Monday, March 29, 2010

The darkside of fairies

Some people grew up with Disney tales
and have built their childhood memories
and adult expectations from those
foundations . Luckily I had access to
the delightfully unpredictable earlier
versions written without a parents'
association or Victorian chastity belt.
People were killed, raped or punished
for their stupidity, naivety, foolishness,
greed, and cruelty. Princesses and
Princes had to use their wits, and
similar to Psyche or Odysseus in Greek
mythology, they never had it easy.

The Internet fortunately provides
access to various versions that differ from
the watered down 'children' stories that
have flooded the market.

Links to the darker origins of folktales.

Arabian Nights

Disney's Aladdin is a far cry from the original 1001 Arabian Night tales. A collection of Middle Eastern
and South Asian stories compiled during the golden age, there have been a number of translations
available at a local bookshop. With the upcoming video game "epic" Prince of Persia in May, try a
truly inspired experience by picking up a copy at the local library. For ebook readers there is an
Andrew Lang version offered by Project Gutenberg. It's sub par but it's a freebie.

Little Red Riding Hood

In a year or two there will be a live action adaptation called The girl with Red Riding hood by
Warner Bros starring Amanda Seyfried (rumoured). Perhaps it will be a bit darker like the original French
version by Charles Perrault?

Snow White

There have been numerous versions of this story, the most famous edition by the Brother Grimm. Many
scholars believe that the tale was influenced by historical figures. Margarete von Waldeck was an
exceptionally beautiful woman who conflicted with her stepmother. Sought after by many of the most
eligible men of her time (Prince Philip II of Spain) she fell ill under suspicious circumstances.

The Little Mermaid

Written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837, it's a tragic tale of a young mermaid who falls desperately
in love with a prince.

Sleeping Beauty

There are a number of versions of this tale, and many do not feature Sleeping beauty awakened by a
kiss but rather raped/impregnated in her slumber. Versions: "Sun, Moon, and Talia" by Giambattista Basile,
Perceforest in 1528, The Brothers Grimm version called Briar Rose, and the most retold tale "The Sleeping Beauty
in the Wood" by Charles Perrault.


Adapted onto the big screen again and again, this tale is probably the oldest. The Grimm brothers version had
the evil step-sisters cut off their ends of their feet to fit into the glass slipper, and even a gruesome end of
pigeons pecking out their eyes as punishment. The oldest version was recorded by Roman historian Strabo in first
century B.C., of a maiden slave named Rhodopis. Variants include Ye Xian, around 860 China, The Eldest Lady's Tale
from 1001 Arabian Nights, La Gatta Cenerentola in II Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile in 1635 and
Charles Perrault's The Little Glass Slipper.

The darkest version perhaps being Cinder Blower which has an element of incest.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wicked witches

After the impressive success of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Disney has greenlit a version of Maleficent. According to, screenwriter Linda Woolverton will be spinning the evil witch from Disney's animated classic into a live action adaptation, a la Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Angelina Jolie is rumoured for the elegant, yet sinister role according to the LA Times.

Hopefully they'll continue the original gorgeous graphic style done by legendary artist Eyvind Earle. If they accomplished it for 300, why not Maleficient? Now that would be a work of art. Oh, and they should definitely keep the bird. Ha.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Random laughs

His site is still not up yet... Dave Chapelle in Yellow Springs, Ohio here 2006

Russell Peters in 2010 here

George Carlin on death here

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fantastic worlds


BBC, Bravo, HBO and Showtime have laid the stage for young talent to thrive in material that isn't boxed in by Hollywood typecasting. Mythology, science fiction and classic novels of the strange, unique, horrible, twisted, and fantastic are ideal in a longer miniseries format.

When you look back at your first job do you cringe? I have to hand it to casting directors who have the ability to appreciate, shape and nuture the youthful potential of a young actor.

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers has woven a very interesting path, from the Tudors, Matchpoint, Bend It Like Beckham, Velvet Goldmine and action features like Mission Impossible III.
I first saw him in the BBC miniseries Gormenghast where he played the scheming kitchen boy Steerpike (here).

Anyone seen BBC's adaptation of Day of the Triffids ? Based on a fantastic book by John Wyndham, the miniseries stars Dougray Scott, Joely Richardson, Eddie Izzard, Jason Priestley, Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox.
A strong cast at least. A short clip here.

Unfortunately the BBC version of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere never met expectations despite a solid story, but hopefully the film adaptation by The Weinstein Company will prove fruitful.

Found this.. Marple "Towards Zero" part 1 here

Monday, March 22, 2010

Inflation down the middle

Wow, clothing sizes have been fluctuating like Wallstreet lately. Quite a few women speak of Marilyn Monroe being a size 16, but was she really? At most her waist measurements were the
modern day size 8, and very likely during her early years she looked to be a moderate size 2 or 4. With expanding waists comes shrinking numbers to match our vanities and insecurities. Banana Republic, Gap, and many other chain stores have quietly "adjusted" their mannequins to cater to the general public. With stores creating sizes such as "extra, extra small" or "double zero" it's only a matter of time when -2, and -4 will come around. (Boston globe article here)

What is that? -2? Or a double zero?

It's certainly a change from European sizing, ranging from 34-48 or in Asia where a size large would be a size small or 4 at most. Considering that America has magazines, networks, Oprah, constantly in our face on how to trim down, where are we going wrong? As I trudged my backpack a decade ago along the streets of Europe and Asia I can tell you this, I never once spotted a gym (they do have some of course, but are rare). Not one. So what are they doing that we're not?

They walk.

They always walk.


Instead of planting their bottom in a nice car to get to point A to B most of the locals hoof it down the sidewalks for at least an hour a day to get to and fro. So if you want to whittle down the pounds? It's literally one step at a time.

Friday, March 19, 2010

type A

Type A can be so many things.
A workaholic, obsessive compulsive, first class achiever who never gives up no matter how difficult the odds.

Then again it can refer to a blood type. For western counterparts horoscopes are a fun and not to be taken too seriously "guess" on how our day will go... Taken a bit more seriously in Asia, blood type is used for many matchmaking services and even human resource departments. Famous actors even publish their blood types in their biographies and there have been a number of movies and manga about the subject.

A breakthrough in the early 1900s, the ABO blood group system was widely credited by Austrian scientist Karl Landsteiner. In Japanese culture, blood types diverge from scientific fact to fad, separating "traits" into groups similar to astrology and Chinese astrology.

All of this seems ridiculous of course, after all, most of the world's population are type O+ or type A+. For some reason we all like to categorize ourselves or think that our date of birth plays a predestined role in our lives. I tossed that theory out the window years ago, especially when I met two people born on the exact same day and year as me. Two peas in a pod? Hardly. Upbringing, opportunity and environment played major factors in determining our paths in life.

What are you?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sopranos of the Renaissance

Shrouded in mystery and notoriety, The Borgias has the makings of a great miniseries. Obviously Showtime feels the same way, and has ordered 13 episodes starring Jeremy Irons and possibly Canadian thespian Colm Feore. Expected to be released spring 2011, the Borgias will replace the Tudor dynasty with even more delicious twists and turns. Rising to power with Rodrigo Borgia's position as Pope Alexander VI and Vannozza dei Cattanei, the affluent Spanish-Italian family was accused of adultery, simony, theft, bribery, incest, rape and murder. It's debatable how true all these accusations are, some are very likely to be inflated rumours by rival families vying for power (not unlike the media nowadays).

As the Tudors miniseries wraps up, Showtime has already begun pre-production, ready to inject fresh scandalous material into the mainstream. Written by Neil Jordan (The Crying Game), the production has a wealth of material to draw from. Tasty.

There were a few old Borgias (1981, recently an Italian version) adaptations in the past. Here's a taste.

Something tells me the costume designer must be dusting off their shelves for the numerous awards they're going to win.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Unconventional madness

Niche markets host conventions all year around to cater to all walks of life, from obsessive fans to the curious bystander as they descend into a particular chosen city. A time and place where like minds can share their thoughts (or more) and form lasting friendships or business arrangements.

Here are a few...

Gamers around the world who live in a half life state in this unique online world gather together for this two day event in California. Costume competitions, interviews with the creators, tournaments, test drive stations, and upcoming news creates a beehive of interaction where fanatics can get their fix for the year.

SexPo The Aussie fest for the old taboo subject that overly uptight conservative groups still like to pretend is not happening. Think kids come from storks? Makes the nickname "the down under" take on a whole new meaning.

Zombie Walk Hilarious. Torontonians certainly have a sense of humour. Celebrating their 8th year in 2010, around 4000 "bodies" fill the streets with ghoulish fun.

MuppetFest Fan convention Jim Henson fans can practice their high pitched voices during the off season. Performances, interviews, parties and more.

UFO Festival X-files? Roswell? The site is an eyesore but this event has been going on for years...

Xena Con. Seriously I have no idea what has sparked this huge following. Is it the leather? The comedy? The weird spin on Greek mythology?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Upping the bar

Lately there are a few great shows that have even better writers than even the very best in film. They've slowly drawn out some of the best talent because of the creative freedom the television format can offer. Six Feet Under, Foyle's War, Sopranos, True Blood, Mad Men are like mini feature films without the ten dollar ticket price. You can even watch it online...

I've become hooked on my newest find. I never watched the Julianna Margulies on E.R. but she shines in this role.

The Good Wife
The screenwriters of this production are amazing, and the cast superb... Julianna Margulies, Josh Charles, Archie Panjabi, Matt Czuchry, Graham Phillips, Makenzie Vega and Christine Baranski. Even the recurring characters such as Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), Eli Gold (Alan Cumming), Daniel Golden (Joe Morton) and Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver) are juicy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Classic sundays

Ever have trouble keeping up with the insanely quick dialogue in movies such as His Girl Friday? A decade ago I went on a marathon watching nothing but old classics such as The Palm Beach Story and It Happened One Night. They aren't always easy to find, Blockbuster tends to have more recent fare and if you don't live close to a specialty rental store it can get quite expensive. In this day and age it's easy to get access to great classics, the question is whether you have the time and the patience...

William Powell and Myrna Loy starring in The Thin Man (links in orange, pictured above). Don't mix it up with The Third Man... The Thin Man is a light fluffy adventure film of the detective novel by Dashiell Hammett.

ITV will be remaking The Pale Horse, adding Marple as a main player in the mystery. One hopes they will tie Adriadne Oliver in the story since she does play a minor role... which will also tie the Poirot world and Marple universe together.

Done a number of years ago, this one is closer to the original story. here

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bio world

Think green!

First plastic bags now biodegradable water bottles. Excellent. It takes 8 years in a garbage dump, and certainly unloads any guilt when you need to quench your thirst on a hot day.

The extra bonus is that depending on the colour of the label, 10 cents goes to a specific charity.

Now if only Starbucks would follow suit and use biodegradable paper cups. The cost is worth every penny!

Awards and boredom

I barely watched the Academy Awards last night. Everyone who was predicted to win... won. The saccharine self congratulations all throughout the night dissolved into a foul after taste. Can't they just read out who was nominated rather than the "gushing" dialogue from five over exposed actor/actresses?

The pitiful change was doubling the number of best picture nominees when it was such a weak year for film. It's a historic year (with Bigelow's win, certainly the strongest direction), but also... a disappointing one. One of the least successful box office films won best picture, a film that was no better deserving than say... White Ribbon or 500 Days of Summer. High concept films have all been ignored. Where the Wild Things Are, Coraline, Moon, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Doctor Parnassus, and Star Trek are examples of not meeting "best picture" standards. Even period films such as Bright Star (an early year release) or The Last Station faded into memory. Unfortunately the Academy has continued the message that successful popular films do not win, and that serious fare equals "good cinema". It just indicates how out of the touch they are with the next generation of film lovers.

Last year I was hoping to see a film that left a lasting impression. Like the first time I saw The Last Emperor, A Clockwork Orange, Lawrence of Arabia, or the Maltese Falcon... something... epic. Nada.

I wasn't the biggest fan of Avatar (it was... entertaining), then again I wasn't bowled over by The Hurt Locker either. To be honest, in thirty years the only film people will remember from this year is... Avatar.

It's a crap shoot, some of the greatest films have won the trophy, Gone with the Wind, Godfather, Amadeus, Out of Africa, Lord of the Rings. On the other hand, the most influential films are always passed over, Indian Jones, Rashomon, Star Wars, 2001 Space Odyssey, Pulp Fiction, Psycho, Big Lebowski, Vertigo, Rear Window, Alien, The Shining, Double Indemnity to name a few.

I mean.. has anyone seen "How Green Was My Valley?" or "Gentleman's Agreement?"

So the question is, is it better to be remembered or win a trophy?

Sleuths & Little moustaches

Dig dig dig! You need to truly hunt for some of these episodes.

Appointment with Death, the last of season 11 starring Tim Curry is online. It's the

David Suchet version...
Here's part 1.... enjoy! The link will lead to part 2 etc..

Marple Ordeal by Innocence

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Wireless world

I really do love my bluetooth Apple mouse and keyboard, not only because computer manufacturers are getting rather "frugal" with the amount of 2.0 USB ports their products provide, but because I accumulate a large nest of wires otherwise. I don't know why they call the 12UX Cintiq travel "convenient" because it isn't. With clunky wires, some small box adapter, power cables, USB cables, and even an extra apple "video converter" cable it feels like a huge production every time I set it up.

The biggest drawback to this wireless world is the battery output and waste, and sometimes rechargeable batteries just don't cut it. Hmm... something will need to be done. The apple mouse and keyboards are little energy hogs and I've had to replace the batteries a number of times. A Green Apple? Hardly. Macs drain energy like there's no tomorrow.

On a positive note: The Apple industrial design team... kudos to them, they just keep on "upping the bar" on elegant and yet functional equipment.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Secret of Kells

Last year there were a surprising number of feature length animated films of surprising quality. Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline, Up and especially the lesser known "The Secret of Kells". A lovely story with elegant designs and colour work. A refreshing change.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Old Kingdom expansion

Equal to George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, Garth Nix's Abhorsen series has shone brighter than the rest of the young adult fiction fantasy section, and has a very large following. Posted on his Amazon site/blog he has two other books in his Old Kingdom world to be published later this year and 2011.


"Gosh, I'm slow to post here, aren't I? My apologies. I've been busy working on Superior Saturday, amongst other things.

Anyway, gather round folks! I have news. It's been reported in various industry publications, so I might as well post it here too: I will be writing two more novels set in the Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre. They will be published by Allen & Unwin in Australia and by HarperCollins US and HarperCollins UK.

The first, probably out in 2010, will be Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen, which is the story of the young woman who eventually became Chlorr of the Mask. It takes place about 320 years before the events in Sabriel. The second is untitled, and is a sequel of sorts toAbhorsen, taking place several years later. It should be out in 2011. Both 2010 and 2011 seem like a long way away but no doubt will sneak up on me horribly when I least expect it. Sometimes I think time is a practitioner of the secret Welsh martial art of Llap-Goch.

Before those two Old Kingdom books I have to finish The Keys to the Kingdom (I'm nearly done with Superior Saturday, so just Lord Sunday after that) and there will also be a standalone science fiction novel, called A Confusion of Princes, which should be out in 2009."

What a prolific writer! Ah.. now if only we could all get George R.R. Martin to write faster... If you're wondering if a film version will ever be made... it sounds unlikely. Which is a good thing(trust me). Authors should keep a tight leash on their creation, and if isn't done right why do it at all? Producers, directors, and many crew members don't always care for the original source material and it shows through within every frame. Established writers certainly have the money, so hold out!

Interview of Garth Nix on Times Online and his reluctance to let his work fall into the wrong hands.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Maggie Smith Special

I love Maggie Smith, and obviously she didn't mind taking roles in a number of Agatha Christie dramas. Nowadays most kids see her as Professor McGonagall from the mediocre Harry Potter series and nothing else. Similar to Alec Guiness being remembered for Obi Wan in Star Wars, their true talent and range as thespians are demonstrated by their extensive body of work through the years.

In "Death on the Nile", Dame Maggie Smith was joined by Mia Farrow, Bette Davis, David Niven, and Angela Lansbury, starring Peter Ustinov (who would also later be typecast for his marvellous performance as Poirot).

Broken up into parts below, click on numbers.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm an advocate of owning the legit dvds (since I own all of these)... However I also like sharing classics, so if you love them, they're all pretty cheap to purchase and of far better quality.

Evil Under the Sun Part 1 , 2 , 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 ,11
Death on the Nile Part 1 (I don't know why but part 1 isn't the proper link and there is no trace of the correct link) 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 (2 -12 are fine)

Need more? Other films...
The Millionairess (1972) Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Murder by Death (1976) Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Part 1, 2, 3, 3A, 4, 5, 6, 7
Gosford Park? You'll have to rent this one :) trailer here

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Game of Thrones Green lit has recently reported that HBO has green lit George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones pilot along with 9 following episodes!! The series will continue production in Ireland in June.

Poirot picks

I'm a fan (obviously) so ** stars still means a worthwhile watch

1. Sad Cypress (2003) *****
By far the strongest episode to date, not only for the great performances... but direction and editing.

2. Mysterious Affair at Styles *****
Who doesn't love the very first book? Hastings... where is he? I'm hoping they do The Big Four which will bring back this hilarious duo. The production value may have gotten better through the years... but this is where it all began.

3. Death on the Nile (2004) *****
With Emily Blunt (Young Victoria, Devil Wears Prada), James Fox, Emma Griffiths Malin (Forsyte Saga), JJ Feild, Judy Parfitt, Barbara flynn, ... felt a lot like Murder on the Orient Express.
Solid cast, shot on the same boat as the earlier version. Excellent with some nice alterations from the original book.

4. Lord Edgeware Dies (2000) ****
This has all four of the characters Agatha Christie fans love. Japp, Hastings, Lemon all join Poirot in this fun mystery.

5. Murder in Mesopotamia (2001) ****
I love the location, and with the addition of Captain Hastings (he wasn't in the novel) the production proved to be a stylish with a bit of comedy thrown in.

6. The Hollow (2004) ***
A man who is "alive" even in death. Hmmm... good casting choices for this one. Jonathan Cake, Megan Dodds, and Claire Price form a very nice triangle. A much smaller production but no less entertaining.

7. After the Funeral (2006) ***
Kudos for adding a bit of the creepy factor. Geraldine James, Julian Ovenden (Foyle's War) Lucy Punch, Monica Dolan and the rising star Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Bastards, Fish Tank) star in a more "classic" who-dun-it scenario.

8. Five Little Pigs (2003) ***
Similar to Elephants Can Remember the story takes place in the past. Julie Cox, Toby Stephens, Aidan Gillen, Rachael Stirling star.

9. Hickory Dickory Dock (1996) ***
This one is an early one but a fun episode. A younger Damian Lewis (Life, Band of Brothers) plays Leonard Bateson among a really young cast. Miss Lemon and Chief Inspector Japp play bigger roles which is a nice revision.

10. The ABC Murders (1992) **
One of the first feature length stories... well done. Hastings and Japp are the bonus.


Evil Under the Sun is not up there simply because I LOVED the 1982 version with Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith, James Mason, Denis Quilley, Nicholas Clay, and definitely Roddy McDowall.

Cards on the Table, Appointment with Death, Murder on the Blue Train... great casts and production value, unfortunately I wasn't fond of the changes made from the original books. Pity.

The remaining novels are among my favourite, and of course the most expensive.
Hallowe'en Party, The Big Four, Elephants Can Remember, Black Coffee, Dead Man's Folly (this one is fantastic!) and of course Murder on the Orient Express. Can't wait.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Marple wave

The Canadian release of Miss Marple: They Do it with Mirrors is set to air in Canada March 7, 2010... sooooooon. Starring Julia McKenzie and Joan Collins.

Others to come!
Marple: The secret of Chimneys
Marple: The Mirror Crack'd from side to side (A remake of the one with Liz Taylor)
Marple: The Blue Geranium
Marple: The Pale Horse

Haven't seen any? Here are a few old ones to watch...
The Body in the Library(2004) link here
4.50 From Paddington (2004) link here
Sleeping Murder(2006) link here

The first two have already been completed... must say though, The Pale Horse must be the best one. JJ Feild and Amy Manson to play the roles of Paul and Ginger.

Poirot is soooooo slow to air, and even worse... not likely to air in North America until 4+ months later. Don't they know what the digital age means?! Murder on the Orient Express promises to be quite a big production with Eileen Atkins (Robin Hood, Gosford Park, Cranford), Joely Richardson, and many more but one has to patient.

Passing the torch

Closing Ceremonies

It started off well, with a clever jibe about the failed fourth torch, and Catriona Le May Doan reappearing to finally light the torch. The medal ceremony for the 50k cross country event early in the day was also a nice touch, especially since it was overshadowed by the USA/Canada game.

Rough around the edges

Starting off with silly dancers holding snowboards looking like aimless children with little to do felt amateur. Or the three singers hydraulically lifted on three pillars facing only the athletes, leaving the rest of the audience out of the loop. Some ideas were clever, the idea of massive foosball hockey board was hilarious as the little boy dressed as a large black puck ran between the hockey player cutouts. Michael Buble had a nice rendition with the slutty Canadian mounties, and the crowd went wild with Michael J. Fox's appearance.

Unfortunately it went downhill from there. I absolutely detested all the "comedy". I love Catherine O'Hara and Michael J. Fox, even Shatner is fun, but give them something actually funny to say! The "I am Canadian" monologues were dull and lifeless. The imagery up above fell flat, which is surprising since... Canada "claims" quite a few talented comedians, filmmakers, and animators. Perhaps it would've been more fitting if they spoke of the events, hardships, endurance, nature, and the essence of why the human race pushes themselves to greater heights. Why can't we just make a great show without all the cliché Canadian symbols? Floating moose, ugly floating beavers, weird Maple leaf girls in a mermaid/worm body bag as they floated up high?

It looked like a bloody Molson Canadian beer commercial!! (not quite as slick)

Sadly most of the singers didn't come out until the very end, when NBC and many other networks cut the show off. Michael Buble at least appeared to be singing live (perhaps he was for part of the time). Tomorrow I imagine Canadian newspapers will be fuming over the IOC chief Rogge's comment that Vancouver hosted an "excellent and very friendly games", taken as a slight(you could hear booing). Of course, he's never proclaimed the Olympic games to be the "best ever" like his predecessor Juan Antonia Samaranch, but he had a far better description for previous hosts. Beijing was "exceptional" (it really was), Salt Lake City "Flawless", Torino was "Magnificient" and Athens was "unforgettable, dream Games". What can you do?

C'est la vie.