Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

English author Lewis Carroll ( Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) told Alice Liddell and her sisters a story that would eventually form the basis for his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland In a rowing boat on the River Thames from Oxford to Godstow, On July 4 1862 and It was subsequently published 4 July 1865. The journey began at Folly Bridge near Oxford and ended five miles away in the village Godstow. During the trip Dodgson told the girls a story that featured a bored little girl named Alice who goes looking for an adventure. The girls loved it, and Alice Liddell asked Dodgson to write it down for her. He began writing the manuscript of the story the next day, although that earliest version no longer exists. The girls and Dodgson took another boat trip a month later when he elaborated the plot to the story of Alice, and in November he began working on the manuscript in earnest. It tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. Its narrative course and structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.

The novel starts with Alice feeling bored and drowsy while sitting on the riverbank with her elder sister who is reading a book with no pictures or conversations. She then notices a talking, clothed White Rabbit with a pocket watch run past. So She follows it down a rabbit hole, suddenly she falls a long way to a curious hall with many locked doors of all sizes. She finds a small key to a door too small for her to fit through, but through it she sees an attractive garden. She then discovers a bottle on a table labelled “DRINK ME,” so she drinks a little and the contents cause her to shrink in size. Unfortunately she leaves the key on the table. So She eats a cake with “EAT ME” written on it in currants.

After eating the cake Alice grows alarmingly and her head hits the ceiling. Alice starts crying and her tears flood the hallway. After shrinking down again Alice swims through her own tears and meets a Mouse, who is swimming as well and tries unsuccessfully to talk to him. The sea of tears becomes crowded with other animals and birds that have been swept away by the rising waters. Alice and the other animals reach the bank and a Dodo decides that the best thing to dry them off would be a Caucus-Race, which consists of everyone running in a circle with no clear winner. Then The White Rabbit appears and Mistaking her for his maidservant, Mary Ann, orders Alice to go into the house and retrieve some gloves but once inside she starts growing. The horrified Rabbit orders his gardener, Bill the Lizard, to climb on the roof and go down the chimney. Outside, Alice hears the voices of animals who hurl pebbles at her, which turn into little cakes and after eating them, Alice shrinks again.

Alice then encounters a blue Caterpillar on a mushroom smoking a hookah, who tells Alice that one side of the mushroom will make her taller while the other side will make her shorter. She breaks off two pieces from the mushroom. One side makes her shrink smaller than ever, while the other causes her to grow alarmingly. Eventually Alice brings herself back to her normal height and discovers a small estate and uses the mushroom to reach a more appropriate height. She sees a Fish-Footman deliver an invitation to the Duchess, who lives at the estate and meets The Duchess’s Cook who is throwing dishes and making a soup that has too much pepper, which causes Alice, the Duchess, and her baby to sneeze violently. Alice is then given the baby by the Duchess which turns into a pig. The Duchess’s Cheshire Cat then directs her to the March Hare’s house.

Here Alice becomes a guest at a “mad” tea party along with the March Hare, the Hatter, and a very tired Dormouse who falls asleep frequently, only to be violently woken up moments later by the March Hare and the Hatter. The characters give Alice many riddles and stories. Eventually though Alice tires of all the inane riddles and leaves claiming that it was the stupidest tea party that she had ever been to. Upon leaving the Tea-Party Alice enters the Queen of Hearts garden and encounters three living playing cards painting the white roses on a rose tree red because The Queen of Hearts hates white roses. A procession of more cards, kings and queens and even the White Rabbit enters the garden. Alice then meets the King and Queen, who is fond of saying “Off with his head!” For the slightest transgression. Alice is invited to play a game of croquet with the Queen and the rest of her subjects but the game quickly descends into chaos. Live flamingos are used as mallets and hedgehogs as balls. The Queen is then prompted by the Cheshire Cat to release the Duchess from prison.

The Duchess is then brought to the croquet ground at Alice’s request, and The Queen of Hearts dismisses her on the threat of execution and introduces Alice to the Gryphon, who takes her to the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon then suggests they play a game. So The Mock Turtle and the Gryphon dance to the Lobster Quadrille, and then the Gryphon drags Alice away for an impending trial where the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts. The jury is composed of various animals, including Bill the Lizard, the White Rabbit is the court’s trumpeter, and the judge is the King of Hearts. Others Attending the trial include the Hatter, and the Duchess’s cook. Alice is then called upon to give evidence as a witness. During the proceedings, Alice finds to her alarms that she is steadily growing larger and her increasing size causes problems. So The King and Queen order Alice to be gone, citing Rule 42 (“All persons more than a mile high to leave the court”). However Alice disputes their judgement and refuses to leave until the Queen of Hearts eventually shouts “Off With Her Head!”

Posted in films & DVD, Science fiction

Passengers

have recently rewatched the science fiction film Passengers. It stars Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, and Laurence Fishburne as passengers travelling On a 120 year journey aboard The starship Avalon With 5,000 colonists and 258 crew members all in hyper sleep who are all hoping for a new life on the planet Homestead II.

Unfortunately Thirty years into its journey, the ship passes through a meteor storm, which severely damages the ship. This awakens mechanical engineer Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), 90 years early who sets about fixing the damage. He then avails himself of every luxurious amenity aboard the ship. however After a year of isolation, with no company except Arthur (Michael Sheen), an android bartender, he gets bored and depressed. Then One day, he notices another colonist Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) in her pod. so he revives her early, claiming her pod must have also malfunctioned. At first they get on really well, however Aurora eventually finds out the truth and gets understandably angry and distraught at having the chance of a new life on Homestead II taken away from her.

Then, another pod failure awakens Chief Deck Officer Gus (Laurence Fishburne)
The three discover multiple failures throughout the ship’s systems which If not repaired, will eventually cause critical system failures killing everyone on board the Starship Avalon. They also discover a series of holes through the ship’s hull and that The computer module controlling the ships fusion reactor has also been damaged.
Gus, Jim and Aurora then find themselves having to resort to increasingly desperate and potentially fatal measures in order to repair the fusion reactor and repair the damaged ship before more systems fail and everyone else on board dies before reaching Homestead II…

Posted in films & DVD

The Artist

I have recently watched the enjoyable black and white silent comedy/ drama “The Artist”. Written directed and co-edited by Michel Hazanavicius, and produced by Thomas Langmann, the film stars Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, James Cromwell and John Goodman. The story takes place in Hollywood, between 1927 and 1932, and focuses on the relationship between a rising young actress and an older silent film star as silent cinema falls out of fashion and is replaced by talking pictures. It features Jean Dujardin as a silent movie superstar named George Valentin who meets an up and coming actress named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bijo). Who auditioning as a dancer. Valentin insists that she have a part in Kinograph Studios’ next production, despite objections from the studio boss, Al Zimmer. While performing a scene together, Valentin and Peppy show great chemistry. Gradually Peppy rises through the industry, earning more prominent starring roles.

Two years later, Zimmer announces the end of production of silent films at Kinograph Studios, So Valentin decides to produce and direct his own silent film, Tears of Love, financing it himself. However The film opens on the same day as Peppy’s new film Beauty Spot, as well as the 1929 Stock Market Crash. In order to avoid bankruptcy Tears of Love needs to be a hit film, sadly the film flops leaving Valentin bankrupt, then his wife Doris evicts him and he moves into an apartment with his valet/chauffeur, Clifton, (James Cromwell) and his dog and Valantin hits rock bottom while Peppy goes on to become a major Hollywood star.

Now bankrupt Valentin is forced to auction off all of his personal effects, and after realizing he has not paid Clifton in over a year, gives him the car and fires him, telling him to get another job. Depressed and drunk, Valentin angrily tries to commit suicide. Luckily though Valantin is rescued and after a short stay in hospital Peppy tries to help him and he recuperates at Peppy’s house, and then discovers that his chauffeur Clifton is also working for Peppy. To aid Valantin’s recovery further Peppy then persuades Zimmer to cast Valantin as her co-star in her latest musical.

The Artist received widespread critical acclaim and won many accolades. Dujardin won Best Actor at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where the film premiered. The film was nominated for six Golden Globes, winning three: Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Original Score, and Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Dujardin. In January 2012, the film was nominated for twelve BAFTAs, winning seven, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor for Dujardin, and Best Original Screenplay for Hazanavicius.It was also nominated for ten Academy Awards winning five, including Best Picture, Best Director for Hazanavicius, and Best Actor for Dujardin In France it was nominated for ten César Awards, winning six, including Best Film, Best Director for Hazanavicius and Best Actress for Bejo.

Posted in Fantasy, films & DVD, Science fiction, Uncategorized

Ray Harryhausen

American-British artist, designer, visual effects creator, writer, and producer “Ray” Harryhausen was born June 29, 1920 in Los Angeles, California. He spent his early years experimenting in the production of animated short films and was greatly inspired by the stop-motion animation of pioneer model animator Willis O’Brien on the film King Kong. So a friend arranged a meeting with O’Brien for him. O’Brien critiqued Harryhausen’s early models and urged him to take classes in graphic arts and sculpture to hone his skills. Meanwhile, Harryhausen became friends with an aspiring writer, Ray Bradbury, with similar enthusiasms. Bradbury and Harryhausen joined the Los Angeles-area Science Fiction League formed by Forrest J. Ackerman in 1939, and the three became lifelong friends. Harryhausen secured his first commercial model-animation job, on George Pal’s Puppetoons shorts, based on viewing his first formal demo reel of fighting dinosaurs from a project called Evolution of the World which was never finished.

During World War II, Harryhausen served in the United States Army Special Services Division under Colonel Frank Capra, as a loader, clapper boy, gofer and later camera assistant, whilst working at home animating short films about the use and development of military equipment. During this time he also worked with composer Dimitri Tiomkin and Theodore Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”). Following the war he salvaged several rolls of discarded 16 mm surplus film from which he made a series of fairy tale-based shorts, which he called his “Teething-rings”.

One of Harryhausen’s most long-cherished dreams was to make H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. After World War II, he shot a scene of an alien emerging from a Martian cylinder showing the fearsome being from Mars fatally succumbing to an earthly illness, contracted from the air the natives breathe harmlessly. It was part of an unrealized project to adapt the story using Wells’ original “octopus” concept for the Martians. In 1947 Harryhausen was hired as an assistant animator on what turned out to be his first major film, Mighty Joe Young (1949). O’Brien ended up concentrating on solving the various technical problems of the film, leaving most of the animation to Harryhausen. Their work won O’Brien the Academy Award for Best Special Effects that year.

Ray Harryhausen first film featuring his technical effects was The Beast from 20,000 Fathom based on a story by The writer Ray Bradbury, who was a long-time friend of Harryhausen. This was about a dinosaur drawn to a lone lighthouse by its foghorn. Because the story for Harryhausen’s film featured a similar scene, the film studio bought the rights to Bradbury’s story to avoid any potential legal problems. To film Beast from 20,000 fathoms Harryhausen used a technique called “Dynamation” that split the background and foreground of pre-shot live action footage into two separate images into which he would animate a model or models so seemingly integrating the live-action with the models. The background would be used as a miniature rear-screen with his models animated in front of it, re-photographed with an animation-capable camera to combine those two elements together, the foreground element matted out to leave a black space. Then the film was rewound, and everything except the foreground element matted out so that the foreground element would now photograph in the previously blacked out area. This created the effect that the animated model was “sandwiched” in between the two live action elements, right into the final live action scene.

In most of Harryhausen’s films, model animated characters interact with, and are a part of, the live action world, with the idea that they will cease to call attention to themselves as only “animation.” Most of the effects shots in his earliest films were created via Harryhausen’s careful frame-by-frame control of the lighting of both the set and the projector. This dramatically reduced much of degradation common in the use of back-projection or the creation of dupe negatives via the use of an optical printer. Harryhausen’s use of diffused glass to soften the sharpness of light on the animated elements allowed the matching of the soft background plates far more successfully than Willis O’Brien had achieved in his early films, allowing Harryhausen to match live and miniature elements seamlessly in most of his shots. Harryhausen managed to save money, by developing and executing most of this miniature work himself, while maintaining full technical control.

Harryhausen then began working with color film to make The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, experimenting with color film stocks to overcome the color-balance-shift problems. Ray’s producer/partner Charles H. Schneer coined the word Dynamation as a “merchandising term” (modifying it to “SuperDynaMation” and then “Dynarama”. Harryhausen was always heavily involved in the pre-production conceptualizing of each film’s story, script development, art-direction, design, storyboards, and general tone of the his films, as much as any auteur director would have on any other film, which any “director” of Harryhausen’s films had to understand and agree to work under. Only the complexities of Director’s Guild rules in Hollywood prevented Harryhausen from being credited as the director of his films, resulting in the more modest credits he had in most of his films.

Harryhausen’s often worked with his family His father did the machining of the metal armatures (based on his son’s designs) that were the skeletons for the models and allowed them to keep their position, while his mother assisted with some miniature costumes. After Harryhausen’s father died in 1973, Harryhausen contracted An occasional assistant, George Lofgren, a taxidermist, assisted Harryhausen with the creation of furred creatures. Another associate, Willis Cook, built some of Harryhausen’s miniature sets. Other than that, Harryhausen worked generally alone to produce almost all of the animation for his filmsThe same year that Beast was released, 1953, fledgling film producer Irwin Allen released a live action documentary about life in the oceans titled The Sea Around Us, which won an Oscar for best documentary feature film of that year. Harryhausen then worked on Allen’s sequel. He also met producer Charles H. Schneer, Their first tandem project was It Came from Beneath the Sea (aka Monster from Beneath the Sea, 1955), about a giant octopus attacking San Francisco. followed by Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. In 1954, Irwin Allen began work on a second feature-length documentary film, about animal life on land called The Animal World Needing an opening sequence about dinosaurs, Allen hired premier model animator Willis O’Brien and Harryhausen to animate the dinosaurs, many agreed that the dinosaur sequence of Animal World was the best part of the entire movie. (Animal World is available on the DVD release of O’Brien’s 1957 film The Black Scorpion).

Harryhausen then made 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), about an American spaceship returning from Venus. The spaceship crashes into the ocean near Italy, which releases an on-board alien egg specimen that washes up on shore. The egg soon hatches a creature that, in Earth’s atmosphere, rapidly grows to gigantic size running amok and terrifying the citizens of Rome. He refined and improved his animation techniques still further for the Venusian Ymir alien. Harryhausen then developed a technique to maintain proper color balances for his DynaMation process, resulting in The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) The Three Worlds of Gulliver (1960), Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Among the film’s best sequences is an exciting fight between three actors and seven living skeletons, And the confrontation with Talos the bronze giant. Harryhausen next made First Men in the Moon (1964), his only film made in the 2.35:1 widescreen (AKA “CinemaScope”) format, based on the novel by H. G. Wells.

Harryhausen was then hired by Hammer Film Productions to animate the dinosaurs for One Million Years B.C. (1966) featuringRaquel Welch in her second film. Harryhausen next went on to make another dinosaur film, The Valley of Gwangi. This is Set in Mexico, and features cowboys who discover a forbidden valley inhabited by dinosaurs and manage to capture a living Allosaurus and bring him to the nearest Mexican city for exhibition. However the creature, escapes and wreaks havoc on the town. Harryhausen’s next film wasThe Golden Voyage of Sinbad, featuring a sword fight involving a statue of the six-armed goddess Kali this was followed by Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Harryhausen and Shneer’s next film was Clash of the Titans featuring stars such as Laurence Olivier Ursula Andress, Burgess Meridith and Harry Hamlin and for which he was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Special Effects. This features Perseus and his efforts to save the beautiful princess Andromeda from being sacrificed to the fearsome Kraken by undertaking a perilous journey to the Isle of the Dead Where he confronts the equally fearsome gorgon Medusa. sadly more sophisticated computer-assisted technology developed by ILM and others began to eclipse Harryhausen’s production techniques, with MGM and other studios refusing to fund his planned sequel, Force of the Trojans, sO Harryhausen and Schneer Retired from filmmaking.

In the early 1970s, Harryhausen also published a book, Film Fantasy Scrapbook (produced in three editions as his last three films were released) and supervising the restoration and release of his films to video, laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray. A second book followed, An Animated Life, written with author and friend Tony Dalton which details his techniques and history. This was then followed in 2005 by The Art of Ray Harryhausen, featuring sketches and drawings for his many projects. In 2008 Harryhausen and Dalton published a history of stop-motion model animation, A Century of Model Animation and to celebrate Harryhausen’s 90th birthday The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation published Ray Harryhausen – A Life in Pictures. In 2011 the last volume, called Ray Harryhausen’s Fantasy Scrapbook, was also published. Harryhausen continued his lifelong friendship with Ray Bradbury until Bradbury’s death in 2012. Another long-time close friend was “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine editor, book writer, and sci-fi collector Forrest J Ackerman, another friend was long-time producer, Charles H. Schneer, who lived next door to him in a suburb of London until Schneer moved full-time to the USA. Harryhausen and Terry Moore appeared in small comedic cameo roles in the 1998 remake of Mighty Joe Young, and he has also provided the voice of a polar bear cub in the Will Ferrell film Elf. He also appears as a bar patron in Beverly Hills Cop III, and as a doctor in the John Landis film Spies Like Us. In 2010, Harryhausen had a brief cameo in Burke & Hare, a British film also directed by Landis.

In 1986 Harryhausen formed The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, a registered charity in the UK and US, which preserves all of his collection and promotes the art of stop-motion animation. In 2002, young animators Seamus Walsh and Mark Caballero helped Harryhausen complete The Story of the Tortoise and the Hare. This was the sixth and final installment of the Harryhausen fairy tales. The film was started in 1952 and completed in 2002, 50 years later and went on to win the 2003 Annie award for best short film and gained worldwide attention. Ray Harryhausen was also given a special tribute at The BFI Southbank theater which was attended by all the top visual effects directors and technicians and was hosted by director John Landis. At this event he was presented by Peter Jackson with a special BAFTA award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. In 2009, he released colorized DVD versions of three of his classic black and white Columbia films: 20 Million Miles to Earth, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and It Came from Beneath the Sea, and of She (1935), in tribute to its producer Merian C. Cooper.In June 2010, it was announced that the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation had agreed to deposit the animator’s complete collection of some 50,000 pieces with the National Media Museum in Bradford, England.

The work of Ray Harryhausen was celebrated in an exhibition at London’s Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) in 1990. In 2010 A theater at Sony Pictures Digital Productions was named in honor of Harryhausen. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted Harryhausen in 2005, He also received the annual British Fantasy Society Wagner Award in 2008 for his lifetime contribution to the genre and in 2003, Harryhausen was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2013, the RH foundation and Arrow Films released a feature-length biography of Harryhausen and his films called “Ray Harryhausen – Special Effects Titan” on Blu-Ray. Featuring photos, artifacts, and film clips culled directly Harryhausen’s estate and never before seen by the public. A major exhibition of Ray Harryhausen’s models Entitled “Ray Harryhausen – Mythical Menagerie” was held at the Science Museum Oklahoma and another exhibition took place at Tate Britain in 2017 featuring work from the Harryhausen collection and short film made by John Walsh on the restoration of a painting owned by Harryhausen which influenced his work. In 1992 The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Ray Harryhausen a Gordon E.Sawyer Award to acknowledge His “technological contributions to the industry. He also made” A long series of appearances at film festivals, colleges, and film seminars around the world Harryhausen met many of

Ray Harryhausen sadly died on May 7, 2013 however his influence on today’s film makers is enormous, with luminaries; Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, John Landis and Nick Park citing Harryhausen as being the man whose work inspired their own creations. Peter Lord of Aardman animation also said that Harryhausen was “a one-man industry and a one-man genre”. Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright said “I loved every single frame of Ray Harryhausen’s work … He was the man who made me believe in monsters.” George Lucas also said, “Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars”. Terry Gilliam said, “What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits.” James Cameron also paid tribute by saying, “I think all of us who are practitioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray’s contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn’t be who we are.”

Ray Harryhausen left his collection, which includes all of his film related artefacts to the Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation, set up in 1986 to look after his extensive collection, to protect his name and to further the art of model stop-motion animation. The trustees are his daughter Vanessa Harryhausen, Simon Mackintosh, actress Caroline Munro who appeared in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and film maker John Walsh who first met with Ray Harryhausen in 1988 as a film student of the London Film School and made a documentary entitled Ray Harryhausen: Movement Into Life narrated by Doctor Who actor Tom Baker (who also appeared in the Golden Voyage of Sinbad. The Foundation’s website charts progress on the restoration of the collection and future plans for Ray’s legacy. In 2016 the foundation launched The Ray Harryhausen Podcast. This included never before heard audio from Ray Harryhausen. Hosted by Collections Manager Connor Heaney and John Walsh.

Posted in films & DVD, Science fiction

J. J. Abrahams

American film and television director, producer, writer, author and composer, Jeffrey Jacob “J. J.” Abrams was born June 27, 1966. He is an best known for his work in the genres of action, drama, and science fiction. Abrams wrote and/or produced feature films such as Regarding Henry (1991), Forever Young (1992), Armageddon (1998), and Cloverfield (2008). He created or co-created a number of TV drama series, including Felicity (co-creator, 1998–2002), Alias (creator, 2001–2006), and Lost (co-creator, 2004–2010), ” Fringe” (co-creator, 2008 – 2013). His directorial film work includes Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Mission: Impossible III (2006),Super 8 (2011) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015),

Abrams’ first job in the movie business started when he was 16 when he wrote the music for Don Dohler’s film Nightbeast. During his senior year at college, he teamed with Jill Mazursky to write a feature film treatment. Purchased by Touchstone Pictures, the treatment was the basis for Taking Care of Business, Abrams’ first produced film, which starred Charles Grodin and James Belushi. He followed that up with Regarding Henry, starring Harrison Ford, and Forever Young, starring Mel Gibson. He also co-wrote with Mazursky the script for the comedy Gone Fishin’ starring Joe Pesci and Danny Glover. In 1994, he was part of the “Propellerheads” with Rob Letterman, Loren Soman, and Andy Waisler, a group of Sarah Lawrence alums experimenting with computer animation technology who were contracted by Jeffrey Katzenberg to develop animation for the film Shrek. Abrams worked on the screenplay for the 1998 film Armageddon with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay. That same year, he made his first foray into television with Felicity, which ran for four seasons on The WB Network, serving as the series’ co-creator (with Matt Reeves) and executive producer. He also composed its opening theme music.

Under his production company Bad Robot, which he founded with Bryan Burk in 2001,Abrams created and executive-produced ABC’s Alias and is co-creator (along with Damon Lindelof and Jeffrey Lieber) and executive producer of Lost. He later co-wrote the teleplay for Lost’s third season premiere “A Tale of Two Cities.” As with Felicity, Abrams also composed the opening theme music for Alias and Lost. In 2001, Abrams co-wrote and produced the thriller Joy Ride, and wrote an unproduced screenplay for a fifth Superman film in 2002.[citation needed]In 2006, he served as executive producer of What About Brian and Six Degrees, also on ABC. Abrams directed and wrote the two-part pilot for Lost and remained active producer for the first half of the season. That same year, he made his feature directorial debut in 2006 with Mission: Impossible III, starring Tom Cruise. Abrams spoke at the TED conference in 2007.

In 2008, Abrams produced the monster movie Cloverfield. In 2009, he directed the science fiction film Star Trek, which he produced with Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof. While it was speculated that they would be writing and producing an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series of novels, they publicly stated in November 2009 that they were no longer looking to take on that project. In 2008, Abrams co-created, executive produced, and co-wrote the FOX science fiction series Fringe (along with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) and also composed the theme music. He was featured in the 2009 MTV Movie Awards 1980s-style digital short “Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions”, with Andy Samberg and Will Ferrell, in which he plays a keyboard solo. NBC picked up Abrams’ Undercovers as its first new drama series for the 2010–11 season. However, it was subsequently cancelled by the network in November 2010.

In 2008, it was reported that Abrams purchased the rights to a New York Times article “Mystery on Fifth Avenue” about the renovation of an 8.5 million dollar co-op, a division of property originally owned by E. F. Hutton and Marjorie Merriweather Post, for six figures and was developing a film titled Mystery on Fifth Avenue, with Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot Productions,and comedy writers Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky to write the adaptation. According to the article, a wealthy couple Steven B. Klinsky and Maureen Sherry purchased the apartment in 2003 and live there with their four children. Soon after purchasing the apartment, they hired young architectural designer Eric Clough, who devised an elaborately clever “scavenger hunt” built into the apartment that involved dozens of historical figures, a fictional book and a soundtrack, woven throughout the apartment in puzzles, riddles, secret panels, compartments, and hidden codes, without the couple’s knowledge. The family didn’t discover the embedded mystery until months after moving into the apartment. After Abrams purchased the article, Clough left him an encrypted message in the wall tiles of a Christian Louboutin shoe store he designed in West Hollywood

Abrams also wrote and directed the Paramount science fiction movie Super 8, while co-producing with Steven Spielberg and Bryan Burk; it was released on June 10, 2011. In 2013 Abrams directed the sequel to Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, in before directing Star Wars: episode VII The Force Awakens in 2015. This lead tO speculation concerning his future with Paramount Pictures, with whom he has released all of his previously directed feature work and which has a first-look deal with his Bad Robot Productions. Paramount vice-chairman Rob Moore stated that Abrams will continue to have a hand in the highly successful Star Trek and Mission: Impossible franchises going forward. Abrams announced at the 2013 D.I.C.E. Conference that Bad Robot has also made a deal with Valve Corporation to produce films based on the video game titles Portal and Half-Life.

In 2013, Abrams released a film based on the novel, S., written by Doug Dorst. Abrams’ frequent creative collaborators include writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, composer Michael Giacchino, cinematographers Daniel Mindel and Larry Fong, and editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey.

Posted in books, films & DVD

H. Rider Haggard KBE

English novellist Sir Henry Rider Haggard, KBE was born 22 June 1856 in Bradenham, Norfolk, and studied at Garsington Rectory in Oxfordshire under Reverend H. J. Graham but unlike his older brothers who graduated from various private schools, he attended Ipswich Grammar School. In 1875, Haggard’s father sent him to South Africa, to take up an unpaid position as assistant to the secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal. In 1876 he was transferred to the staff of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Special Commissioner for the Transvaal. I was in this role that Haggard was present in Pretoria in April 1877 for the official announcement of the British annexation of the Boer Republic of the Transvaal. In 1878 he became Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal, and wrote to his father informing him that he intended to return to England. When Haggard eventually returned to England, he married a friend of his sister, (Mariana) Louisa Margitson in 1880. And they settled in Ditchingham, Norfolk, Louisa’s ancestral home. Later they lived in Kessingland and had connections with the church in Bungay, Suffolk.

After returning to England in 1882, Haggard published a book on the political situation in South Africa and handful of unsuccessful novels, before writing the book for which he is most famous, King Solomon’s Mines. He accepted a 10% royalty rather than ₤100 for the copyright. A sequel, Allan Quatermain, soon followed, and She and its sequel Ayesha, swashbuckling adventure novels set in the context of the Scramble for Africa (the action of Ayesha however happens in Tibet). Due to this The hugely popular King Solomon’s Mines is sometimes considered the first of the Lost World genre and features the heroic Zulu warrior Umslopogaas and Ignosi, the rightful king of Kukuanaland, while Sheon the other hand is generally considered to be one of the classics of imaginative literature . He is also remembered for Nada the Lily (a tale of adventure among the Zulus) and the epic Viking romance, Eric Brighteyes. Three of Haggard’s novels were written in collaboration with his friend Andrew Lang who shared his interest in the spiritual realm and paranormal phenomena.

Haggard also studied law and was called to the bar in 1884 and He stood unsuccessfully for Parliament as a Conservative candidate for the Eastern division of Norfolk in the 1895 summer election, losing by only 198 votes.Haggard was also heavily involved in reforming agriculture and was a member of many commissions on land use and related affairs, work that involved several trips to the Colonies and Dominions Haggard also wrote about agricultural and social reform, in part inspired by his experiences in Africa, but also based on what he saw in Europe and this eventually led to the passage of the 1909 Development Bill.

Haggard’s Lost World genre influenced popular American pulp writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Talbot Mundy, Philip José Farmer and Abraham Merritt and his stories are still widely read today. Ayesha, the female protagonist of She, has been cited as a prototype by psychoanalysts as different as Sigmund Freud (in The Interpretation of Dreams) and Carl Jung. Her epithet “She Who Must Be Obeyed” is used by British author John Mortimer in his Rumpole of the Bailey series as the private name which the lead character uses for his wife, Hilda, before whom he trembles at home (despite the fact that he is a barrister with some skill in court). Allan Quatermain, the adventure hero of King Solomon’s Mines and its sequel Allan Quatermain, was a template for the American character Indiana Jones, featured in the films Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Quatermain has gained recent popularity thanks to being a main character in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Haggard was praised in 1965 by Roger Lancelyn Green, one of the Oxford Inklings, as a writer of a consistently high level of “literary skill and sheer imaginative power” and a co-originator with Robert Louis Stevenson of the Age of the Story Tellers. The first chapter of his book People of the Mist is credited with inspiring the motto of the Royal Air Force (formerly the Royal Flying Corps), Per ardua ad astra.

In recognition of his agricultural reforms Haggard was made a Knight Bachelor in 1912 and a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1919. towards the end of his life he also became a staunch opponent of Bolshevism, a position he shared with his friend Rudyard Kipling, with whom he had bonded upon Kipling’s arrival at London in 1889, and the two remained lifelong friends. Haggard sadly passed away 14 May 1925 at the age 68. His ashes were buried at Ditchingham Church and his papers are held at the Norfolk Record Office

Posted in films & DVD

Chinatown

The classic film noir crime thriller Chinatown premiered 20 June 1974. The film stars Jack Nicholson as a hard bitten private investigator named Gittes who finds himself drawn into all kinds of trouble when a femme fatale (Faye Dunaway) ask him to investigate something.

Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD

SIR J. M. Barrie OM

Best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan, The Scottish author and dramatist, Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM sadly died 19 June 1937 after contracting Pneumonia. He was born 9 May 1860 in Kirriemuir, he was the child of a family of small-town weavers. At the age of 8, Barrie was sent to The Glasgow Academy, Scotland, in the care of his eldest siblings Alexander and Mary Ann, who taught at the school. When he was 10 he returned home and continued his education at the Forfar Academy. At 14, he left home for Dumfries Academy, again under the watch of Alexander and Mary Ann. He became a voracious reader, and was fond of Penny Dreadfuls, and the works of Robert Michael Ballantyne and James Fenimore Cooper.

At Dumfries he and his friends spent time in the garden of Moat Brae house, playing pirates “in a sort of Odyssey that was long afterwards to become the play of Peter Pan”.They formed a drama club, producing his first play Bandelero the Bandit, which provoked a minor controversy following a scathing moral denunciation from a clergyman on the school’s governing board. Barrie wished to follow a career as an author, but was dissuaded by his family who wanted him to have a profession such as the ministry. With advice from Alec, he was able to work out a compromise: he was to attend a university, but would study literature. He enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, where he wrote drama reviews for the Edinburgh Evening Courant. He graduated and obtained a M.A. on 21 April 1882.

He worked for a year and a half as a staff journalist on the Nottingham Journal following a job advertisement found by his sister in The Scotsman, then returned to Kirriemuir, using his mother’s stories about the town (which he renamed “Thrums”) for a piece submitted to the newspaper St. James’s Gazette in London. The editor ‘liked that Scotch thing’, so Barrie wrote a series of them, which served as the basis for his first novels: Auld Licht Idylls (1888), A Window in Thrums (1890), and The Little Minister, which eventually established Barrie as a successful writer. After the success of the “Auld Lichts”, he printed Better Dead (1888) privately and at his own expense, and it failed to sell. His two “Tommy” novels, Sentimental Tommy (1896) and Tommy and Grizel (1900), were about a boy and young man who clings to childish fantasy, with an unhappy ending.

Barrie began writing for the theatre, beginning with a biography of Richard Savage and written by both Barrie and H.B. Marriott Watson, this was followed by Ibsen’s Ghost (or Toole Up-to-Date) (1891), a parody of Henrik Ibsen’s dramas Hedda Gabler and Ghosts. His third play, Walker, London (1892), helped him be introduced to a young actress named Mary Ansell. He proposed to her and they were married on 9 July 1894. Barrie bought her a Saint Bernard puppy, who would play a part in the novel The Little White Bird (or Adventures in Kensington Gardens). He also gave Ansell’s given name to many characters in his novels. He then wrote Jane Annie, a failed comic opera for Richard D’Oyly Carte (1893), which he begged his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to revise and finish for him. In 1901 and 1902 he had back-to-back successes: Quality Street, about a responsible ‘old maid’ who poses as her own flirtatious niece to win the attention of a former suitor returned from the war; and The Admirable Crichton, a critically acclaimed social commentary with elaborate staging, about an aristocratic household shipwrecked on a desert island, in which the butler naturally rises to leadership over his lord and ladies for the duration of their time away from civilisation.


Peter Pan first appeared in his novel The Little White Bird, in 1902, and later in Barrie’s more famous and enduring work, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a “fairy play” about an ageless boy and an ordinary girl named Wendy who have adventures in the fantasy setting of Neverland. This was inspired by the Llewelyn Davis Boys whom he met in London who suggested a baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (included in The Little White Bird). It had its first stage performance on 27 December 1904. It has been performed innumerable times since then, and was developed by Barrie into the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy. It has since been adapted into feature films, musicals, and more. The Bloomsbury scenes show the societal constraints of late Victorian and Edwardian middle-class domestic reality, contrasted with Neverland, a world where morality is ambivalent. George Bernard Shaw’s description of the play as “ostensibly a holiday entertainment for children but really a play for grown-up people”, suggests deeper social metaphors at work in Peter Pan.

Following Peter Pan, Barrie had many more successes on the stage including The Twelve Pound Look which concerns a wife divorcing a peer and gaining an independent income. Other plays, such as Mary Rose and a subplot in Dear Brutus, revisit the idea of the ageless child. Later plays included What Every Woman Knows (1908). His final play was The Boy David (1936), which dramatised the Biblical story of King Saul and the young David. Like the role of Peter Pan, that of David was played by a woman, Elisabeth Bergner, for whom Barrie wrote the play. Barrie had many Friends including Novelist George Meredith, fellow Scot Robert Louis Stevenson, who lived in Samoa at the time, George Bernard Shaw who was his neighbour in London for several years, H. G. Wells was also a friend of many years, and Barrie met Thomas Hardy through Hugh Clifford while he was staying in London.

Although Barrie continued to write, Peter Pan quickly overshadowed his previous work and became his best-known work, and is credited with popularising the name Wendy, which was very uncommon previously. Barrie unofficially adopted the Davies boys following the deaths of their parents and was made a baronet by George V in 1913, and a member of the Order of Merit in 1922. Barrie is buried at Kirriemuir next to his parents and two of his siblings. He left the bulk of his estate (excluding the Peter Pan works, which he had previously given to Great Ormond Street Hospital in April 1929) to his secretary Cynthia Asquith. His birthplace at 4 Brechin Road is maintained as a museum by the National Trust for Scotland. However, Ormond Street Hospital, continues to benefit from the somewhat complex arrangement.

Posted in films & DVD, music

Sir Paul McCartney MBE Hon RAM FRCM

Prolific English musician, singer-songwriter and composer Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM was born 18th June 1942. He gained worldwide fame as a member of the Beatles With John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Star, and formed one of the most celebrated songwriting partnerships of the 20th century with Lennon.

The Beatles were formed when, At the age of fifteen, Paul McCartney met John Lennon and his skiffle band, the Quarrymen in 1957 and joined the group soon after, and formed a close working relationship with Lennon. Harrison joined in 1958 as lead guitarist, followed in 1960 by Lennon’s art school friend Stuart Sutcliffe on bass. By May 1960 they had tried several new names, including “Johnny and the Moondogs” and “the Silver Beetles”, They changed their name to”the Beatles” in mid-August 1960, and drummer Pete Best was recruited prior to the first of what would be five engagements in Hamburg, Germany.

The recording brought them to the attention of Brian Epstein, who became their manager in January 1962. Epstein negotiated a record contract for the group with Parlophone that May. After replacing Best with Ringo Starr in August, and releasing their first hit; “Love Me Do” in October, they became increasingly popular in the UK during 1963 and in the US in 1964. Their fans’ frenzied adulation became known as “Beatlemania”; during which McCartney was dubbed the cute Beatle. His contributions to the band’s early hits include: “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963); co-written with Lennon, “Can’t Buy Me Love” (1964) and “We Can Work It Out” (1965); co-written with Lennon. In 1965 the Beatles were appointed Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and they recorded the McCartney composition “Yesterday”, featuring a string quartet. It was the group’s first recorded use of classical music elements in their music and their first recording that did not include more than one band member.

McCartney also composed 1966 Beatles’ hits “Paperback Writer” as “a satire of pop ambition” and “Eleanor Rigby”, which included a string octet. Between 1962 and 1970 the group released twenty-two UK singles and twelve LPs, of which seventeen of the singles and eleven of the LPs became number ones. The band topped the US Billboard Hot 100 twenty times, and recorded fourteen number one albums as Lennon and McCartney became one of the most celebrated songwriting partnerships of the 20th century Before their break-up in 1970 they produced what some critics consider to be their finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles and Abbey Road McCartney was the primary writer of five of their last six US number one singles: “Hello, Goodbye”, “Hey Jude”, which was the band’s most successful single ever, “Get Back”, “Let It Be” and “The Long and Winding Road”.

After the break -up of The Beates in 1970 McCartney continued his musical career, releasing his first solo album, McCartney, which contained the stand-out track “Maybe I’m Amazed”, written for Linda Eastman. With the exception of some vocal contributions from her, it is a self-performed album, Paul providing all the instrumentation himself. In 1971 Paul collaborated with Linda on a second album, Ram, a UK number one which included the co-written US number one hit single, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”. Later that year, the pair were joined by ex-Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine and drummer Denny Seiwell to form the group Wings, and release their first album together, Wild Life.In March 1973 Wings’ achieved their first US number one, “My Love”, included on their second LP, Red Rose Speedway, in 1973 McCartney’s collaboration with Linda and former Beatles producer George Martin resulted in the James Bond theme song and Wings hit, “Live and Let Die”. The song was nominated for an Oscar, and it earned Martin a Grammy for his orchestral arrangement.

In 1974 Wings achieved a second US number one, “Band on the Run”; the acclaimed album of the same name, their third, was a massive success that became Wings’ first platinum LP. They followed with the chart topping albums, Venus and Mars and Wings at the Speed of Sound. in November, the Wings song “Mull of Kintyre”, co-written with Laine, was fast becoming one of the best-selling singles in UK chart history. The track became The most successful single of his solo career. Wings completed their final concert tour together in 1979. Active through 1981 Wings produced seven studio albums, five of which topped the US charts, as well as their live triple LP, Wings over America, one of few live albums ever to achieve the top spot in America. They also recorded six US number one singles including, “Listen to What the Man Said”, “Silly Love Songs, “With a Little Luck”, and “Coming Up”. Wings was formally disbanded in 1981,

Since then McCartney has had a prolific solo career and has been described by Guinness World Records as the “most successful composer and recording artist of all time”, with 60 gold discs and sales of over 100 million albums and 100 million singles, and “the most successful songwriter” in UK chart history. His Beatles song “Yesterday” has been covered by over 2,200 artists—more than any other song in the history of recorded music. Wings’ 1977 release “Mull of Kintyre”, co-written with Laine, was one of the best-selling singles ever in the UK. He has written or co-written thirty-two songs that have reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and as of 2012 he has sold over 15.5 million RIAA-certified units in the United States.

McCartney has also composed film scores, classical and electronic music and has released a large catalogue of songs as a solo artist. He has taken part in projects to help international charities, been an advocate for animal rights, vegetarianism and music education, campaigned against landmines and seal hunting and supported efforts such as Make Poverty History. His company MPL Communications owns the copyrights to more than 25,000 songs, including those written by Buddy Holly, as well as the publishing rights to the musicals Guys and Dolls, A Chorus Line and Grease. He is one of the UK’s wealthiest people, with an estimated fortune of £475 million in 2010.He has been married three times, and married his third wife Lady Nancy Shevell on Sunday 9th October 2011, and is the father of five children. McCartney also performed “Magical Mystery Tour”,”All My Loving” and “Let is Be” followed by a stirring version of “Live and Let Die” accompanied by some impressive pyrotechnics and “Oh-Bla-Di” at Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Concert and also played at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. McCartney’s latest album, Pure McCartney was released June 2016 and is an enormous career spanning retrospective from the 1970’s to the present day.

Posted in films & DVD, Science fiction, Television

Jodie Whittaker, Arthur Darvil

Most famous for being in the science fiction television series Doctor Who, English Actors Jodie Whittaker and Arthur Darvil were both born 17 June 1982.

Jodie Whittaker came to prominence in her 2006 feature film debut Venus, for which she received British Independent Film Award and Satellite Award nominations. She was later praised for her roles in the cult science fiction filmAttack the Block (2011), the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History of You” (2011), and as grieving mother Beth Latimer in Broadchurch. On 16 July 2017, the BBC announced that Whittaker would become the thirteenth and first female incarnation of The Doctor in the British TV series Doctor Who. She formally assumed the role from Peter Capaldi in the 2017 Christmas special episode “Twice Upon a Time” when Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor regenerated into Whittaker’s Thirteenth Doctor. Whittaker appeared in her first full series as The Doctor in the eleventh series, which premiered in October 2018. She continued in the role in the twelfth series in 2020. Whittaker later announced that she would reprise her role as The Doctor into its thirteenth series.

British actor and musician Arthur Darvill is known for playing Rory Williams, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions in the Science fiction television series Doctor Who alongside Matt Smith and Karen Gillan between 2010 and 2012), Rip Hunter in Legends of Tomorrow (2016–2018) and as Rev. Paul Coates in Broadchurch (2013–2017). From 2013 to 2014 he appeared in the lead role in the theatre musical Once in the West End and on Broadway.