Saturday, September 01, 2007

We just saw the movie Stardust, based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman.

An interesting thing has happened since the critical and box office success of the Lord of the Rings movies - Hollywood has finally come around to taking fantasy movies seriously. In the 1980's, fantasy movies were meant to be quick, cheap money makers mostly aimed at either kids (see Krull or Beast Master) or very stupid adults (see Conan the Barbarian or The Sword and the Sorcerer). They were more likely to have novelizations than to be based on novels. Even as special effects got cheaper and more effective, major studios did not spend the time or energy to work on decent stories and acting to go with the new effects (see Dungeons and Dragons).

The major change after the success of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies seems to be that Hollywood has realized that it has a ton of quality source material available to it. One of the anticipated Christmas releases for this year is an adaptation of Philip Pullman's Northern Lights (under it's American title The Golden Compass) and the previews before Stardust included The Spiderwick Chronicles and an adaptation of Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising, recently renamed as The Seeker: The Dark is Rising (presumably to cash in on all the successful films with colons in the title).

This increase in the number of fantasy films has also allowed for a little diversity to slip in - not all of the films have to be large scale epics like Lord of the Rings. Instead some of the lighter novels, like Stardust, can be developed. The creators were fairly obviously trying to duplicate the feel of the mix of comedy and action from The Princess Bride, the best fantasy film released before Lord of the Rings, but with only mixed success.

is enjoyable but not a classic like those movies. Sadly, it looks like it will not make back its $70M budget. A few more expensive failures like that and this new golden age of fantasy films could quickly draw to a close.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Today I finished A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, the Pulitzer Prize winning comic novel and one of the most disappointing books I've read.

I picked it up after reading about the problems people have run into trying to put together a movie version but I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone would give this book a prize, want to make a movie out of it, or even recommend it to anyone else.

The characters aren't sympathetic, realistic or even interesting in any way. The only word I can come up with to describe them is squalid. They wander from one absurd situation to another with little rhyme or reason, forcing the reader to alternate between annoyance and boredom. Absurdity in itself isn't a problem - people who know me, know that I have a soft spot for absurd comedy of all types - but this book simply fails to be funny. I think I laughed at most once while reading it and I almost abandoned it a few times over the last week.

Very strongly not recommended.

Amazon Link (for masochists only): A Confederacy of Dunces

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I just finished The Loser's Club by John Lekich, a YA book by a Vancouver author recommended to my by a friend.

The Loser's Club is the story a group of outcasts in a Vancouver school who are brought together by the extortion of a bully. As you might expect in a YA book, they end up triumphing in the end but there are some unexpected twists along the way as they interact with the adults in their lives and find their way from losing to winning. In some ways, it's pretty standard fare but it is well written and enjoyable.

This weekend we saw a play, Oda Oak Oracle, one of only two English language plays by Ethiopian poet-laureate Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin and The Simpson's Movie.

The play had some nice moments but was a little too slow moving and over-wrought for my taste.

The Simpson's Movie was pretty good - not as funny as some of the best episodes from when it was in it's prime but better than a lot of the current episodes with a few very funny bits. Recommended for fans.

Amazon Link: The Losers' Club