than there are screaming girlies.

Now I’ll be fair there is plenty here for screaming girlies to well scream at if they want. The slow motion shirt removals of Edward, (Robert “pasty” Pattinson), or the near permanent shirt off style of the far better looking Jacob, (Taylor “I’m only 17 you lusty M.I.L.Ks” Lautner.) But there’s plenty to pay attention to story wise as well. Now I’ll not try to pretend otherwise here I’m a werewolf man. Pure and simple ever since I was a little kid I knew that if I had to become a supernatural creature then a werewolf was what I would be. Bizarrely enough I even remember praying that I could become a werewolf as a replacement for a fancy dress costume for a junior school party. I was so sure God was going to answer that prayer! So when we get to the description of the Cullen’s life in Forks I screamed out in a whisper,” The native Americans are Werewolves!” I’ll admit, even though I was enjoying the film it jumped up 100 points in my excitement scale as soon as that scene finished; all the more so at the end when Jacob delivers the warning. Now I don’t want to get all Harry Knowles pre Underworld, but Vampires and Werewolves a woo hoo & hoo. Bring on new Moon I thought. When I heard Summit were going all Back to the Future pts 2 & 3 with the Twilight movies I decided not to read the books until I’d seen the first 3 films. 19 months wasn’t too long to wait I thought.

So with no idea how the story would flow, everyone else I was with had read the books and swore not to spoil anything for me, I immediately settled into feeling sorry for Jacob. Sure they didn’t force him to keep his terrible extensions for too long but it seemed to me that the movies are Vampire centric. Therefore poor old 16 year old wereboy was headed down friendship road straight to unrequited lovesville. Worse yet Bella’s love is something Jacob despises, instinctively. You see I saw several themes running through this “simple” film. One of them was the issue of love, real or imagined and its effects on both adults and teenagers. Now for the simple folk in the audience this theme was spelled out in large flashing lights onscreen with the appearance of Romeo and Juliet. Still somehow considered to be one of the most romantic books of all time one of its triumphs is having Romeo be a complete and utter idiot. You see he spends all of his spare time moaning about how he’s in love with some woman he really has no true feeling for at all. E has no idea of what love is, but he thinks he does. Then he meets Juliet and suddenly he knows, feel to the very deepest core of his body that he’s been an idiot, that he has had no idea what country love was in, let alone what it actually was. Now he knows, now he knows true love, that thing that you cannot imagine existing without, that thing that makes every single second of your past life simply a means to bring you to this point, to this person. That your life doesn’t belong to you anymore, but to that he or she you are now in love with. There’s a theory that flies around pretty much every adult that teenagers do not know what love is and are hence incapable of being in love. This stems from the contradiction of parenthood that you don’t want anyone fooling around with your kid (daughters especially!) and that you want them happy and married with dozens of kids. To me this film tackles that head on.


Turning 18 at the movies start, Bella is technically and adult, but is she really in love? Truly, madly deeply? Or just that teen approximation that feels oh so, so important, but as Romeo discovered is not the real thing. Edward knows of this, stuck at 17 but with a century’s wisdom he knows that as 18 turns to 21 to 23 that love turns out to be just an intense liking mixed with lust and hormones. This is why he keeps asking Bella for time. Jacob is only 16 with an almighty crush on an older woman, even if it’s only a couple of years older, and a terrible, X-Men like puberty issue making whatever he does feel somehow exponentially greater. His is most likely to be that teen love that burns hard and bright but oh too fast and all too soon is gone. I maybe wrong there as far as the books go, but I think Chris Weitz does an excellent job here, no doubt drawing on his good experiences with American Pie and About a Boy, to take the three paths of discovery and run with them, never quite giving away the final destination. Edward is definitely in love, Bella and Jacob think they are and we are there to see if they do and what it means.

So there I am feeling sorry for Jacob identifying with that whole teenager feeling so much for that girl that you got to just a week, a day an hour too late. Still friends and forever thinking if I’d only asked her out yesterday! Seriously that happened to me. Asked a girl out at 9 in the morning when the other guy had been smart enough to ask her at 7pm the day before! Aaaarrrggghhh!!!

That miserable cry of self pity leads me down the road to another theme I saw in New Moon; Emotional instability, the infamous scourge of the hormonally charged teenager. I’ll start with Bella. I’ve read a lot of reviews, a LOT of reviews that don’t seem to like Bella’s reaction to effectively being dumped. Now I haven’t gotten the scholars at Manchester University to start researching this but I’d guess most people have had the misfortune / fortune to be dumped at least once in their life. Generally it isn’t a good feeling. When you’re a teenager it sucks like a Dyson on turbo. If you’re in love? How did you react? Bella’s night terrors very effectively set the scene not only for how deeply she feels and THINKS she is suffering but also gives us a reason to believe throughout the rest of the film that the nice, friendly shirtless pretty boy she spends all her time with remains just a friend. Without such an extreme reaction, the director / writer go to the trouble of having her dad tell the audience that it isn’t normal, we wouldn’t really believe it. We should also consider the fact that Bella appears to be more than human herself, as such who knows what could happen to her. Forget the teen issue I’ve know plenty of men and women who seemed entirely unable to function when they lost their husbands / wives / partner. So why should Bella be any different? I know of a person, around 18 years old who attempted suicide over a boy who wasn’t going to be her boyfriend. They weren’t even dating, so my personal tolerance for an 18 year olds reaction to losing someone they think they love is pretty high. Break ups / rejection are still considered to be key reasons for teen suicides too; I would imagine that would be all the more likely in people with low self esteem to begin with. Bella is clearly seen to be completely nonplussed by Edward’s interest in her.

So Bella loses emotional control and her life basically ends as a result, this is nicely depicted in camera rotation that takes us around and around Bella’s depressed figure as the months roll by. Edward continues to fight his instinctive desire for Bella’s blood but better than that even harder is his self control in leaving her so she will not be endangered by the dark side of his world. His Romeoesque lack of control when he assumes Bella is lost to him leads everyone down an ever more dangerous road.

The films actual heroes are the werewolves. We’re given several frightening insights into the dangers of their world. None more so than when we meet Emily, fiancée of the Wolf pack leader Sam. A terrible scar, which oddly reminded me Quaritch’s in Avatar, stands as a constant reminder of the dangers of the Werewolves losing their temper. A reviewer remarked that a scene where Jacob warns not to make him angry was reminiscent of The Hulk in a bad way. Oddly enough it isn’t Bruce Banner gets mad and Hulks out it is bad news for sure but he’d never harm Betty. Angering the young Werewolves is very dangerous as they are prone to spontaneous and uncontrollable transformations. As in the case of Emily and Sam and the close call Bella has whilst she bravely, but mistakenly attempts to stand up for Jacob. Releasing their excess energies by cliff diving the Werewolves have been keeping people safe from rogue vampires, spectacularly demonstrated in a Peter Jackson style chase through woods. It was obvious that Victoria was meant to survive for future appearances but having gone to the trouble of advising us that the werewolves were faster than Vampires it should have been a wee bit trickier for Victoria to escape. Having seen a similar scene in Avatar where ducking and weaving only take Jake so far and he is twice caught by his pursuer, escaping by the skin of his back by diving into water. A little wolf style surprise attacks from the sides would have been cool too. The effects were certainly better than in the Ultra low budget Twilight, although they hardly made a big increase here, $50m for a movie of this size is miserly and Chris Weitz’s experience, good and bad, from The Golden Compass appear to have served him well. The Black Werewolf is pretty poor but the others are pretty impressive and neither the budget nor Summit’s ridiculously tight schedule have helped the filmmakers here. An extra month or two of rendering time can work wonders, just ask James Cameron re Avatar or better yet Stephen Sommers about his experience with a studio’s tight schedule and a certain Playstation 1 Scorpion King. It was almost as bad as the “snake” in the latest Orange Wednesdays ad! Sci-Fi Wire were pretty brutal in their description of the lighting in Twilight. They make it seem as though it hasn’t been considered at all. It just looks like the director / cinematographer decided that the only way they could make the daywalker angle really fly was if they made everything seem very dull. I get that choice and I’m sure many directors would have made the same one. Weitz doesn’t necessarily have that problem as the Vampire scenes in Forks are minimal. His lighting better reflects and highlights the ever shirtless Werewolves and also serves to visually highlight the world minus vampires. Cinematography is excellent here and yes, it does look better than twilight.

Next a look at some of the different Vampires we’ve been treated to in the 21st century and why are so many fan-boys up in arms over the Twilight Vampires and the Twi-hards.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Caroline's Echo? | Sci Fi UK

Caroline's Echo? Sci Fi UK

Just a little bit about Dollhouse as "commissioned" by the Sci-Fi website.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Vampires, Lesbians and stakes, Oh My! | Sci Fi UK

Here's the first of a fair few articles I've had the good fortune to be asked to write for The Sci-Fi channel. I'll put the full review up here soon but for now please check it out and feel free to leave comments, but don't expect my phone number! :)

Vampires, Lesbians and stakes, Oh My! | Sci Fi UK

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Friday, 2 October 2009

Best Tv themes ever... SciFi & Fantasy

Buffy the theme music Slayer!

Ok 3 – 2 – 1 let’s Jam

So I made a pretty bold statement the other day. I said Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s theme music was hands down one of the top 3 or so theme tunes in TV history. I’m right by the way, but here’s your chance to vote from a specially selected list of some of the most iconic, catchy or downright so weird they have to make it (Farscape) TV tunes ever. We’re talking Sci-Fi and Fantasy shows here.

I’ve put a pretty big mix on here with handy YouTube embeds so you can remind yourself about the 1st Dido song you ever heard from the show Roswell or the insanely catchy tune from Outlaw Star. I’ve also left a hand space for those of you who can’t believe I left out Megas XLR or Battlestar MkII can add your own to the list.

Here's a direct link for when the poll doesn't fully load.

Vote away.................................

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Orson Scott Card

What seems like aeons ago I stated that I was going to be writing a fair bit about Ender's game the book, the graphic novel (comic for the fearless) and the criminally delayed movie.

Well I've been very fortunate in that Mr. Card has kindly agreed to answer some questions of mine about Ender, Ultimate Iron Man and many other things hopefully. Definitely NOT what his favourite colour is though.

I know he's one of the best authors around, when it comes to answering fan questions, but as I'm asking both as a fan AND as a contributor to the Sci-Fi channel website I still feel pretty privileged. He's one of my favourite authors, writer of what I consider to be one of the best books around, as well as numerous other quality works. If anyone has a serious question feel free to let me know, although I may be pushing my luck a little with the number of questions I already have.

Thanks for reading and if you haven't yet read Ender's game.... go, buy it, read it, read it again.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

This is NOT a joke, seriously........

This is so bizarre, especially the Red Shirt one.............

No, I don't want it for Christmas

Sunday, 20 September 2009

UK & US weekly film charts

Here we go again. The UK & US charts from last week; Friday the 11th to Thursday the 17th.

US Charts courtesy of and UK chart courtesy of pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, pa pa pa. pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, paaaaaaaaaaaa, Pearl & Dean!

UK Weekly Box Office Sep 11 - Sep 17 

1.) District 9 (15)

2.)The Final Destination (15)

3.) Dorian Gray (15)

4.) Sorority Row (15)

5.) 500 Days Of Summer (12A)

                                       6.) Julie & Julia (12A)

                                       7.) Inglourious Basterds (18)
                                       8.) Aliens In The Attic (PG)

                                       9.) Funny People (15)

                                     10.) Adventureland (15)

                                       US Weekly Box Office Sep 11 - Sep 17 

1.) Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself. - $27,872,109

2.) 9 - $17,354,943

3.) Inglourious Basterds - $106,298,665

4.) All About Steve  - $23,278,421

                                      5.) The Final Destination  - $60,016,733

                                      6.) Whiteout  -  $6,422,590

                                      7.) Sorority Row - $6,380,984

                                      8.) District 9  - $109,772,206

                                      9.) Gamer - $17,583,862

                                     10.) Julie & Julia  - $4,485,999

Featured author on Sci-fi channel website. Is Pulitzer to follow?!

Strangely enough you have to scroll to the bottom to see me, but I have the honour of being the current Featured Author on The Sci-Fi channel's website.

Surely a column in The Times and a Pulitzer prize are just months away!

OK maybe not, but it's still cool, in a geeky kind of way.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

3D Like it? Love it? Loathe it? Take the poll and let us know.

Hopefully you've read part one of my 3D series on the Scu-Fi channel's website. Right? Part two is due up any day now and having had a few telephone interviews with the players in the new push for 3D TV parts 4, 5 and 6 will be up soon too.

I need your help here to see what people think about 3d at the moment. Please fill in the (very short) poll and leave any comments you may have here or on the Sci-fi website. (Sci-Fi website is cool as it makes me look even more popular.) :)

Saturday, 12 September 2009

UK & US weekly film charts

A new featuure for me, it will get better I promise.
US Charts courtesy of and UK chart courtesy of pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, pa pa pa. pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, pa pa, paaaaaaaaaaaa Pearl & Dean

UK Box office

1-District 9 (15)
A live action sci-fier about a fictional world where extraterrestrials have become refugees in South Africa

2-The Final Destination (15)
In "FINAL DESTINATION: DEATH TRIP 3D" a teen's premonition of a deadly race-car crash spares his life and those of few lucky others, but death continues to stalk them...

3-500 Days Of Summer (12A)
When Tom (Jason "BRICK" Gordon-Levitt), a hapless greeting card copywriter and hopeless romantic, is blindsided after his girlfriend Summer (Zooey ("ELF") Deschanel) dumps him, he shifts back and forth through various periods of their 500 days 'together' to try to figure out where things went wrong

4-Inglourious Basterds (18)
The film "INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS" starring a large ensemble cast including Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, French actress Melanie Laurent, horror film writer/director Eli Roth, and Mike Meyers, is set during WWII in Nazi-occupied France...

5-Funny People (15)
George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a very successful yet self-involved stand-up comedian who learns that he has an inoperable blood disorder and is given less than a year to live..

6-Aliens In The Attic (PG)
A group of kids on a family vacation must fight off an attack by knee-high alien invaders with world-destroying ambitions--while the youngster's parents remain clueless about the battle....

7-The Time Traveler's Wife (12A)
Clare has been in love with Henry her entire life, she believes they are destined to be together, even though she never knows when they will be separated: Henry is a time traveler...

8-G-force 3-d (PG)
A 3D animated/live action feature about a team of trained secret agent animals: guinea pigs Darwin (Sam Rockwell), Juarez (Penélope Cruz), Blaster (Tracy Morgan), mole Speckles (Nicolas Cage), and fly Mooch (Edwin Louis)....

9-Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (12A)
Voldemort is tightening his grip on both the Muggle and wizarding worlds and Hogwarts is no longer the safe haven it once was....

10-Broken Embraces (15)
Pedro Almodovar teams up with Penelope ("ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER") Cruz once again in "BROKEN EMBRACES" ("LOS ABRAZOS ROTOS"), a drama set in the 1990's, but shot with a '50s noir sensibility....

North American Box office

1. Final Destination, The (Warner Bros.)
2. Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company)
3. All About Steve (20th Century Fox)
4. Gamer (Lionsgate)
5. District 9 (Sony)
6. Julie & Julia (Sony)

7. Halloween II (The Weinstein Company)
8. GI Joe (Paramount)
9. Extract (Miramax)
10. Time Traveler's Wife.

Data provided by Rentrak

The 21st century 3D revolution: part 1 Now on Sci-Fi

 OK sorry it's been a while betweens posts.

My latest series has its first instalment posted on today. It's about the latest attempt to get 3D cinema up and running, why it's happening how and why we should care. It's also going to deal with 3D video gaming, which is probably the most likely way that home 3D is going to take off.

Side by side with this is the growing campaign to get 3D TV up and running. 3D ready TVs are getting better, cheaper (still around £2,500!) and more varied and soon to be Joining the Japanese BSkyB are to launch Europe's first 3D channel next year.

Here's a peek, please remember to go over to and read the whole thing, whilst telling the world how great it is.

Films, Football and games, Oh My!

If you've been anywhere near a cinema over the past 20 months or so you'll be aware that the third big push of 3D Cinema is at hand. If, like me, you're a glutton for the latest hi-tech news you'll also be aware that a similar push, most likely centred on Sports and gaming, has quietly been gathering pace in the Television department. As is often the way, when it comes to home entertainment, there are several differing methods and technologies vying for supremacy in the home 3D market, and not much in the way of a unified battle plan either. On the cinema front sporadic screenings of films like Chicken Little and Monster house notwithstanding, the third age of 3D cinema truly began with the Christmas 2007 release of the much underappreciated Beowulf.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Fantasy is Back Part 4 of the Trilogy with 33.333% extra FREE!

Hey Hey

As Promised the 4th and final part of my fantasy series for the Sci-Fi channel's website is now up.
 It ran a little long so my editor, Pete (great guy even if he needs to watch more Miyazaki films!) wisely trimmed a bit off the end. You can read the whole blog here, but as always I'd love for you to check it out on the site and leave some comments.

Fantasy is back a Trilogy in 3 + 1 parts. Pt 4

Fantasy was taking the 21st Century by storm, in much the same way that Science Fiction had the last quarter of the 20th Century. Harry Potter raced to its third movie, (the first actually decent movie), and Lord of the Rings was reaching its glorious, Oscar laden, climax. The first, probable, result of their success, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the extremely long titles had arrived to the surprise of most in Hollywood and to the pleasure of the movie going public. Its supernatural themes setting it and its even more successful sequels firmly in the Fantasy realm shared with Sinbad, rather than the pirate / swashbuckling movie pirate realm.

So there we were, in the era that was supposed to see a Star Wars trilogy leading Science fiction swiftly back to the top of the box office, with not one, not two but THREE fantasy film series proving more popular than the legendary sci-fi goliath. In the meantime Universal rushed out a Mummy sequel, it was another financial success and a children’s favourite, but one does wonder what might have been if they’d shown any amount of patience and allowed time for a better story to be written and, let’s face it, better effects to be rendered. There were other missteps rising out of the rush to make all things fantasy into movies.
The brilliantly conceived, but only partially realised Van Helsing was much more of a financial success than the media would have you believe; it was also more entertaining than certain sources suggest, but it was flawed. It was perhaps a victim of two, very important faults. Firstly, the film simply tried to do too much. It may have been better to add more meat to the bones of the many characters in the film and split it into two or three movies. There’s a lot of potential “untold” story and character development hiding behind the special effects sequences, even the Cartoon prequel could actually have been added to the start of the film lending more time and care to the Mr. Hyde chase. The second was t he casting. Sometimes a person can be TOO good for a role. Hugh Jackman is a fantastic actor, perhaps still a little under-appreciated in some quarters. His portrayal of Logan / Wolverine in the first two X-men films is dead on, (Yes Wolverine is about 30cm shorter than Jackman and his berserker side and killing skills have been used sparingly or not at all in the movies to date) but I defy you to fail to be moved when Rogue asks Logan if it hurts when he extends his claws and Jackman replies softly, “Every time”, the voice pitch, the expression, all of it is note perfect; as his attitude and desire to learn who he is. For those of you thinking “Hey Everton, wake up! You’re doing it again, get back on topic, we’re reading Fantasy, not X-Men!” I say HAH! I am still on topic, you see VanHelsing, as written by Stephen Sommers is basically Wolverine with Blade style gadgets and a slightly better, less amusing, attitude. Also you could argue better hair. So having watched the supreme X2 a year earlier we watched an inferior movie with Wolverine running around, looking for his past, without his Adamantium and yes turning out to have a very bestial dark side.
As mentioned above Van Helsing did not reach the financial heights of the Mummy films but was still a significant money maker.
The studios continued to rush into any fantasy related media in the hopes of making, not only a big movie, but of replicating the “franchise” success of the Rings and Potter movies. The dark is rising; his dark materials, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The Chronicles of Narnia and more were all rushed into production. So far only the Narnia series has definitely achieved Franchise status, thanks to the baffling response to The Lion The Witch & the Wardrobe. There was certainly a Christian push given to the story because of Aslan’s Christ like resurrection and other Christian themes thought to run through the book, but after the Lord of the Rings, and even the post Chris Columbus Potter movies, it was incredibly blah. Not awful, the source material is too good for that, but made with a decided lack of imagination. Tilda Swinton’s White Witch added much needed class, but pretty much everything else, from the flat direction given to Aslan’s voice, through the uninspired realisation of the “magical” creatures and the failure to realistically portray onscreen one of the most difficult parts of the book to believe. Not the creatures, or the reincarnation or Narnia itself. It’s the battles. You see 4 kids with no experience of any of the martial arts, not even fisticuffs. Yet the get pitched into the middle of a brutal war. Not just any war but one with fearsome creatures, with the strength of 10 men, and claws and swords and teeth. With no training at all they join battle and despite looking like children trying to hold weapons that are just a little too heavy and that they don’t quite know how to use. There really didn’t seem to be any imagination there.
Maugrim, the head of the White witch’s secret police is a wolf. That’s it, just an ordinary wolf; Ok he could talk but other than that just a regular, rather sledge dog looking, wolf. Now anyone who’s seen 300 should remember the storybook wolf at the start of the tale; Giant, with demon like eyes and death black fur. That’s what Maugrim should have been like, perhaps a little smaller but much more the “big, bad, wolf “of real faerie tales than a cute petting Zoo specimen. The far superior Prince Caspian made only 60% of the final gross of the Wardrobe movie, perhaps adding weight to the argument that the first film was less than satisfactory. Disney dropped their association with the “franchise” but Fox quickly snapped up distribution rights and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader is being filmed as you read this. (Well unless it’s midnight, or you’re reading this a year from now.)
So here we are at 2009. Two more tales from Middle Earth are on the way in the shape of two films based on The Hobbit. The final Harry Potter book is also being split into two films. A remake of Clash of the Titans is due in March 2010 and we have another Pirates of the Caribbean movie on the way. However it is a proposed trilogy of films based on a children’s cartoon that could prove to be fantasy’s Next big thing. More on Avatar: The Last Airbender or The last Airbender as the movie is known in “A Tale of Two Avatars” part II.

Guy Ritchie to Direct Lobo movie

Breaking News.

Breaking Superhero book to movie news

Guy Ritchie has been hired to direct the Movie version of Lobo, the Dc comic book character. Created in the 80s as an extreme parody of Wolverine he achieved super cult status in the 90s and then went the way of all parodies; downhill. Still popular with his fan base he is a perfect movie character and Ritchie is very good when on form so let's hope it works out.

What price a film version of the Marvel/DC Amalgam series where Lobo actually gets into a fight with the object of his comedic origin Wolverine. Fans were more than a little surprised when a bone clawed (and thus severely weaker) Wolverine went toe to toe with and beat Lobo. Lobo had been seen trading blows with Superman and no matter how much you love Wolverine, even with adamantium on his bones Logan aint that strong bub.

You are the resistance!

Fantay is back part three

Hi there,

Part three of my "Fantasy is back" series on The Sci-Fi channel's website is up now.
The final part will be up tomorrow. Please feel free to leave comments as it's always good to get a discussion going.

Thanks for reading and remember,

You are The resistance!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Ender's Game: The most exciting book never filmed?

So after two weeks posting about movies and the various articles I've had up on I'm finally getting to the bones of what this site should be all about. Books into movies. The Good the bad and yet to filmed. It's only right that i start with a book that is one of my favourite all time books. ENDER'S GAME! It is a magnificent work and has been complemented by another vook set during the same timeline ENDER's SHADOW. Together they would make an absoloutely magnificent film. It's always possible it could be two films, but a nice Lord of the Rings length epic could really be one of the all time great Science fiction films of all time.

The books have been transformed into a comic book series and graphic Novels. ( I am currently reading these). I hope to encourage as many people as I can to read the Novel and it's sequels / spin offs; to give an outline of the developement hell that has been te efforts to make a film of ender's game. I know, I know if a book is worth movifying (Another real word i assure you!) it has to have at least five years and three studios before it even thinks about actually being a film!

I'm expecting this series to be another of those that I have placed on the Sci-fi channel's UK website, but that is of course up to my editor/ so far he has been eager to use every idea I've thrown at him, in fact there are about ten blogs backed up on his laptop right now waiting for breathing space on the website.

So for now think of this as more like a taster for the information to come and please take the time to find Ender's game for yourselves. If you are even 10% as thrilled by it as I am you can help in the crusade to get it made into a film, and a great film at that.

The most underrated Sci-Fi & Fantasy films of all time. Pt1 The Abyss. SE

The most underrated Sci-Fi films of all time!

One of the real bonus points of getting the opportunity to blog for is “meeting” sci-fi and fantasy fans from all over the world. This allows you start again all those wonderful discussions / arguments you’ve had with your analogue friends on countless Friday nights instead of doing sensible things like, go to sleep. To meet kindred spirits who love that film that you began to think nobody else had ever seen or, Tank Girl I’m looking at you, who agree that a film is so bad it’s good & not just so bad it’s really, really bad! Perhaps more a little misunderstood because the humour just didn’t ring true for most of the tiny, tiny number of people who watched it. The line “Two Dollars and 15 cents“is guaranteed to bring my house to a standstill as Louise and I enter uncontrollable fits of laughter and everyone else edges themselves stealthily towards the exit!
Now don’t panic; I know what you’re thinking. Who cares what Everton thinks if he rates Tank Girl as one of the most underrated Sci-fi films of all time? Don’t worry, I may find amusement in it, and even think it’s a little misunderstood, but in the main I can see the faults, even if like a favourite old pair of shoes, or that leather jacket I had for 10 years, I can see right through the faults to the comfy bits.

Still, before I get to interesting part... (Oops schoolboy journo error! The MORE interesting part)... I’ll have to define what I mean by underrated. Generally people look at two things when it comes classing a film as underrated, AKA cult. Critical opinion and cold hard cash! Many films that are now considered to be classics, like It’s a Wonderful life and the Searchers both had mixed fortunes at the box office and with critics, although Life did garner some Oscar nominations. Both are now widely considered two of the best films of all time. Long story short (I know too late) just because a film made a decent amount of money, doesn’t mean people thought it was any good (Hancock, Harry Potter 1 or 2, The Day After Tomorrow), and just because the critics didn’t get it doesn’t mean it wasn’t great (Blade Runner, The Thing).
I’m hoping to get you guys talking and see what films you guys think. Blade Runner is firmly established as a “classic” now so perhaps listing it as underrated is kind of redundant now?
Anyone who’s ever read anything I’ve said about James Cameron will know that I rate “The Abyss” very highly indeed. OK that’s not quite right. I rate The Abyss highly; I rate “The Abyss: The Directors Cut” extremely highly. Foolishly cut down by Fox because they considered its 171 minute running time too long and likely to lose the film money, due to one less showing per day. These were the pre hyper-multiplex days of 1989. Perhaps more importantly they were also the pre Lord of the Rings 3 hour movies are ok days. Ripping the guts out of the, very important, subplot making the ending slightly confusing and worse the film kind of just stops. Bud gets rescued, spend a few seconds with the “aliens” and they take him and the other survivors up to the surface and the film ends. It made the ending less satisfying. A lot less satisfying.
Oh I still liked it. It was good, exciting science fiction. There was a good anti war message, struggling to get out around the cuts, and I LOVED the titanium toilet ring. It also reminded me why I seriously have no interest in working underwater. Cameron ratchets up tension in a way that makes even 80s Spielberg seem like he’s playing chess with the old folks! Situations go from worse to apocalyptic in stupendously entertaining ways. The Benthic rig getting dragged towards the Abyss seems harrowing enough but then the crane starts to fall, phew it didn’t crush them, but Ah, Now it’s dragging them to the Abyss again. The mixture of camerawork is perfect switching from dollys to Steadicam to hand held at just the right moments tracking the numerous poor souls who are just not quite going to escape drowning.

Because of my age The Abyss was the first Cameron film I got to see. Later, watching The Terminator and Aliens (Aliens: The Director’s cut too) I could clearly see the progression of his style, both of writing and directing. Match cutting, atmospheric lighting and an unmatched ability to use exposition without slowing a film down. Cameron’s characters explain on the move. Think Sarah and Kyle in The Terminator. The basic plot of the film, who Kyle is what the Terminator is and why there all there is explained on the run, on foot, in cars. In the Abyss we get to know the rig as we see it being towed along the ocean floor or as steadycams glide down its tunnels. The Cameron staple that is a strong female character is here too, as in Aliens there are several. The Abyss is still most well known for the quantum leap in Special effects that was the “water tentacle”. Evolved out of the morphing technology in Willow it was genuinely one of those moments in cinema never seen before. It was also a moment that served the story and allowed it to be told to better effect. There’s no, we “need a scene with a water thingy that copies people’s faces write one in”. Terminator 2 was slicker, (and much better or is that much deeper than people tend to think) and perhaps more accessible but it is in The Abyss that Cameron perfects his movie style. That style, or blueprint, can be seen in the rest of his work, in the purely entertaining True Lies and in Titanic the “exponential endings” (tm & copyright thank you) that is Cameron’s trademark are used again. In fact it’s Cameron’s mastery of expomantial endings that make the original cut of that film so unsatisfactory. The film races on through each of the endings in sequence and there’s neither enough breathing space between each ending nor a significant emotional payoff to make sitting through them worthwhile.

A good way to illustrate why Cameron is the master of this technique would be to look at pretty much any Renny Harlin film. ~He seems to be a student of the Cameron school of moviemaking, but unfortunately he spent too much time partying and dropped out in the final year. Take the long kiss goodnight. There’s a decent film hiding in there, but it never ends. Everyone dies, but they don’t, Samuel L Jackson dies, but doesn’t things crash on bridges and blow up but still it isn’t over, I bet they’re still making that film now and on ending 734! In The Abyss you care about Bud, Lindsey and in the director’s cut the rest of the world too. It’s also got one of the best film scores I’ve ever heard.
I’ll get to another film in my most underrated list in another blog, but please let us know what yours are and why.

You are the resistance.

Terminator 5 & Salvation updates

For those who remain sceptical as to the average at best status of T4 I have a few quotes from the Director McG and one of the stars Sam Worthington. They both admit that the film was not up to the expected standard, had many incredibly daft sequences and was bascially just not good enough.

Sadly McG has somehow managed to avoid the sack and is still on course to direct the next one!?!?!?!?! Lord save us!

McG says...
"I think the film missed some of the fun that Jim brought to the early pictures. I'm a disciple of Jim ... and clearly I didn't do a good enough job on that picture and I didn't satisfy the fan base to the degree that I
would expect to satisfy them. And I take that very seriously and I'll just work that much more diligently to make sure I do that in the next one"#

Worthington says...

"Worthington added that he even agreed with some of the nitpicks about the movie, such as: How does a giant robot sneak up on an abandoned gas station without making a sound?

"I can nitpick with the best of them, man, and kind of go down the list of things I saw on IMDB where they found holes in it, and go, 'You are f--king right,'" he said. "If there was a big 10-ton robot coming outside that gas station, surely we would f--king hear it. And I missed that. So I'm going to be a bit better when I'm looking through my f--king scripts. So it raises my game a bit, because now I feel like an idiot for not saying it to McG, you know?" "

Taken from

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Sci-Fi Channel

To be honest this is kind of a story I've already told. The article I posted here a few days ago (A Tale of Two Avatars) Has now gone live on the Sci-Fi channel's website and it's on the front page! I'm probably way too excited, but I don't care, for me it's a big deal. So if anyone reading this fancies checking it out on Sci-Fi and leaving some comments that would really be good for me.

cheers Everton.

You are the Resistance!

Friday, 21 August 2009

A tale of two Avatars

A tale of two Avatars Part one.
Return of The King of The World!

Pretty much anybody who’s into Science Fiction and Fantasy or just great movies has seen the long awaited first Teaser trailer for James Cameron’s Avatar. Even though the demand was so high that poor old was crashing like a family of test dummies on a stock car racing holiday! The teaser trailer does its job. You get to see the Na’vi in some superb Motion capture scenes as well as the "evil” human military machine battling it out with the indigenous species on the planet they’re attempting to strip mine for all its precious resources. The planet itself is also very well rendered. Of course it’s the 15 minutes of 3D footage being screened to lucky members of the media and public today that will really show what the film is about and if the trumpetedleaps in technology are real or just hype. Now let’s put aside that this is the first, non documentary, feature film in TWELVE years, from the director of the world’s most successful box office smash. (Titanic). Let’s ignore the fact that James Cameron is the director of 4 of the 20th Century’s best, and most exciting science fiction films.)The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss and Terminator 2.That In The Abyss and T2 he unleashed some of the most innovative effects and moviemaking techniques of the 20th century. Avatar will be out all over the globe on the 18th of December. Those lucky people who managed to get free tickets for Avatar Day on Friday the 21st go to see 15 minutes of very exciting 3D footage. This rather clever marketing campaign should see word of mouth spread like wildfire. If the press reports on the quality of the footage are to be believed of course. The film stars Sigourney Weaver, but not just any Sigourney Weaver, try her as she looked around 1986, when she starred in Cameron’s superlative Aliens. Word in Hollywoodland is that this effect is remarkable; remarkable to a degree that the “youthed” versions of Patrick Stewart, in X-Men 3 and Origins Wolverine, look like a junior school Photoshop experiment in comparison. The film also stars, Sam “man of the moment” Worthington. It’s to be hoped that the quality of his films is on a steep upward curve: after being one of the 3 things worth watching in the supremely disappointing Terminator Boredom (sorry Salvation) he follows up Avatar with a film any fantasy fan the wrong side of 30 is praying will knock our collective socks of next spring. Clash of the Titans. (Although the second half of this tale will highlight the film that could, indeed should, be the biggest and best fantasy film since the King returned in 2003. The story revolves around the human attempt to basically strip mine an alien planet, called Pandora, of its resources. A side effect of which would be devastating to the indigenous Na’vi, a humanoid race considered primitive by the humans, but actually “more than meets the eye”. With the Na’vi, standing at 3 meters tall with blue, sparkly skin, and humans replaced with Avatars (essentially new improved bodies) it’s easy to see how a significant advance in effects technology before Cameron felt able to tell this tale effectively. How effectively The Science fiction community, as well as other less enlightened moviegoers, will see on The 18th of December. Cameron’s Avatar has already won one battle though. To avoid confusion with the likely megahit that Avatar will become, another film, due out in the Summer of 2010, has had change its title. More on that in the 2nd of our Avatar tales.

A tale of two Avatars
Part Two: The Lost Night Returns?

Cameron’s Avatar has already won one battle though. To avoid confusion with the likely megahit that Avatar will become, another film, due out in the Summer of 2010, has had change its title. The Avatar prefix has had to be dropped; leaving Avatar: The Last Airbender, (Known in the U.K as Avatar: The Legend of Aang). As simply The Last Airbender. It is this film and hopefully its sequels that could Fantasy’s next, great film series. O.K it’s based on a children’s cartoon, but it is perhaps the best children’s cartoon series of all time. Better than Mobile suit: Gundam Wing and even Dogtanian! . Set over 3 books, each with 20 parts the cartoon ran for 3 years and won countless awards and deservedly so. Covering spirituality, abusive parents, imperialism, honour, duty, love and even Yoga; With genuine character growth and progression. Set in a paralell Earth with the planet essentially divided amongst the 4 elements of Earth, water, fire and air. It is an exclusively Asian world and therein lies the first germ of doubt as to whether this work will be treated with the respect it deserves. As stated above it’s an exclusively Asian world a solitary Indian Guru completes a cast consisting of (essentially) Inuit, Tibetan, Japanese and Chinese nations. Of course that not exactly what they are rather this fantasy Earth’s version; think Of the Gyptians in the His Dark Materials trilogy as compared to Gypsies. (Or the Golden Compass if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading the books.) Well in the never ending pantheon of strange and unnecessary complications that make up the production of a Hollywood movie the original casting placed Caucasian actors in several of the lead rolls. Unsurprisingly this led to a mixture of shock, disbelief and eventually anger. The requisite letter writing campaigns and protests outside the studio led to some fairly minor recasting and a bitter taste has been left in the mouths of many fans of the show, of all colours, and of course in the Asian community as a whole. It’s 10 years since Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (Another film I can’t believe failed to make the all time top 20 fantasy films list????) and there’s a black President of the United States, how on Earth are we still casting films like the old days of Alec Guinness & co in make up? Anyway we’ll leave that aside for now. Here’s an even bigger concern. I mentioned that the tale is set over 3 books. Book I is Water and deals mainly with the issues of the Water Tribes and a great Journey from the South Pole to the North Pole. Book II is Earth and deals mainly with the Earth kingdom, The Avatar’s need to learn Earth bending and travels through the Earth Kingdom. The final book is called Fire and details the need for Aang to learn fire bending, and secret travels through the fire kingdom to prepare for what they hope will be a final invasion to end the war. The equally important “bad guy” of the series is given comparable screen time as his story arc comes to a head here too. It seems simple 3 books three films right? Well no. As I have mentioned this is an award winning series, comparable in its medium to Battlestar Galactica. Drawing influences from Miyazaki films, my Neighbour Totoro and Castle in the sky mostly, as well as Ninja Scrolls, Cowboy Bebop, The Water Margin and Many aspects of Japanese and Chinese culture and even Buddhism and yoga. There are twenty 22 minute episodes per book, with not a lot of fat to trim. It seems far more suited to a 6 film series than a pared down trilogy. There has been talk of this being a Harry Potter like series. This is better than Harry Potter, by some distance, and each book has a natural, big climax midway through; and then builds to a bigger ending at the actual finish. The fear, as always, with this is that what will hit the cutting room floor is much of the character growth, especially in the villains’ roles and the “support” characters; to be replaced by extended Kung-Fu scenes and comic relief. Aang may be the Avatar, as Frodo is the Ring Bearer and Luke the last Jedi, but the genuine detail that goes into the other characters is equally as important. So much so that several episodes don’t feature the Avatar at all, or for just s few scenes and there are episodes where only the “bad guys” appear. I’ll say it again IF this is given the care and attention and the depth of character storytelling maintained, we genuinely have one of the all time greatest fantasy epics to look forward to. M. Night Shyamalan certainly has the potential to make something like this work. However whilst The sixth Sense and Unbreakable remain outstanding works. His subsequent work has bounced around from above average to downright poor. It’s also more than a little disconcerting to see one of Hollywood’s leading Asian filmmakers involved in a production that was so insensitive in its casting. Let’s hope for a return to form as the source material certainly deserves it! You are the resistance!

On a different tack I’ve been spend a lot of these summer holidays trying to teach 2 girls, aged 9 and 4, Aang’s Bo Kata as seen in the teaser trailer. Let’s just say we’re not quite there yet! 