Get HOOKed! – Why Hook Has Stood the Test of Time

Much of my first watching of Peter Pan Live! was spent thinking about the film Hook (1991). Every time something bored or bothered me in the 2014 live version, every time they got something “wrong,” I thought about all the things that Hook got right. But Hook is such an underrated, under-appreciated film.



Critics never seemed to like it and even Spielberg himself, at one time said that he regretted the way the film turned out (only rethinking it after Robin Williams passed, saying that he was glad he made the film because it allowed him to meet Robin). I never understood why it got such a bad wrap. In my opinion Hook is a fantastic film and a fabulous adaptation of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. It is still one of the best.


Hook was first released in 1991 and was directed by Steven Spielberg. It stars Robin Williams as Peter Banning/Pan, Maggie Smith as Lady Wendy, Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook, Bob Hoskins as Smee (my favorite Smee), and Dante Basco as Rufio. Along with Charlie Korsmo as Jack, Amber Scott as Maggie, and Caroline Goodall as Moira, Wendy’s granddaughter.

Now after having seen Pan (2015), I have even more respect and admiration for Hook, but I don’t need to compare Hook with it or anything else. It stands strong on its own, even after all these years and here is why:

1) It is one of a kind.

I cannot think of another adaptation like it, where we see the continuing story of Peter Pan in such a way, that we see what would happen if Peter allowed himself to feel; if each time he took Wendy or her daughter, and so on, to realize what a woman could be to him other than a mother. He allows himself to discover love and give into it and sacrifice his eternal youth.

It is amazing what one little query could become. One of the writers, James V. Hart claims that the inspiration for his version was his son asking him, “What would happen if Peter Pan did grow up?”

Plus, it is much more fun to think that Peter Pan could be real. The idea that Lady Wendy told her stories and their neighbor was J. M. Barrie, who loved her stories so much that he wrote them down in the book we all know. The idea that Peter could easily exist in our own universe is pretty sweet.

2) It is great for kids and adults.

I was only 6 years-old when the film was first released and love it for its juvenile jokes, e.g. Peter getting hit in the junk by the lost boys’ padded sticky arrows and the name-calling battle between Rufio and Peter. (Plus I had a huge crush on Rufio, possibly still do as I follow Dante Basco’s work—especially Avatar: The Last Airbender. Hell, yes, ZUKO). I also enjoyed the colorful sets and props, e.g. the food and the pool of color that Peter falls into when shot out of a giant slingshot to help him remember how to fly.

Now as an adult, when I watch it, I appreciate all the thought and work that went into it. The plot, the characters and all the ways it honors and builds off the original play/book. Some things are overlooked, or not touched upon, like Neverland being asleep or lethargic without Peter there, but who is to say what happens to Neverland when Peter abandons it and grows up. It does seem a very different place when he returns. The pirates have become landlubbers in a town built around their marooned pirate ship and the lost boys have created an elaborate tree fort.

Plus, I get more of the word play and the adult jokes—e.g. Peter calling Tink a Freudian Hallucination and when the fishmonger in the Pirate town calls out “Fresh Fish! We kept the eyes in so they’ll see you through the week.” Fabulous, and such a hidden gem.

Both the kid and the adult in me love the story and adventure.

3) It still brings all the feels.

My heart still skips a beat and tear comes to my eyes when Pockets finds the Peter they knew inside the older Peter. I love Pockets so very much. He is such a little peewee, but he has the biggest heart and never wavered in his support for Peter. (Honestly, I think that Pockets should have been left in charge at the end because of this.)


(from tumblr_inline_redringsofredemption)

Even after all this time, I cannot get over the feast scene! When the lost boys lay out a “feast”, Peter finds nothing in the bowls, it baffles him. How could these boys be happy pretending they are eating? When he makes-believe just to start a food fight, it suddenly becomes real. Which plays on the fact that in the past sometimes the boys went without because to Peter make-believe can be too real, but takes it to a new level. Even if you don’t see the multi-layers of it, it always makes me laugh and brings such joy into my heart. I can’t help but smile!


And we cannot forget the joy that comes as we follow Peter as he remembers himself and rescues his kids—and then the heartbreak when the realization hits that he has to leave Neverland and the lost boys again. As a kid, I did not want him to leave because I didn’t want him to be an adult again, because that sounded like the worst thing. This may still be true, in a sense, but now I don’t want to see him leave without the lost boys. Especially knowing what wonderful things Wendy has done for lost boys throughout her years, and I feel that they are missing out on so much by not having a chance to grow up.

Although as a child I thought Moira’s reaction for finding her kids returned safely to her was really awkward, as an adult I can fully understand the gravity of the situation even though I do not have kids of my own. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time, and I actually cried with her this time!

Oh, and that moment when you realize that Wendy still wishes she could have been Peter’s girl. His one and only.

Plus, mad props to John Williams for his soundtrack scores and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) for their amazing work on the fantastical world of Neverland! Together they brought the film to life and man, they make the feels so much stronger!

4) It can turn a hater into a fan.

I say this from experience, because I was not a fan of Disney’s version of Peter Pan, and although I liked the Mary Martin televised stage production, I thought it was silly at times. Generally, Peter Pan was not one of my favorite kids stories, but I loved Hook. I watched it again and again, and after all that time I actually got turned on to the lore and story. I’m not sure I would have given it a second chance without this film.


While in the regular story both Peter and Wendy can seem annoying or off-putting, this story is more complex and changes the way we view Peter Pan, from a magical dream boy to solid, tangible, and believable character—a real person.

The original story gave me no hope when it came to growing up—as if we are all doomed to become sad bloated codfish that was Peter Banning. Stuck inside a whirlwind of so-called “success” shuffled into cubicles, having all the life and fun drained from us slowly and somehow without our knowledge. It scared the living expletives out of me. This film however turns it around, and shows that even if one scenario is that we become sad bland adults, there are other scenarios. Peter is able to turn it around and learn that being a father and just life itself can be a huge adventure. Tootles as well gives an example of someone who never lost Neverland in his heart, and was a kid, in a way, even in his old age.

5) You can play spot the star cameo!

Can you find these stars?

  • David Crosby (Singer – Known from Crosby, Stills and Nash)
  • Phil Collins (Yes, that Phil Collins from Genesis)
  • Gwyneth Paltrow

And for extra points:

  • Glenn Close
  • George Lucas & Carrie Fisher
*Spoilers for where those cameos appear, If you really want to play the game, skip ahead!*
  • David Crosby is a Pirate in the crowd. You can spot him when he yells, “Long live the Hook” or during the fight scene when he gets a plank to the nuts.
  • Phil Collins is Inspector Good, who is the head investigator for the kids’ kidnapping case in London. He responds aptly to Tootles who says, “I’ve forgotten how to fly” with “One does.”
  • Gwyneth Paltrow plays young Wendy, when Peter first comes for her and again when he returned for her.
  • Glenn Close plays a male pirate! You won’t recognize her unless you are looking for her. She plays Gutless, the pirate who bet against Hook and who gets put in the “Boo Box” for it.
  • George Lucas and Carrie Fisher are the kissing couple on the bridge who begin to float when Tinker Bell flies over them with Peter. It’s one you can’t spot unless you know it ahead of time, but kudos for trying.
*End of spoilers*

6) Because it highly honors the story on which it is based, you can play spot the reference/nod!

  • Some quotes, references, and nods to the original are easy to spot like:
    • When the children are left in their beds before being abducted and when they return to their beds is such a reflection of the original story. It is lovely
    • “By Hook or by Crook” —Moira
    • “Strike Peter, Strike True” —Hook (originally said by Tootles)
    • “Peter, you’ve become a pirate” —Lady Wendy
  • hook4 MOD

    (full picture from and the close-up “insert” from – modified by me)

    Still, there are some that are almost glazed over and might take a better knowledge of the original story or many viewings, for example:

    • Lady Wendy tells the children she will show them where she and their father stood to blow out the stars.
    • Tink’s full expression of wanting to be something more to Peter that isn’t a mother. I absolutely love the line “This is the biggest feeling I have ever ever felt, this is the biggest feeling I have ever had. And this is the first time I’m big enough to have it.” It harks back to fairies being so small that they can only experience one feeling at a time.
      • Plus! That Dress! Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted her gorgeous ball gown.
      • AND! After everything with Tink, I was thinking the only thing she was missing was the line “You Silly Ass” but as she tells Peter to go save his family, when he stood in confusion, she blew fairy dust on him and said that great line!
  • How many do you think you can spot? I’ve watched it multiple times and I’m not sure I have caught them all just yet.
Extra highlights to pile on top of all this goodness
Plot Points:
    • Lady Wendy giving Peter a “scudge”—which shows how much Peter has changed from never being touched.
    • Neverland makes people forget. The more time adult Peter spent in Neverland, especially once he remembered who he really was, he started to forget why he was there, and who was waiting for him back in our world. This also happened to Jack, who was being brainwashed and only at times like when the pirates accidentally were chanting, “RUN HOME, JACK,” did he think for a second what that meant. Maggie, however, much like Wendy, never forgets and always wants to go home. As you may know, girls are too smart to fall out of their prams, and they are far too smart to forget who they are and where they came from.
    • Hook and the infamous ticking Croc. Though the tables have turned in this adaptation, Hook has to hide the fact that he is worse for wear. He may not have aged, but the stress has taken its toll. I can only assume that between the end of the story we knew and this one, he had to fight his way out of the croc, kill the croc to turn him into the town clock, then of course commandeer all the other clocks and stop them from ticking. We do get a glimpse of how it still wears on him psychologically, when one of the clocks begins ticking again.
    • Wendy Moira Angela Darling is Wendy’s full birth name. The reason I point this out is because at the end of J. M. Barrie’s story her name stays the same despite having been married and with children. For us in present day, this is not a big deal, but for someone having lived in the early 20th century, it seems a very big deal.
      • It seems a rather small thing at the end of the story, but it is emphasized in this film, as she is still considered a “Darling.” It might not mean a darn thing, but I like it anyhow.

(from Hook’s DVD page)

Characters—which is to say the writing of the characters and the acting:

I have to say that so much of the cast was just amazing, and sadly overlooked and even considered a black mark in their career but I see it as the opposite.

  • Dustin Hoffman as Hook. I feel like most people don’t give him enough credit for this role. It is a bit of an odd role, but Hook is an odd character and he really brought him to life. He created a part of Hook we never saw before and yet it fit with the already established character.
  • Robin Williams, of course, as Peter Banning/Pan. Who better to play a whimsical and yet grown version of the embodiment of youth, fun, and freedom? He does a fantastic job creating two personalities; he is a very different person when he is stodgy and grown up and stressed out than when he remembers how to be light and fun. I love when he jumps up and puts his fists on his hips like you expect Peter Pan to do. He was able to encapsulate the role so well
  • Maggie is a quintessential “Darling”. She has the sweet and innocent way about her that harks back to Wendy, especially when she sings a sweet but sad song that her mother sang to her and touches the hearts of all the pirates. She is the one thing that keeps Jack grounded and reminded of home, which is why Hook separates them.
  • Jack is surely Peter’s son, in all aspects. He is like the child that Peter Pan once was, he’s playful and sarcastic and he gets a giggle out of riling up Hook when he fixes one of the broken clocks in his museum. He is also like John and Michael in the original story when he forgets that he has parents hoping for his return and he is tempted to become a pirate. Unlike John and Michael, Jack is desperate for a father’s love and has no connection to honoring king and country. Him becoming a pirate still holds true from the original story, as there are so many parallels between Peter and Captain Hook.
  • Hook 1 Ferdy on Films
  • Tootles is Tootles. That might not mean much to some people, but to those who know the character and how he was timid and often missed the adventures, you’ll understand how great that is! He doesn’t have much screen time, but they definitely made the most of him!
  • Smee/Bob Hoskins—I cannot say for sure exactly what it is about Bob Hoskin’s Smee that makes me love him so much, but he fits the part to a tee. The way he is described as a pirate that the kids loved, and showing the more comical and fun side of piracy, and a man that is full of good form without evening knowing it—that is this Smee. He’s fun, he’s lovable, and his lines show that he is smarter than the average pirate—using words like “unfathomable” to blank faces, but still gullible and naïve—stumped by Hook’s usage of “epiphany.” He’s a teddy bear and all the girls love him, but he’s ineffably loyal and yet only after the loot and for himself.
  • Maggie Smith as Lady Wendy. I don’t feel that I need to say much here—because it is fricking MAGGIE SMITH! She is always fantastic. However, it must be said that she was only 56 years old playing someone in their 90s, so good on her.
Goofs, weird things, and boo boos (because no picture is perfect):
  • I can understand always having a dog named Nana, but why does Wendy still have a housekeeper named LIZA?
  • Most of the times that Tink is on screen are weird and unnecessary. Sometimes when I watch this I can let Julia Roberts’ performance slide, and sometimes I just want her to drink poison (as Tink that is) and die. There are scenes with her I do like at all times, so she’s not all bad. (It would have been interesting to have seen Sherilyn Fenn—who I know from Twin Peaks—as she was considered for Tink.)
  • The book says that Wendy’s granddaughter, whom is swept away by Peter, is named Margaret, not Moira. This is considered a mistake or goof by many, but I can overlook it because as we all have two grandmothers—she can have as many differently named granddaughters.
  • The weightlifting contraption that is “lifting Lost Boys,” as Peter bench-presses the weight of the Lost Boys, they are going the opposite way as they should. It seems silly, but it always bothered me. It does not look right.
  • The sudden costume change when Peter finds his happy thought seems strange and unnecessary—plus OMG those TIGHTS! I’m so glad that Hook makes a joke, because it needed to be made.
  • How does Thud Butt remember Tootles if all the original Lost Boys left with Wendy to be adopted? Even Peter questions it, and there is no logical explanation except that they were both Lost Boys.


It has been 24 years since the film was released. I have watched it countless times since then at many different times in my life, and although I felt different things at different ages, one thing always came through, the fun and the happy. I’m always smiling at the end. It has a great message that bears repeating:


Getting older and growing up doesn’t mean absolutely that you become bored, sad, and serious (really had to hold myself back from quoting Pink Floyd). It is all about keeping the child inside alive and treating all life as an adventure.

My final thought is that this movie is truly BANGARANG!*

ILM work - https-_s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com_originals_d8_43_15_d843156c69affcea42592f04bf23ee3a

(from https-_s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com_originals_d8_43_15_d843156c69affcea42592f04bf23ee3a)

*According to Urban Dictionary, Bangarang means:

  1. Battle cry of the Lost Boys in the movie Hook.
  2. General exclamation meant to signify approval or amazement.
  3. Jamaican Slang defined as hubbub, uproar, disorder, or disturbance.

Peter Pan Productions that Fly from Stage to TV

With Pan, a new adaptation of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, being released in theaters soon, we at Adaptation Podcast have been talking about ALL THINGS PAN. Unlike most adaptations of Peter Pan, this new film will be an origin story and prequel to the ones we know and love.

While commentating on Peter Pan (2003), three other adaptations came to mind: the 1960 production starring Mary Martin, Peter Pan Live! (2014), and Hook (1991). My article on Hook will be out shortly, but first let’s address the two televised stage productions by NBC.

Cast:                                                         1960                                                            2014

Peter Pan Mary Martin Allison Williams
Hook Cyril Ritchard Christopher Walken
Mr. Darling Christian Borle
Smee Joe E. Marks
Wendy (Young) Maurine Bailey Taylor Louderman
Jane Caitlin Houlahan
Wendy (Grown up) Peggy Maurer Minnie Driver
Narrator Lynn Fontane
Michael Kent Fletcher John Allyn
John Joey Trent Jake Lucas
Tootles David Komoroff Jason Gotay
Slightly Edmund Gaynes F. Michael Haynie
Twins Luke Halpin &
Benedict Herrman
David & Jacob Guzman
Curly Bill Snowden Ryan Steele
Nibs Carson Woods Chris McCarrell
Tiger Lily Sondra Lee Alanna Saunders
Black Bill John Holland
Cecco Richard Winter Michael Park
Starkey Robert Vanselow Bryce Ryness
Liza Jacqueline Mayro (Uncredited)
Nana Norman Shelly (in a suit) Bowdie (Real Dog)
Croc (Uncredited)
Mrs. Darling Margalo Gillmore Kelli O’Hara

There are more characters listed for 2014

Both versions had their shortcomings and their pleasant surprises. I love the story of Peter Pan, but it has been done so many times. I grew up on the 1960 version, but I was interested to see what they could do with the extra money and space, and of course—CHRISTOPHER WALKEN AS HOOK.

Peter Pan Live! was the 2014 live production of the 1954 musical adaptation of Peter Pan, televised from Grumman Studios in Bethpage, New York. The production was a follow-up to The Sound of Music Live! While similar in content to the original, the version of Peter Pan featured in the special contained revisions to its book to emphasize the character of Captain Hook, along with additional songs from its revivals, new songs adapted from the musicals Do Re Mi and Say, Darling, and the restoration of a song that had been cut from the musical before its original Broadway premiere.

This production had the capability of a huge studio, rather than just a theatrical stage, and the characters easily flew between lavish and colorful sets, instead of needing moments for set changes. It ran 2:11 without commercials—so it was about three hours long when I saw it on TV, which may have been needed to fit everything in, but it felt really long and by the middle I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

The 1960 version just titled Peter Pan and was a production that looked like they were taping the stage production as is. It ran 1:40 without commercials, which is rather long considering they cut the story down, presumably to make it more child friendly, sacrificing some scenes and songs, and lessening the time that Wendy, John, and Michael have to interact with Neverland and the audience. It was closer to the book at first, but once in Neverland it takes many liberties and is incomplete.


2015-09-22 23.48.07Peter: I originally watched the Mary Martin version when I was a little kid—able to forgive much more. When I rewatched the 1960 version, I thought it would be strange to have an older woman playing Peter, but once Mary Martin got into it; she played it like a careless child. She was naïve and silly and all about fun. She may not have seemed like a boy, but Peter is stuck at an age where he is sexless. Allison Williams on the other hand, played Peter in such a way that I never saw a little boy; I always saw a woman.

Allison Williams is not a bad actress, but the role is iconic and she had a high bar to reach. She played Peter a little flat and bland. For example, when Peter is calling Hook a codfish, he is asked if he is a man, the answer “NEVER”—a line which should have a spark to it—was very glazed over. Mary Martin’s Peter actually “imitates” Hook rather than dubbing the other actor’s voice over to pretend that the imitation is really that good. This way the pirates, including Hook, seem even more silly and bumbling. However, the questions were almost completely omitted in 1960—the only question asked was, “do you have another voice?” which led to a scene I can only describe as the version taking advantage of her vocal range, extending it into this song and dance with Peter dressing up like a lady—“A beautiful lady” as Hook says. This is a bit like in the book when Peter wears Wendy’s cloak to disguise himself on the ship—which he does do, but as a pirate for a good laugh.

I understand that they have a woman play Peter for the arrangement of the songs. An older woman can hit the notes better than a young boy, but the original play was not a musical and only starred a woman because in 1904 children could not work past nine p.m., so it would be interesting to see if a young boy could pull the production off. Speaking of songs, however, it is always funny that the loud songs do not wake John and Michael, or anyone else in the house (which we discussed in our commentary).

Wendy (young): Taylor Louderman, in the 2014 version, was a tad too flighty or airy. Her singing voice was fabulous but the speaking lines were like needles in my ears. She also looked like she was wearing a bad wig, which made me think maybe she would take it off to play Jane, but as the cast list shows, she does not. Honestly, The actress looked too old to be keeping her doll in her bed, not to say that there is a specific age that something like that should stop, but her mannerisms were under her age and seemed so awkward. We have seen that before, in Jurassic Park and Maleficent—and just like those, they aged the actress but not the character and it comes off weird.

Her actions with “the kiss” giving and getting are over the top and a bit sickening because it seems unfounded and childish for her, not to mention her wild belief in the unimaginable. A strange boy just snuck into her room, and she is immediately in love with him? I know the story has been spun that way in many adaptations but I have to say that the skepticism of Wendy and her brothers in the 2003 version was refreshing.

Startling enough the 1960 version omitted the whole idea of “the kiss.” There is no such exchange and when Wendy is shot, she is saved by one of her buttons, a very interesting twist. Plus, when they talk to each other like Mother and Father, they laugh at the whole idea, though it still scares Peter while Wendy is unfettered. Maurine Bailey gets very little stage time, however, as she stays behind when the boys go out, but they made her scenes count. Even if it is more believable to say that Peter was upset not with her leaving, but with the fact that she was taking everyone else.

Wendy (grown up): I didn’t really like Minnie Driver (2014). I liked the line that being grown up keeps you grounded, but when I used to watch Peggy Maurer (1960), in the same role, I cried over how heartbroken Wendy was that she couldn’t go, and loved her apprehension to letting Jane fly off with Peter. Minnie Driver’s Wendy says that she hopes that her daughter will have a daughter and she will fly off with Peter and on and on down the genealogical tube, just so she knows that Peter will live on. It would not be my first reaction to having my daughter possibly stolen away. Minnie Driver is only in it for a short second, but it was enough to not like her words or the way she carried herself. I am glad they make a bigger deal out of the mermaids comb, as Wendy really does treasure it forever and shows it to Peter. Even though the 2014 didn’t break my heart as much, the ending when Peter flies off with Jane—it still gets me and makes me cry a bit.

2015-09-22 23.47.40Hook: In both versions, Hook was done well, in completely different ways. Cyril Ritchard (1960) played him deliciously evil. His Hook is a bit of a caricature, but this is a child’s “dream” if you will, and his emotional range is far superior to that of Christopher Walken (2014), although he was a crazy and amazing Hook in his own right. In fact, he played Hook like only Christopher Walken can—as Christopher Walken, who, if you did not know, is a fabulous dancer. He isn’t much of a singer, but his speak-singing was actually quite pleasant and fitting. He had some fantastic lines and fabulous comedic timing and deadpan moments. When Wendy gives her last words, he retorts, “That’s it?” which is what I was always thinking and could be a play on Cyril Ritchard’s version who allowed Wendy to say “These are my last words” and then cut her off, so they literally were. Genius.

Smee: Christian Borle who played Smee in 2014, also played Mr. Darling, instead of playing Hook at the same time, which first happened at its opening in 1904 to keep cast costs down. This made Smee quite a bit younger than I am used to, but it wasn’t a bad thing. The actor was well built, giving Smee some guns! Even though Bob Hoskins will always be my Smee, I did enjoy Borle’s portrayal of him. He had a different comical styling and he added things to the character that I liked very much. His was one of the best performances and completely trumps Joe E. Marks (1960), who was fine, but very forgettable and completely overshadowed by Hook.

The Lost Boys: In the 2014 version, they looked like a bunch of AC/DC cosplayers in their school uniform-like costumes that did not fit. They were clearly professional dancers, which didn’t hurt, but my suspension of disbelief can be stretched only so far. Their speaking lines were tough to handle. They acted just fine, but again with the age of the actors and then their mannerisms, and the unnatural pitch of their voices (maybe I misheard, but it seemed like they were trying to sound younger) were very off-putting. They are far too old to need to be adopted. It is a big deal that the lost boys and Peter are supposed to be children and any grown up in Neverland is a pirate, so it would be nice to see that properly—or did I get all of that from Hook? Anyway, properly aged children play Michael and John, and I loved them.

In 1960 all the boys were young like you would imagine. They handled the choreography and stage directions just fine, even if they weren’t as complicated as the more recent production. It did’t hurt the production at all to have them be the age they should be. They changed what they needed to, to fit the production. Tootles was a bit on the younger side, so they let one of the others shoot Wendy.

(Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC)

Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Tiger Lily and Tribe: If you look up the two actresses who played Tiger Lily, Sondra Lee and Alanna Saunders, you will find that one of them (from 1960) is white and blonde and the other (from 2014) and her tribe were authentic and not whitewashed. Maybe one or two were white, but most of her tribe looked Asian, Polynesian, Caribbean and/or African. And when they got to the tribal song when the tribe and Lost Boys have come to a truce, they updated it to something more authentic than the racist sounding one of 1960, which also completely left out Marooner’s Rock and instead has Tiger Lily tied to a tree for the wolves. Although Tiger Lily does save Peter in both versions, I preferred her peering over at a wounded Peter and ending the scene to the 1960 version where she and her tribe chase off the pirates just after “the beautiful lady” is revealed to be Peter, which is silly and unconvincing. This version turned Tiger Lily into a comical farce and a bit if a wimp. I don’t mind a little comedy, but not at the expense of a culture. This is what went into children’s heads!

Nana: In 2014 she was an actual and very well trained Sheepdog (not a St. Bernard or a Newfoundland in this one) and possibly one of the better actors. In 1960 she was a costumed actor, Norman Shelly, who you may have noticed, also played the crocodile in that version. His Nana was very good and for a bit you forgot it was a suit, even if the dog was too big. It was very similar to one of my favorite Sesame Street characters, Barkley the dog.

The Croc: Remember Katy Perry’s sharks? That was the 2014 version, but nowhere near as cool. The actor was uncredited and was in a weird sparkly pink and purple suit. It is similar to the 1960 version, but that croc was a bit more realistic in both costume and the way he crawled on the ground. I guess Norman Shelley had more practice for suits. The whole production might have spent more time on it as there were many animals in suits, but they were done well in an artistic and dance costume kind of way.

Sets and Costumes

For the most part, the sets and costumes were very well done in both versions. In 2014 everything was colorful and fun, as it should be in Neverland; even the stage floor was painted like a map and had a directional star, which is cool, but when the boys were fighting over the blue “sea” parts, it was a little strange for stage direction. Hook had a great chair that he sat upon a lot; it was a red cushioned gold throne, which reclined (or at least a food rest raised)! It was a cute addition to the set and character.

The 1960 version did great on less with simpler and yet more interesting and clever stage craft. They were more meticulous with their spacing, movement and set design with pieces of scenery that could move, change and grow.


In the beginning of the 2014 version, Peter and Wendy go into the corridor to see if it is safe after they hear a noise. I do not ever remember ending up in the corridor before, and I feel like they added it because of the studio capabilities—rather than the issue of sets on a stage.

2015-09-22 23.47.57It is sad that it took until they were planning to leave Neverland for the actors to find their grooves and fill out their roles better. It took a second watch to not feel agitated by the length and some of the acting. I actually like a lot about it, except for Peter and Wendy, and aren’t they the whole point?!

As I said, the 1960 version had cut the story down, so I couldn’t understand why they had a dance number with the animals and Liza (yes, the maid Liza had fairy dust thrust upon her by Michael and although she then spins out of sight, she appears in Neverland). There is another scene later with Liza where she asks Peter to teach her how to crow, this is probably for the kids to “learn along” with them, and the scene is actually really cute, but a bit frivolous. She is so lucky that the Darlings don’t fire her for being missing all that time.

Should I have been annoyed with being able to see the wires that helped the kids and Peter fly in 2014? Probably not, as it was live, but I couldn’t help but see them, while in the lower budget Mary Martin version I only spotted them once (well twice if you count the way the back of Michaels feety pajamas hiked up).



  • Mr. Darling is found, when they return, to be in Nana’s doghouse in the nursery. It’s a good laugh.
  • There are many comedic moments in this version. Like when Peter tries to hide everyone on the ship, including the costumed animals, and finds there are not enough doors to close over them, until he realizes one door is a pull-down shade.
  • It is very light and fun.
  • Michael is the cutest in his feety pajamas, especially when he learns to fly and is running in the air.


  • They kept the Kite in this one, helping Wendy get away when the pirates attack (although that has always been a silly thing). Also, when a Pirate lets it gets away from him, he cries like a child and it made me giggle. Especially, when Smee gave him a biscuit (cookie) to calm him down.
  • When Smee and two other pirates are marking spots to blow up Neverland they are singing, and at certain points they pause for effect and I enjoy it.
  • The pirates are all pretty fantastic.
  • It emphasized diplomacy. Wendy tries to teach it to the boys, and they continue singing “I won’t grow up” making War in general seem childish—though she hilariously fails to use diplomacy with Tiger Lily a moment later.
  • I love that Peter says he is forgetful at the beginning, but by the end he forgets that he forgets.

Both versions are worth a watch and for very different reasons. I suppose that even though Peter Pan has been done so many times, and in so many formats, you can still make it new and interesting.

Before going to see the new film Pan, I would also recommend checking out the Syfy network’s two-part miniseries, Neverland, which takes a very interesting look on the origins of Peter and Hook as well as the Lost Boys. It is definitely worth a watch—and Bob Hoskins reprised his role as SMEE!

Stay tuned for my thoughts on Hook (1991), to come soon.

Jem is Truly Outrageous – This New Adaptation Might Just Be Truly Truly Truly an Outrage!

I went to see Minions for my birthday, and I got to see the Jem trailer. I have some severe judgements about it, but before I share them, see the trailer yourself:

Now, I grew up with Jem and the Holograms, and for those who don’t know it, here is a quick synopsis:

jem-holograms-movie-comingJerrica Benton and her sister Kimber, have just lost their father and are now “orphaned”—but old enough to be on their own. Jerrica has inherited half of her father’s company, Starlight Records, while the other half has gone to one of her father’s executives, Eric Raymond. He has other ideas for the company, and starts promoting “trash rock” group The Misfits. He also doesn’t want any company profits to go towards, Starlight House, a foster home for girls, which her father set up, and Jerrica and Kimber had grown up with. Starlight House is in need of repairs—and one of their girls, Ba Nee, is in need of surgery for her macular degeneration. Raymond has the idea that he can sweep the company up from under Jerrica and run it all himself, his way. Jerrica doesn’t know what to do until she gets a strange signal and follows it to an abandoned drive-in movie theater. In a hidden passage, she finds a huge machine that her father created with a computer/holographic program called Synergy. Synergy can create holograms so life-like that if it fell into the wrong hands, could be very dangerous, so Jerrica must keep it a secret—so the only ones who know are her, Kimber and their friends Aja and Shana, whom grew up with them at Starlight House. With this new power, Jerrica decides to become Jem—who is a hologram over her to disguise her true identity, and with the help of her sister and friends, they are going to take back the company and save Starlight House, their father’s legacy, and all their girls.

Okay, that wasn’t as quick as I hoped—but I felt that I needed to put it all out there after that trailer, so you can see how OFF it looks. Honestly, I couldn’t stop talking about how appalled and betrayed I felt by the look of this movie for an entire weekend. (After checking YouTube for the trailer, I find that I am not the only one!)

Here is IMDB’s synopsis of the new film:

As a small-town girl catapults from underground video sensation to global superstar, she and her three sisters begin a journey of discovering that some talents are too special to keep hidden.

This left me with some a lot of confusion. Which was also propagated by the fact that the trailer I saw, originally, was shorter and did not mention her as Jerrica Benton and her father called her Jem. So I asked myself, is Jem her birth name in this new film? Not to mention that there is a character on the IMDB page named “Young Jerrica Benton”—which confused me even more. Still, even though I am glad that they didn’t screw up that far, there is still a lot to be said about this trailer…and not much of it good.

So when this movie was being promoted, pitched and cast—the guys creating it put it out to all the fans of Jem to post videos on YouTube, either auditioning for the film because they wanted new-up-and-coming people, or to just post videos about their love of Jem. So why does it feel like we are all being given a disservice?

Jem-Teaser-PosterFirst of all, they pretty much lied about casting “new and unknown actresses”. None of them are—Stefanie Scott (Kimber) was in A.N.T. Farm among other things, Aubrey Peeples (Jem) was on Nashville among other things, and Hayley Kiyoko (Aja) has been in the business since she was 5 years old, and has most recently been seen on CSI: Cyber. It’s not that I don’t like them, but they are not a newbies. The closest we have to an up-and-comer is Aurora Perrineau (Shana) who has only been in a few things, most notably Chasing Life—but her IMDB says “she is an actress, known for A House Is Not a Home (2015), Air Collision (2012)”, so not the newness I was hoping for.

Then there is the problem that, if they were doing this for the fans, they might be failing. I understand that an adaptation has to pick and choose what it keeps, especially when updating it 30 years. Plus the fact that the original was an outrageous cartoon with sometimes wacky storylines, though they did tackle some tough issues—and with SONG no less! However, in my opinion, they are sacrificing the essence of what is JEM. And I feel that if the trailer showed any shred of respect for the original that it is based on, I wouldn’t be so angry.

She is not some Teen Internet Sensation; she is a loving daughter and sister, she cares deeply about family, and that includes what her father built, and the girls that they took in. Jem is a smart and strong female character with business-sense and immense compassion for others—the fame was just bonus, and was not the point.

I do not appreciate or condone the idea that the Internet is the way to make music and become famous. I understand that it is a part of our culture now, but as the Great Dave Grohl said,

“When I think about kids watching a TV show like American Idol or The Voice, then they think, ‘Oh, OK, that’s how you become a musician, you stand in line for eight f—ing hours with 800 people at a convention center and…then you sing your heart out for someone and then they tell you it’s not f—in’ good enough.’ Can you imagine? It’s destroying the next generation of musicians! Musicians should go to a yard sale and buy and old f—ing drum set and get in their garage and just suck. And get their friends to come in and they’ll suck, too. And then they’ll f—ing start playing and they’ll have the best time they’ve ever had in their lives and then all of a sudden they’ll become Nirvana. Because that’s exactly what happened with Nirvana. Just a bunch of guys that had some s—ty old instruments and they got together and started playing some noisy-a$$ s–t, and they became the biggest band in the world. That can happen again! You don’t need a f—ing computer or the internet or The Voice or American Idol.”

That is how I feel too. Now, that isn’t exactly how it worked for Jem and the Holograms, but there was a higher purpose.

Not to mention that the idea that Jem would ever be tempted to go solo is ridiculous. Yes, there might have been storylines about people going solo—Kimber and Stormer, member of the Misfits, felt that they were unappreciated and go off together for an episode, and Shana almost leaves when her fashion designing takes off—but Jem never goes solo. She is the manager of the band and she knows that she could not do it without her friends—it is never about that.

I am just afraid that they are turning a childhood 80’s classic to some cheesy teen melodrama, with a silly robot that plays sad home videos for Jem to cry over.…


I guess I should try to reserve my judgment until I see the actual film (too late, I know) but the trailer hurt me to my soul and I’m not sure I could actually handle seeing the full film. I do not see this turning out as a good adaptation. I am a Jem Girl and I want everyone to love Jem, especially in her original format. I do not want to see my beloved characters put through what happened to Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Do you agree? Disagree? If you think I should still go see the movie, please convince me.

Ever the Gentleman…The Loss of Patrick Macnee

Just after Christopher Lee’s passing, we have lost another great, Patrick Macnee. The two of them were the last surviving members of Sir Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948). I wrote last month about the passing of Christopher Lee because everyone knew him and I wanted to honor him and shed light on lesser-known things about him. I am writing about Patrick MacNee because he is less well-known and I want to honor him by shedding light on this great man and actor.

macneeOn June 25th, 2015, Patrick Macnee died of natural causes at his home in Rancho Mirage, California with his family at his bedside, his son Rupert said. He had lived in the US for the last 40 years, and had become a US Citizen. He was 93.

I grew up with Patrick Macnee as the ever-gentlemanly spy, John Steed on BBC’s The Avengers (1961). It is his most iconic role, and honestly ruined me for all other men. He was the epitome of the debonair English gentleman. He wore a suit, and very well, along his dapper bowler hat and distinctive umbrella, which doubled as a sword. He refused to be seen with a gun, saying in later interviews: “I said that I wouldn’t carry one; when they asked me why, I said that I’d just come out of a world war in which I’d seen most of my friends blown to bits.” Macnee became outspoken and, in later years, took every opportunity to express his disapproval of the proliferation of guns in private hands. He was always proper, but with quick wit and great agility. You could say that he is the original Kingsman.

The Avengers (1961) initially focused on Dr. David Keel (Ian Hendry) and his assistant (Macnee), but Macnee’s famous bowler-hat-wearing, umbrella-wielding intelligence officer became the protagonist when Hendry exited the series. Macnee played the part alongside a succession of strong, female partners, including Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, Linda Thorson, and Joanna Lumley. The show ran from 1961 and 1969 and was reprised in the 1970s.

This show was groundbreaking, and Macnee had spoke of his pride in how the show paved the way for women to play leading action roles. Of course, it was more than that, as he treated his female partners as equals, unlike how he was originally a side-kick of sorts. The most notable of them was Emma Peel, played by Diana Rigg in fashionable outfits and the occasional catsuit. She was nobody’s fool, a speedy sports car driver and martial arts expert; he was suitably impressed, if more staid. The two routinely engaged in witty banter while keeping the world safe from supervillains.

Avengers“It made them delight in the awareness that they could get out there and do it all, fight men, take on villains, all the kinds of stuff we showed in The Avengers,” Macnee said during an interview with The Lady Magazine. “I’m very proud of what we achieved for women with The Avengers. I don’t think we knew that we were doing it at the time; it just seemed that a woman would make the ideal foil to my John Steed. And so she did.”

The great thing about Patrick Macnee, however, is that his gentleman qualities went beyond the role and were part of his personality, saying once that it was hardly acting because he grew up that way. As a frequent guest on television talk shows around the world, Macnee was an ambassador for the tradition of the British gentleman, with his special brand of congeniality, humor and intelligence, his remarkable physical agility, and his unfailing good manners, sense of decency, and fair play. His comments and responses to questions were laced with a tongue-in-cheek, somewhat subversive sense of irony, along with a lightning-fast wit.

A Quick Bio:

Daniel Patrick Macnee, professionally known simply as Patrick Macnee, was born on February 6, 1922 in Paddington, London, England into a wealthy and eccentric family, Daniel Macnee (1877-1952) and Dorothea Mary Hastings (1896-1984). His father trained race horses in Lambourn, and was known for his dress sense; he had served as an officer in the Yorkshire Dragoons in the First World War. His maternal grandmother was Frances Alice Hastings (1870-1945), who was the daughter of Vice-Admiral George Fowler Hastings and granddaughter of Hans Francis Hastings, 12th Earl of Huntingdon. His younger brother James, known as Jimmy, was born five years after him.

Macnee’s parents divorced after his mother began to identify as a lesbian. His father later moved to India, and his mother began to live with her wealthy partner, Evelyn Spottswood, whose money came from the Dewar’s whisky business. Macnee referred to her in his autobiography as “Uncle Evelyn”, and she helped pay for his schooling.

He was educated at Summerfields Preparatory School, where he acted in Henry V at the age of 11, with Sir Christopher Lee as the Dauphin; followed by attending Eton College, where comedian and author Michael Bentine became a life-long friend. Macnee first appeared on stage and made his film debut as an extra in Pygmalion (1938). His career was interrupted by World War II, during which he served in the Royal Navy. After military service, Macnee attended the Webber Douglas School of Dramatic Art in London on scholarship—about which he said, “I went to acting school, but only for nine months. If you’re an actor, you know, don’t really need to learn how to do it.”

The New AvengersHe trudged the streets of London visiting the casting offices every day, and hung out near the entrances to London’s smarter restaurants and hotels in hope of “running into” a noted producer. There were a few near-misses. He got valuable experience onstage at The Windsor Repertory Theatre, in London’s West End, and on tours in Germany and the United States. He accepted a few minor roles, with bit parts such as Young Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol (1951). Disappointed with his limited roles, Macnee left England for Canada and the United States.

In 1954, he went to Broadway with an Old Vic troupe and later moved on to Hollywood, where he made occasional television and film appearances until returning to England in 1959. Once back home, he took advantage of his producing experience in Canada to become co-producer of the British television series Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years (1960). Shortly thereafter, Macnee landed the role that brought him worldwide fame and popularity in the part of John Steed.

He reprised the role in The New Avengers (1976)—about which he said, “They call it The New Avengers but it’s really the old Avengers with new people except for me, looking rather fat and rather old.” Although popular, it failed to recapture the magic of the original series, and only lasted one year.

He did appear as the voice of Invisible Jones in the sad, failure of a movie adaptation The Avengers (1998), with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman. I will say no more on that.

“Television has some lovely aspects to it—and some ghastly aspects—but the theater itself was a wonderful invention.” —Patrick Macnee.

Other Significant Roles:

Macnee also featured as a guest star in dozens of British, American and Australian TV productions.

He appeared in Magnum, P.I. (1984) as a retired but delusional British agent who believed he was Sherlock Holmes, in a season four episode titled “Holmes Is Where the Heart Is.” And he played both Holmes and Dr. Watson on several occasions. He played Watson alongside Roger Moore’s Sherlock Holmes in the TV film, Sherlock Holmes in New York (1976), and twice with Christopher Lee, first in Incident at Victoria Falls (1991) and then in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992). He played Holmes in another TV film, The Hound of London (1993). He is thus one of only a very small number of actors to have portrayed both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on screen.

IblisMacnee’s other significant roles have included playing Sir Godfrey Tibbett opposite Roger Moore in the James Bond film A View to a Kill (1985), as Major Crossley in The Sea Wolves (again with Moore), guest roles in Encounter, Alias Smith and Jones (with creator  Glen Larson), Hart to Hart, Murder, She Wrote, and The Love Boat. Although his best known part was heroic, many of his television appearances were as villains; among them were his roles of both the demonic Count Iblis and his provision of the character voice for the Cylons’s Imperious Leader in Battlestar Galactica (meeting up with Glen Larson again) and the show’s introductory voiceover. He also presented the American paranormal series Mysteries, Magic and Miracles. Macnee made his Broadway debut as the star of Anthony Shaffer’s mystery Sleuth in 1972 and subsequently headlined the national tour of that play.

On television, Macnee made a guest appearance on Columbo in the episode “Troubled Waters” (1975) and played Major Vickers in For the Term of His Natural Life (1983). He had recurring roles in the crime series Gavilan with Robert Urich and in the short-lived satire on big business, Empire (1984), as Dr. Calvin Cromwell. Macnee also narrated the documentary Ian Fleming: 007’s Creator (2000).


macnee columboHe also appeared in several cult films: The Howling (1981), as ‘Dr George Waggner’ (named whimsically after the director of The Wolf Man, 1941) and as Sir Denis Eton-Hogg in the rockumentary comedy This Is Spinal Tap (1984). He played Dr. Stark in The Creature Wasn’t Nice (1981), also called Spaceship and Naked Space.

Macnee played the role of actor David Mathews in the made-for-television movie Rehearsal for Murder (1982), which starred Robert Preston and Lynn Redgrave. The movie was from a script written by Columbo co-creators Richard Levinson and William Link. He took over Leo G. Carroll’s role as Alexander Waverly, the head of U.N.C.L.E. in The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E: The Fifteen-Years-Later Affair (1983), produced by Michael Sloan. He featured in the science fiction television movie Super Force (1990) as E. B. Hungerford (the series which followed did not feature Macnee), as a supporting character in the parody film Lobster Man From Mars (1989) as Prof. Plocostomos and in The Return of Sam McCloud (1989), a TV film, as Tom Jamison.

He made an appearance in Frasier (2001), and several episodes of the American science-fiction series Nightman as Dr. Walton, a psychiatrist who would advise Johnny/Nightman. Macnee appeared in two episodes of the series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1993–94) and was a retired agent in a handful of installments of Spy Game (1997–98).

Interesting Spots:

Macnee made numerous TV commercials including one around 1990 for Swiss Chalet, the Canadian restaurant chain, and a year or so before, a commercial for the Sterling Motor Car Company. Over the James Bond theme, the car duels with a motorcycle assailant at high speed through mountainous territory, ultimately eludes the foe, and reaches its destination. Macnee steps out of the car and greets viewers with a smile, saying, “I suppose you were expecting someone else.” Macnee was the narrator for several “behind-the-scenes” featurettes for the James Bond series of DVDs and recorded numerous audio books, including the releases of many novels by Jack Higgins. He also recorded the children’s books The Musical Life of Gustav Mole and its sequel, The Lost Music (Gustav Mole’s War on Noise), both written by Michael Twinn.

patrickcynernautMacnee featured in two pop videos: as Steed in original Avengers footage in the The Pretenders’ video for their song “Don’t Get Me Wrong” (1986) and in the video for Oasis’s “Don’t Look Back in Anger” (1996), as the band’s driver, a role similar to that which he played in the James Bond film A View To A Kill (1985).

He scored a top 10 hit of his own in 1990, with Kinky Boots—a novelty song recorded with Avengers co-star Honor Blackman—which was championed by Radio 1’s then-breakfast DJ Simon Mayo.

Macnee reunited with Diana Rigg in her short-lived NBC sitcom, Diana (1973) in a single episode.

He dictated his autobiography, which he titled Blind in One Ear: The Avenger Returns (1988), to Marie Cameron.

From people that knew him:

A tribute on his website said of him: Patrick Macnee was a popular figure in the television industry. He was at home wherever in the world he found himself. He had a knack for making friends, and keeping them. Wherever he went, he left behind a trove of memories and good wishes. Patrick Macnee was known for his unswerving professionalism, his loyalty, his intuitive creativity, his unaffected courtesy, and his understated humanity.

Sir Roger Moore tweeted: “So very sad to hear Pat Macnee has left us. We were mates from 1950s and I have so many happy memories of working with him. A true gent.”

Linda Thorson, who played Tara King in The Avengers alongside him, talked about remembering him as a “paradox” when talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today program. “He was the best-dressed man on television and a nudist in real life. He was always upbeat. He had great stories and great detail and wonderful energy,” she continued. “Patrick [had] a very happy and long life and the most wonderful children who took the greatest of care of him, in the last decade in particular.”

Diana Rigg said, “Patrick was a very dear man and I owe him a great deal.” Macnee was something of a mentor and teacher to Diana Rigg.

Last Words:

Mr. Macnee, you were a true gentleman and I am glad that you were a part of my life. I hope to get you into others lives as well. You were my Steed, and I think all men should strive to be like you.


the_avengers_john_steedRIP Daniel Patrick Macnee

The Legendary Christopher Lee

On June 7, 2015 the great actor and icon Christopher Lee passed away due to heart failure. He was 93 years old. Most people know him for his portrayal of Saruman in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, as well as Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. But there is so much more to him than that, and his passing is a great loss.

The talk in my family about him over the years was that he was going to act until he died, and that after he died, he would will his body to be used as a prop to be in even more films forever, however morbid that thought seems now. We really thought he was never going to die, we thought he would go on forever.

He came from an amazing lineage and his life spanned some amazing eras in history, and he left us all with a legacy of films and so much more. It is hard to list all the great things about him and what he has done, but I’ll give some highlights and Tid-bits.

Christopher Frank Carandini Lee—oh excuse me—SIR Christopher Lee, was born May 27, 1922 in Belgravia, London, England and was knighted for services to Drama and Charity on June 13, 2009 as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honors. Prince Charles knighted him, and because of his age he was excused from the usual requirement of kneeling…but I would say because Christopher Lee is awesome and he kneels to no one.

Christopher Lee the_devil_rides_outHe and his older sister Xandra were raised by their parents, Contessa Estelle Marie (Carandini di Sarzano) and Geoffrey Trollope Lee, a professional soldier, until their divorce in 1926. Lee’s maternal great-grandfather was an Italian political refugee, while Lee’s great-grandmother was English opera singer Marie (Burgess) Carandini. Lee also descended from the Emperor Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire and was related to Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general. Later, while Lee was still a child, his mother married (and later divorced) Harcourt George St.-Croix (nicknamed Ingle), who was a banker. Through his stepfather, became step-cousin to Ian Flemming, the creator and author of the James Bond series.

Tid-bit: Lee was Flemmings choice for Dr. No (1962). Lee enthusiastically accepted, but by the time Fleming told the producers, they had already chosen Joseph Wiseman for the role. Lee finally got to play a James Bond villain in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), in which he was cast as the deadly assassin Francisco Scaramanga. Lee said of his performance, “In Fleming’s novel he’s just a West Indian thug, but in the film he’s charming, elegant, amusing, lethal.…I played him like the dark side of Bond.”

Through his long life, he was more than just a great actor, he was a man of honor, a loving husband and father, a Classically trained singer and sometimes a fanboy.

Tid-bit: Apparently he geeked out when he bumped into J.R.R. Tolkien randomly in a pub, who gave Lee his blessing to play Gandalf in any future Lord of the Rings film (although he didn’t play Gandalf, he made a fabulous Saruman). He also once declared himself to be an unconditional fan of Gene Hackman.

He didn’t start acting until he was 25 and it was hard for him to break into it with supporting roles because he towered over the leading men at 6’ 5”.

Tid-bit: He is entered into the Guinness Book of World Records as “The Tallest Leading Actor”.

Still, he was able to make a go of it starring in many Hammer Films horror films, but when they got schlocky he tried to break away from them.

Tid-bit: Lee agreed to star in the 1966 Dracula: Prince of Darkness, but he felt the script was so awful he adamantly refused to say any of the dialogue. Hammer decided that it was far more important to have a mute Lee as star as opposed to anyone else, and thus had Dracula hiss and yell through the film. In his autobiography, he relates his first meeting with Peter Cushing during production of The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), in which he played the monster. Lee stormed into a dressing room where Cushing was sitting and angrily yelled “I haven’t got any lines!” Cushing replied, “You’re lucky; I’ve read the script.”

But what did he do in the first 25 years of life? A hell of a lot more than most 25 year-olds can say!

Christopher_Lee_1944When Lee was nine, he was sent to Summer Fields School, a preparatory school in Oxford whose pupils often later attended Eton. He continued acting in school plays, though “the laurels deservedly went to Patrick Macnee (The Avengers, 1969).” Lee applied for a scholarship to Eton, where his interview was in the presence of the ghost story author M. R. James. He placed eleventh and thus missed out on being a King’s Scholar by one place. His stepfather was not prepared to pay the higher fees that being an Oppidan Scholar meant and so he did not attend. Instead, Lee attended Wellington College, where he won scholarships in the classics, studying Ancient Greek and Latin. Aside from a “tiny part” in a school play, he didn’t act while at Wellington. At age 17 and with one year left at Wellington, the summer term of 1939 was his last. His stepfather had gone bankrupt, owing £25,000.

Then, his mother and stepfather separated, and Lee had to get a job. While looking for work, he saw the death of the murderer Eugen Weidmann in Paris, the last person in France to be publicly executed by guillotine.

Tid-bit: Lee was quite interested in the history of public executions, and reportedly knew “the names of every official public executioner employed by England, dating all the way back to the mid-15th century.”

World War II soon broke out and Christopher Lee volunteered. He joined the Royal Air Force and became an intelligence officer for the Long Range Desert Patrol, a forerunner of the SAS, Britain’s special forces. He fought the Nazis in North Africa, often having up to five missions a day. During this time he helped retake Sicily, prevented a mutiny among his troops, contracted malaria six times in a single year and climbed Mount Vesuvius three days before it erupted. Later he moved to Winston Churchill’s even more elite Special Operations Executive, whose missions are still classified. The SOE was more informally, and fabulously called The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.

Lee never said anything specific about his time in the SOE/SAS, but he has said: “I was attached to the SAS from time to time but we are forbidden—former, present, or future—to discuss any specific operations. Let’s just say I was in Special Forces and leave it at that. People can read in to that what they like.” Further he once said: “I’ve seen many men die right in front of me—so many in fact that I’ve become almost hardened to it. Having seen the worst that human beings can do to each other, the results of torture, mutilation and seeing someone blown to pieces by a bomb, you develop a kind of shell. But you had to. You had to. Otherwise we would never have won.”

Tid-bit: During his death scene in Return of the King (only included in the Extended Edition to Lee’s disapproval), director Peter Jackson was describing to him what sound people getting stabbed in the back should make. Lee gravely responded that he had seen people being stabbed in the back, and knew exactly what sound they made.

Christopher Lee - Sherlock HolmesThere is so much more I could say about his time in the war, but then this post would be so much longer than it already is. So I will finish this section with this, by the end of the war he’d received commendations for bravery from the British, Polish, Czech and Yugoslavian governments. And this was all before the age of 25.

Since then, he has had an amazing career, because besides the fact that he was a decorated hero, he was also amazingly talented—if the classically trained singer did not give it away, here is more:

Still early in his career, Lee dubbed foreign films into English and other languages including Jacques Tat’s “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday”. Sometimes he dubbed all the voices including women’s parts. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., recalled that Lee could do any kind of accent: “foreign, domestic, North, South, Middle, young, old, everything. He’s a great character actor”.

Lee spoke fluent English, Italian, French, Spanish and German, and was moderately proficient in Swedish, Russian and Greek. Lee stated in an interview that he was “conversationally fluent” in Mandarin.

Tid-bit: He was the original voice of Thor in the German dubs in the Danish 1986 animated film Valhalla, and of King Haggard in both the English and German dubs of the 1982 animated adaptation of The Last Unicorn.

Besides that, Lee was a world champion fencer.

Tid-bit: In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), in which he played the villainous Count Dooku. He did most of the swordplay himself, though a double was required for the long shots with more vigorous footwork. Lee’s face was imposed on the double’s body. Lee mentioned that in the last 40 years, he has done more sword fights than any other actor, but “not anymore.”

Mostly, he has played the villain, which he did so well that I wouldn’t even count it as a demerit, and he has been in so many films that he is in the Guinness Book of World Records for Most Screen Credits (2007) which was 244 at the time, starring in the most films with a sword fight (17 films), being the most connected actor along and being the Tallest Leading Actor.

Tid-bit: Guinness says that he connects to virtually any actor in 2.59 steps—take that Bacon!

golden-gun-leeHowever, he later admitted that his film work was not always chosen on quality but often on whether it could support his family. In fact, he has a history of being considerate to his loved ones, and caring for their well-being. And he got to be awesome while doing so.

Lee was engaged for a time in the late fifties to Henriette von Rosen, whom he met at a nightclub in Stockholm. Her father, Count Fritz von Rosen proved demanding, getting them to delay the wedding for a year, asking his London-based friends to interview Lee, hiring private detectives to investigate him, and asking Lee to provide him with references, which Lee obtained from Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., John Boulting and Joe Jackson. Lee found the meeting of her extended family to be like something from a surrealist Luis Buñuel film and thought they were “killing [him] with cream.” Finally, Lee had to have the permission of the King of Sweden to marry. Lee had met him some years before whilst filming Tales of Hans Anderson and received his blessing. However, shortly before the wedding, Lee ended the engagement. He was concerned that his financial insecurity in his chosen profession meant that she “deserved better” than being “pitched into the disheveled world of an actor.” She understood and they called the wedding off (though she must have later been saddened that it didn’t turn out that way).

Later, Lee was introduced to Danish painter and former model Birgit “Gitte” Krøncke by a Danish friend and his wife in 1960. They were engaged soon after and married on March 17, 1961. They had a daughter, Christina Erika Carandini Lee (b. 1963) and were still married upon his death.

Beyond the serious note there, Christopher Lee had some fun in his life.

He was on the cover of Paul McCartney’s 1973 Band on the Run album (seen below), as well as the video for the song—which was a making-of for the cover.

Band on the runAround 1988, Lee agreed to play a vampire once more in an unproduced Dutch/Belgian comedy that was to be called “Blooper.” The script, written by Frank van Laecke, was commissioned because of the physical resemblance between Lee and Dutch opera singer Marco Bakker, as noted by Bakker’s wife, actress Willeke van Ammelrooy. Lee, a great lover of opera, got along well with both of them. The story concerned an opera singer called Billy Blooper (Bakker) who learns his father (Lee) is a vampire who’s teeth had gone rotten after eating too many sweets. Now whenever he bites anyone, instead of turning into a vampire, they became half-human, half-chicken (which sounds ridiculously campy and fun—and is right up my horror alley).

And yes, the rumors are true, Christopher Lee loved Heavy Metal.

Lee’s first contact with heavy metal music was singing a duet with Fabio Lione, former lead vocalist of the Italian symphonic power metal band Rhapsody of Fire (and currently a member of Angra), on the single “The Magic of the Wizard’s Dream” from the Symphony of Enchanted Lands II album. Later he appeared as a narrator on the band’s four albums Symphony of Enchanted Lands II—The Dark SecretTriumph or AgonyThe Frozen Tears of Angels and From Chaos to Eternity as well as on the EP The Cold Embrace of Fear—A Dark Romantic Symphony, portraying the Wizard King. He also worked with Manowar while they were recording a new version of their first album, Battle Hymns. The original voice was done by Orson Welles (who was long dead at the time of the re-recording).  The new album, Battle Hymns MMXI, was released on November 26, 2010.

In 2006, he bridged two disparate genres of music by performing a heavy metal variation of the Toreador Song from the opera Carmen with the band Inner Terrestrials. The song was featured on his album Revelation in 2007.  The same year, he produced a music video for his cover version of the song “My Way.”

His first complete metal album was Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross, which was critically acclaimed and awarded with the “Spirit of Metal” award from the 2010 Metal Hammer Golden Gods ceremony, where he described himself as “a young man right at the beginning of his career”. It was released on 15 March 2010. In June 2012, he released a music video for the song “The Bloody Verdict of Verden”.

thewickermanOn his 90th birthday (May 27, 2012) he announced the release of his new single “Let Legend Mark Me as the King” from his upcoming album Charlemagne: The Omens of Death, signifying his move onto “full on” heavy metal. That makes him the oldest performer in the history of the genre. The music was arranged by Richie Faulkner from the band Judas Priest and features World Guitar Idol Champion, Hedras Ramos.

In December 2012, he released an EP of heavy metal covers of Christmas songs called A Heavy Metal Christmas.  He released a second in December 2013, entitled A Heavy Metal Christmas Too.  With the song “Jingle Hell,” Lee entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart at #22, thus becoming the oldest living performer to ever enter the music charts, at 91 years and 6 months. The record was previously held by Tony Bennett, who was 85 when he recorded “Body and Soul” with Amy Winehouse in March 2011. After media attention, the song rose to #18.

Lee released a third EP of covers in May 2014, to celebrate his 92nd birthday. Called Metal Knight, in addition to a cover of “My Way” it contains “The Toreador March”, inspired by the opera Carmen, and the songs “The Impossible Dream” and “I Don Quixote” from the Don Quixote musical Man of La Mancha. Lee was inspired to record the latter songs because, “as far as I am concerned, Don Quixote is the most metal fictional character that I know.” His fourth EP and third annual Christmas release came in December 2014 as he put out “Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing”, a playful take on “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” He explained: “It’s light-hearted, joyful and fun.…At my age, the most important thing for me is to keep active by doing things that I truly enjoy. I do not know how long I am going to be around, so every day is a celebration and I want to share it with my fans.”

Rock on Mr. Lee, ROCK ON!

Tid-Bit: His one outspoken regret, or at least claimed it as his biggest mistake, was that he turned down Donald Pleasence’s role as Dr. Sam Loomis in Halloween (1978). Honestly, that would have been so amazing, but he did so many other fantastic roles that that one was no big loss.

dracula-ad-1972-20051028045902866-000I’m really glad that the last thing I saw him in was The Hobbit trilogy, because even though he is known for his villain roles, including Saruman, I always want to root for him, and seeing Saruman on the side of good felt like redemption, and a nice send off.

What I want to do now is to try to watch every film he was in—especially the ones I have no idea what they are about, like The Oblong Box (1969), and re-watch some that I didn’t realize he was in, like The Wicker Man (1973)—not the really bad Nick Cage remake, but the really interesting and thrilling original!

I suppose that will take me until I, myself, am 93. And in that way, and many others, I guess Christopher Lee really will live on forever.

Gotham: the Gritty City with the Bright Future

gothamAs far as first seasons go, I would say that Gotham was really strong overall. It brought to light backstories of characters that had not had them before and was able to keep its audience gripped. It is, so far, an excellent prequel to the Batman story.

The reason may be that in the stories of Batman, we have never gotten to see the cop drama that took place in this dirty and broken city in the years before James Gordon became commissioner. This includes his partner at the GCPD, Harvey Bullock, who previously—like in Batman: The Animated Series—is nothing more than one of the commissioner’s underlings. We have never seen him be Detective James Gordon’s partner or friend in the past.

Nor had we ever really seen the immediate aftermath and aftershocks of the catalyst that makes the child Bruce Wayne into Batman. In past incarnations we have seen the catalyst—the murder of his parents–but then jump here and there with Bruce as he seeks out the best magicians and martial artists to round out his training as a young adult. But we’ve seen never his childhood before that. In many incarnations the murderer is never found, but with this first season we are led to believe that Bruce will not stop searching to find the truth, so an answer may be had in future seasons.

We are also privy to the backstories of many of our known super-villains—though for now they are just people—which is a fabulous twist. Especially Selina Kyle (played by Camren Bicondova), who goes by Cat. She is an adolescent, around the age of Bruce, and for now she is just a very sneaky and wise street kid. I had my reservations about her at first, but she is becoming a fantastic character.

Further Character Highlights:

Alfred (played by Sean Pertwee): He is an interesting character so far, being a bit uptight and rough around the edges and also being new to guardianship of a child. He could use—and deserves more—fleshing out, but I have grown to like him. It is only fitting that the son of a doctor (played by Jon Pertwee) would raise Batman.

The Riddler (played by Cory Michael Smith): For now in the series he is just plain old, Edward Nygma, but his slow and steady descent into the Riddler persona and his overall character is the best so far. He works in the GCPD as fact checker/finder, self-proclaimed assistant medical examiner, and all around quirk with his riddles.

Gertrud and Oswald Kapelput [Cobblepot] (played by Carol Kane and Robin Lord Taylor): Mrs. Cobblepot, Oswald’s mother, is over the top and could be considered a folly on the series, but she provides such a fantastic backstory, one that is so different from the originals. Even at his young age, Oswald has already been nicknamed Penguin among the mobsters of Gotham for his walk. In the original incarnations of Penguin, he was such a horrid child that his parents tossed him away—which people may remember in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. Instead, in this series he is such a momma’s boy, and she is so naïve and in denial of her sons activities. He wants to keep that way, which in turn makes him do very villainous things as he tries to climb the crime ladder to become the king of Gotham.

The Joker (???) and the Graysons: The actor Cameron Monaghan appeared in episode 16, The Blind Fortune Teller, as the son of a circus performer, who happened to be a bit of a prostitute. This was his first stint as what I assume will become the Joker. He was the greatest kind of creepy, where he so easily feigned innocence and then the psychopath emerged. It shook me to the core and all without clown makeup. This episode also gave us a glimpse into the Graysons, parents of Dick Grayson, who in this episode like each other but are on opposite sides of two warring families.

Plot/Storyline Highlights:

As mentioned before, I need to highlight the partnership between Det. James Gordon (played by Ben McKenzie) and Det. Harvey Bullock (played by Donal Logue). They are very contrasting and yet they gel so well together. I think it is because James Gordon is the white knight that Harvey once was and still wants to be. Harvey has let the city and its issues tarnish his armor, but he knows how the city runs and is the voice of caution to James Gordon’s over-zealousness. At the same time, James Gordon is the light in the darkness that has become Harvey’s world, and is bringing out the best in him. I could watch seasons and seasons of just the two of them doing their thing.

The relationship between Cat and Bruce Wayne (played by David Mazouz) is a confused one that has developed and, as us fans of Batman know, will continue. They are friends and they even like each other to the point that kids of their age can, but it is strained and unsure. This is mainly because Bruce has a stronger moral compass, where as Cat will kill if she has to, but Bruce would not.

Barbara Kean’s (played by Erin Richards) story is very interesting. She starts out as James Gordon’s fiancée, but things go awry and we see that Barbara may have secrets in her past. We know she has had an on again off again relationship with female Internal Affairs officer Renee Montoya and she also gets wrapped up in a villains plot to get at Det. James Gordon near the end of the season. So far, we have only seen a small glimpse of how that has really affected her. It does raise the question—is she or isn’t she the Barbara that becomes James Gordon’s wife?

Series Downfalls

There are only two missteps that I have noticed in this first season.

First, Fish Mooney. She is a character that was created just for this show. The actress playing her, Jada Pinkett Smith, once said, “It is pretty cool to play a new character that might one day become cannon.” That was just before she suddenly decided that she would be leaving the show. Fish was an odd character and for at least the first half of the season, stuck out like a sore thumb. She was over the top and a bit too close to being a wacky super-villainess with her style and actions. In this toned down world of real human-beings and mostly normal crime, she just didn’t gel.

She seemed like she was only there to introduce Penguin, who was once one of her lackeys, and the mob-bosses/hierarchy of the city’s crime lords. At a certain point, she was forced out of her position and Gotham, which led to a side-story of great annoyance and little importance, other than it calmed her over-acting and smoothed out her character. Upon her short-lived return to Gotham and the amazing battle for Gotham that ensued, I actually started to like her as a character—which makes me a little sorry that she will not be returning, but it is easy to say that when you know that she really isn’t. Still, it was cool on the writer’s part to have left it open for her to return (again). As they say, if you don’t see the body, they ain’t dead.

Second—and this is a small thing—is an issue with Hollywood in general. The villain that got hold of Barbara Kean was called The Ogre, played by Milo Ventimiglia. He had a three-episode storyline where we meet his father (played by Daniel Davis), a butler for a rich old lady, where he claims that his son has a face that not even his mother could love. He had a deformity that he had gotten fixed, and we get to see his original face—which was really not that bad. I don’t mean to sound morbid or anything, but it just made everyone look so shallow for getting down on this guys slight facial deformity.

But, I get it. Milo Ventimiglia is a very handsome actor, so they only wanted to skew his face slightly in that particular photo. Or they thought we were stupid and we wouldn’t realize it was the same guy. Either way, Milo as the Ogre got enough screen time with his delicious regular face that they could have made his deformity more severe and taken the idea seriously, rather than being afraid that what they could show would be too unlovable for the viewers. With crazy shows like Helix out there, I don’t think they should worry.

gotham_james-gordon-and-harvey-bullock-stillIf you ask me, the future of Gotham as a series is a bright one, if they can maintain the remaining characters without going over the top again, especially as we get more into the super-villains. This first season has been a success in its great character building and interesting storylines and overall story arch.

In the future, I would like to see what they do with Harvey Dent (played by Nicholas D’Agosto) as well as Ivy Pepper (played by Clare Foley). I see potential in both of them.

I can’t wait for the next season to see what secrets Bruce discovers about his father after the very last scene of the season finale.

Will you be watching it this coming fall? I know I will.

The Last Unicorn Cannot Be the Last Adaptation

The Last Unicorn was a favorite childhood film of mine; maybe not THE favorite, but in the top ten. I had watched it many times over the course of my childhood, but it wasn’t until just after I graduated high school that I finally picked up the book to read.

My mind was blown. The characters filled out, the world was round, there was rhyme and reason, and the end of the book was that much more tragic, and yet happy; true sorrow and true joy, and regret. Almost immediately I realized how much better the book was, and how silly it made the film seem.

Just over a year or so ago, I acquired the Blu-ray of the film. I still had fond memories of the film and besides that, Jeff Bridges is a voice. In fact it has a pretty great cast especially with Christopher Lee as the villain King Haggard, as well as Angela Lansbury, Alan Arkin, and Rene Auberjonois. I gave it a re-watch and suffice it to say, I actually remarked, “This movie is not as bad as I remember!” Still, it had been near 10 years since I read the book.

I took it upon myself recently to get a real picture of both of them in close proximity, and do a full and thorough comparison.

The last unicorn NovelPlot Comparison

The Last Unicorn is a 1982 animated fantasy film produced by Rankin/Bass for ITC Entertainment and animated by Topcraft. The film is based on the novel (published 1968) of the same name written by Peter S. Beagle, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. The Last Unicorn is about a unicorn who, upon learning that she is the last unicorn in the world, goes on a quest to find out what has happened to the others of her kind.

Both the book and the film take generally the same path. The unicorn hears that she is the last, and goes searching for more of her kind. Along the way she meets Schmendrick the magician who helps her and joins her quest. They get into some trouble with a band of rogues, but after they escape, Molly Grue-the only female from the group-decides to join them. They set off for the castle of King Haggard who has a bad reputation and a demonic red bull at his side. It is said that the red bull had chased all the Unicorns away long ago, so they know they will find some answers there.

The book, however, is so much more in-depth and sturdy up against the silly humor of the animation. I want to say that the book is more adult, but the situations themselves would not call for an adult rating.

The main problem with the film is that Rankin/Bass made it into a family movie, which means that much of the story is watered down and it glosses over the points where the book is dark, gritty and bloody. Even when the dialogue makes reference to an injury, the audience sees no blood. The one exception to the non-adult rule is the harpy, Celeano. I never noticed before this, but the harpy has exposed teats which was a bit shocking considering. Although I dislike the design of the creature, it is pretty frightening. I just really wish that the harpy looked like a harpy and not a weird type of carrion bird. In the book the harpy is described as having the face of a hag with hair like moonlight and wings of bronze.

Rankin/Bass is also known for throwing in a random song (most performed by America) to emit emotion while trying to create a montage that tells us something that otherwise would have been missed, but somehow we still miss it. At the beginning when the Unicorn is supposed to have traveled for a very long time before meeting any of the characters, the film took the time to show the changing seasons-maybe a bit too much time. Then later when they are supposed to have been at Haggard’s castle for a long time, you don’t feel like it has been more than a few days. They show a montage of Prince Lir fighting dragons and bringing Lady Amalthea the head as a prize, but they miss that he was not a hero-type before he met her, nor does it mention that he was engaged before-hand. It shows that she cares little for the dead presents he brings, but it misses how it hurts her to find his horse was injured in one of his battles.

Characters and Cast


We also lose many of the great characters from the book in the film–Drinn and all of Hagsgate, Haggard’s soldiers-at-arms and the mayor of an indulgent town–who is supposed to be the reason they meet the band of rogues. And the characters we do have aren’t given the background they need or are unnecessarily changed.

The butterfly is not changed that much, but considering the watering down of the story and characters, I don’t understand why they choose to make the butterfly talk so much–including saying that Man cannot see the unicorn, but mistakes it for a white mare. This is untrue! People with pure hearts can always see a unicorn as well as many others, just less so now that unicorns seem to have left the world. The fact that man sees a mare instead is shown just a scene later, so why waste your time and breath, butterfly?

An even worse change was to the cat. In the book, a cat appears in the kitchen of Haggard’s castle and Molly takes a liking to it. When the time comes, the cat chooses to speak-to Molly’s surprise-and she heeds his words even if they are a bit of a riddle. Once everything is said and done, the cat stays with Molly on her next journey. In the film, they decided to give the cat a peg leg and an eye patch and turn it into a pirate. For no good reason. And when the castle falls, what happens to the cat? Guess it died.

Captain Cully, the leader of the rogues becomes a non-character, only there so we can meet Molly Grue. She is still wonderfully brash in the film, but she loses all of her best retorts and relationship/character building moments, so when Schmendrick says “Come with me” and she replies “I will”, it just seems out of the blue and a little stupid.

Meanwhile, Schmendrick just seems like a bumbling idiot who really wants to be a magician, but hasn’t found his way to true magic yet. Some of the spells that he conjures in the film don’t seem to have a reason behind them, while in the book they are well explained. All through the film he says “Magic do what you will” repeatedly, but we don’t really know why. As a child, I know I made a conscious leap from there to know that he was just a conduit for magic and didn’t know how to control it, which is true in the original story, but he has a more fleshed out background. You know who he is and what he has been through and see him trying many tricks and spells throughout the book that show that he can do parlor magic and he has trained to be a true wizard but has yet to fully succeed.

Although the cast is generally good, I feel like much of the voice acting is lack-luster. Christopher Lee, Jeff Bridges and Angela Lansbury are fantastic. Hell, I’ll throw Tammy Grimes (Molly Grue) in there too. Alan Arkin (Schmendrick) and Mia Farrow (Unicorn/Lady Amalthea), however, not so much, though I think it’s partly the way they are portrayed in the film.

last-unicornI know that Peter S. Beagle wrote the screenplay, but I wonder how much influence the director and producers had, because there were character changes that I am not okay with, like when the Unicorn feels pity for the Harpy. That is not how it is, the only reason she wants the harpy to be free is because if Mommy Fortuna frees her soon, she might just survive it–the pity is all for the poor old witch. Mia Farrow is just obnoxious in general, she puts inflections in her lines that rub me the wrong way and are not at all how I imagined my unicorn. Then they give her songs to sing–really cheesy songs that I loved as a kid–and she can’t really sing. But apparently if you get the German soundtrack, they replace Mia Farrow with a better singer and it sounds great.

There are songs in the book, but they are much less cheesy, and sometimes even dark. She asks Prince Lir to sing her a song to drown out her nightmares, and he sings the first thing that comes to mind, which happens to be a not-so appropriate song. But I love that it was not a love song to her, but more an epic of tragic love and betrayal. The weird thing is that there are moments in the story where I think they give the unicorn more magic than she had in the book, and yet Mia Farrow and her lines make her sound like she has no power at all. How can she be that powerful and that powerless at the same time?

It’s not that she’s all-powerful in the book—she has restrictions—and yes there are times where she has inexplicable power, but it isn’t jarring or confusing. When Lady Amalthea trips while being chased by the red bull, in the book she doesn’t whine and say “oh my ankle, help me!” Magic made her a mortal woman, but that doesn’t mean they can take away her character’s stength. It’s sexist. She is supposed to be confused and forget why she is where she is, but she doesn’t lose her fight and suddenly need the prince to save her like a damsel in distress.

In addtion, some of the side characters are lost, and without them we never learn of the curse put on Haggard’s Castle or Hagsgate and what that meant for the people. The world outside of the quest is a flat one in the film. Besides the few smatterings of characters, we don’t know what the world is like, and since the Unicorn has traveled out of her forest and into the world of man for the first time in so long, you would hope to see more of it.


The animation leaves something to be desired as well. Usually I would say that animation can do things that many live-action films cannot, but in this case I think live-action would prove wiser. The characters move in such inhuman ways, and when Schmendrick falls after letting the magic take its course with him, he floats to the ground in what I would guess is a faint, but it looks so odd. There are points where characters are supposed to be thrown, thrashed and crushed and none of it looks right, they all float and fall so gently. One character has to tell us that he was dead after he is revived because otherwise we wouldn’t have known (he does say it in the book as well, but in the book he is a tangled mess and you knew he wasn’t going to walk away from that).

Haggard’s castle is also completely ridiculous. It is supposed to be worn down, standing only by sheer will. It’s very dark and there is a skull hanging in the hall, but beyond that it was a regular castle. In the film, to really drive the point home that Haggard is evil, the castle is full of demonic statues and dragons and horns. It is so far over the top and one wonders why Prince Lir–being the opposite of his father–would even continue living in a place like that. Being run down is one thing, but to be complacent with the awful interior design of this castle… I don’t even think a hag of a witch would build a place like that, and she was supposed to have. When you really get to know Haggard, at least in the book, you find that he is less evil and more just a miserly, bored, and unhappy old man who has never found joy, except one, and I don’t mean his son.

lastunicorn-10The character design for the Unicorn and Lady Amalthea, however, are quite beautiful. She glows and is graceful in both forms. They got the Unicorn right, with the tail of a lion, cloven hooves, and hairy ankles, rather than a white mare with a horn. My only gripe about it is that as a Unicorn she is supposed to be a much larger creature than she is in the film. In the book, Schmendrick remarks about it when he finally sees her up close. Also, in the normal world, men see her as a white mare, which is fair enough because magic has left most of the normal world, but when we see her through the eyes of a farmer, she looks like herself (lion tail and all) just without a horn. What white mare looks like that?!

In Conclusion

In the end I would say that it is a fun film if you have had some distance from the book. It has its charms and is a cult classic that still shows all over the country. Still, to me, the film is more of a trailer to the book than an actual film in itself, if trailers ran 93 minutes. I don’t mean to tear it down—though I feel like I just have—because it could have been worse. At least they didn’t change the ending to a wedding or something. That would have been too sappy. It’s cute, but it just doesn’t do the book justice.

That is why I still wish for the live-action version that was talked about in the early 2000s. The website for it still exists, so that means there’s still hope, right? I even did a dream cast vlog for the film last week!

As for now, please go read The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. It is a fantastic book. And of course, feel free to see the 1982 Rankin/Bass Animation, but remember to take it with a grain of salt. This one is up there with the animated versions of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and The Black Cauldron. This was my earliest experience of “the book was better” and it is, to the greatest extent.

The Haven for Unsolved Mysteries

Haven has been one of my favorite shows since it first aired in 2010 on the Syfy network. The premise is that every 27 years, for a few years, the people of a small harbor village called Haven, Maine are plagued with the “troubles”, which are supernatural occurrences caused by a “troubled” person. Troubles run in families and can be triggered by a traumatic or emotional event. The people of Haven, of course, keep this hushed amongst those who need to know only and any news reading disguises a trouble as a gas leak, or something else explainable so that any outsider is none the wiser.

At the start of the show, the troubles are just starting again and no one knows why or where they came from, or at least the viewers don’t, but over the seasons the mystery has slowly unraveled. Except for the Colorado kid.

HavenshowposterThe show has been running for 5 seasons and it is always interesting to see where something came from. The whole television series is based on Stephen King’s short story, The Colorado Kid which is less than 100 pages long.

King wrote this story to pose more questions than answers. He set out to present a mystery rather than solve it–that is to say that if you are looking for answers in this story, you will not find them. Still, I would recommend the read anyway, because sometimes it is not about the answers. Stephen King noted in the afterword that it is not that he couldn’t come up with a solution, but that it was the mystery that would keep him coming back to the story, day after day. And it is true, at times, that something might be ruined if it were solved, like who Jack the Ripper or the Zodiac Killer was, or who killed the Black Dahlia. There is plenty of speculation, but I’m unconvinced, or maybe I just know that once they are definitively solved, they will be forgotten.

The other fantastic element to this show being based off a story like this is that rather than giving us everything, and then having fans of the story say “No, it wasn’t like that” or “That’s not how I pictured it”, we get a small platform to make an incredible dive from. I have read many posts saying that the story and the show have near to nothing to do with each other, and I just don’t see it that way.

King set the story on an island off the coast of Maine, harking back to Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians–there is no locked room so grand as an island, and his story was also based on a true crime story with similar outcomes. He said, “There are few places in America where the line between the little world Inside and all the great world Outside is so firmly and deeply drawn. Islanders are full of warmth for those who belong, but they keep their secrets well from those who don’t.”

Although Haven is not an island off the coast of Maine, it’s small, secluded town atmosphere gives the same effect. In the short span of the story, it set most of our setting and cast of characters, even though we only actually meet two of each. Names like Chief George/Garland Wournos, Dave (Bowie), and Vince Teague(s) appear, and the settings of The Grey Gull, the newspaper and of course the harbor/beach. The characters we meet, Vince and Dave, who are an integral part of the Haven storyline, were changed, but only so far as to make them similar in age and turn them into brothers.

Coloradokid_pbWhen it comes down to the actual mystery of The Colorado Kid, the show, so far has only given us the answers that the book had already presented, changing just a few of the details. Like any good unsolved mysteries, there were enough clues left to give the victim a story and entice people to want to know more, or give their own speculations, but not enough for anyone to say for sure, even leaving questionable gaps. If he was last seen in the early afternoon in Colorado leaving work for lunch, how did he wind up dead on a beach in Maine? Was there even enough time to go from Colorado to Maine in that time? Was it planned in advanced? If so, why?

These are the great questions left by the story. The answers we know for sure, in both settings, is that the victim was James Cogan, he lived in Colorado with his wife Arla, he died on the beach in Maine, and no one knows the circumstances. They do come to a conclusion of how he died in the story, but with so many other questions, no one is completely certain.

It may not seem, at first glance, that the premise of the TV series has anything to do with the mystery of The Colorado Kid, but it is in fact the main reason that the main characters of Audrey Parker (played by Emily Rose), Nathan Wuornos (spelled slightly differently in the series–played by Lucas Bryant), and Duke Crocker (played by Eric Balfour) go in search of the answers to the troubles.

I was curious during this past season, why no one had brought up The Colorado Kid in a while. At the end of the third season, we had learned something really fantastic about him. However, in the midst of my questioning it and watching season 5, we learned more about Dave Teagues, and he wondered if he had something to do with The Colorado Kid’s death.

We may never know, but that’s what keeps us coming back for more! That and the fact that I want to know what will happen next! I highly recommend both story and series!

Where Are All You Zombies?: How Predestination Swirled Up My Brain

predestinationRecently, a commenter turned us onto the film Predestination (2014) and the short story it is based on, “All You Zombies”, written by Robert A. Heinlein in 1958, so I checked them out.

Do not be misled by the short story title, neither the story nor the film have anything to do with actual zombies. The only mention of zombies is the same in each: “I know where I come from- but where do all you zombies come from?” Instead it has to do with time travel and paradoxes. The short story is a feat because, although these days time travel and time paradoxes are almost cliché, this was the first of its kind. Building off the fictional device created in the mind of H.G. Wells, the time machine, Heinlein creates a situation that is one of a kind.

The film starred Ethan Hawke and Australians Sarah Snook and Noah Taylor. Sarah Snook won the well-deserved AACTA award for Best Actress for it. The Spierig brothers directed and filmed it in Melbourne, Australia – though it takes place in America.

From here on, I will be spoiling both (but scroll to the end for a spoiler-free wrap up).

This film made my nose bleed. Not literally, of course, but it is the kind of movie that if you think about it too hard, you might have an aneurism and blood will shoot out your nose. This is not to say that it is a bad film, in fact, I enjoyed it, but things can feel a bit convoluted when dealing with time paradoxes or time travel in general. As the doctor says, “time isn’t linear…it is like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey… stuff”, that is how this movie is presented.

61vjhNvaWTL._SL300_Ethan Hawke’s character is a time agent who has just recovered from a serious injury while after his foe The Fizzle Bomber. He jumps back in time and strikes up a conversation with a man, who writes confessionals under the pen name “The Unmarried Mother”. Because of that strange pen name, we then get a bet for a bottle of booze and this man’s life story, which begins “when I was a little girl…”. Sarah Snook played this character, Jane when a girl – John as a man.

This story takes a while, and unlike the short story, we don’t really know why we are hearing it until after it is over. But after learning about a man that “The Unmarried Mother” fell for, was left by, bore a child by, and ruined him completely, Ethan Hawke asks, “if you saw him again and knew you would get away with it, would you kill him?” This sparks most of the time travel in the film and this is where it frays and makes your head hurt, in a good and crazy way.

We already knew that the woman from the story and the man that was in the bar are the same person, but when they go back so this man can find the man who ruined his life, the only person he bumps into is himself, or rather herself. Come to fund out, he dated himself and bore a child with himself.


imageThen Ethan Hawke goes to the hospital to snatch the child and drop it off at the orphanage, the same date and place where Jane was left. This means that the baby that this one person had by himself, the baby is also the same character. All Jane/John. Ethan Hawke recruits John to his time agency and says, “now that you know who she is, you now know who you are, and if you think about it you will know who the baby is and who I am.” Or something of the like, which would make you think that Ethan Hawke is the child, but if that is that case, he is also Jane/John.

To put the sprinkles on this swirly cake of madness, after he recruits himself, he is then decommissioned as an agent, and for his last placement, he chooses to go after his nemesis, The Fizzle Bomber. If you get the drift at this point, you would not be surprised when – BLAM – Jane/John/Time Agent is also, The Fizzle Bomber. The film basically ends with young Ethan Hawke killing his bomber self and claiming that he would never turn into that guy. But aren’t some things predestined?

Trying to connect all the dots and trying to think, “if he recruited himself then how…?” And just trying to tie all the ends together to make something more linear and comprehensible, but you really can’t. It just keeps swirling around in your head.

The film is really a great adaptation of the story, and I actually feel it improves upon it. The way the story is laid out, finding out who the child is and reveals like that are not as dynamic, but I watched the film first, so I knew all the twists. Still, I wondered if I would have understood all of it without having seen the film.


predestination watched

The film expanded on what was on the page, only changing a few minor things and adding in a few characters, like The Fizzle Bomber, who is just a Fizzle War that barely happened because of the time agents work in the story.

The film really understood the idea of a time paradox and played off it well, as well as the themes and tone. Once I got the idea of where it was going, I did predict much of the ending, but it did not make it any less enjoyable. It is all a bit mad, but I like a bit of madness.

I would recommend the story to everyone. The film on the other hand, although I do like it, might be too much to handle for some people (see meme below). The story is a bit toned down and easier to swallow, but the film is a bit more fun. However, I think I know where all the zombies come from… they come from watching this film.


Cancelling shows this early in the fall season is totally ‘Selfie’

As we pass the quarter season mark, it seems it is that time of year when networks “trim the fat” of their weekly line-up and begin to cancel shows. The first to go are generally the half-hour comedies that aren’t making the grade. This year Selfie is on the chopping block. It was new to television this season and was created by Emily Kapnek, who also created Suburgatory.

This delightful show, staring Karen Gillan, most known for playing Amy (Amelia) Pond on Doctor Who, and John Cho, known for many things but especially as Harold from Harold and Kumar go to White Castle and more recently as Andy Brooks in Sleepy Hollow, is a new and neat take on the Pygmalion/My Fair Lady story.

Gillan plays Eliza Dooley, a top sales rep at a pharmaceutical firm, whose obsession with social media, lack of real interpersonal skills, and questionable professional attire make her unpopular with other staff. Cho plays Henry Higgs, an executive at the same firm, with a flare for being a stodgy workaholic. The two, as in the original story, are a mismatched pair, but unlike the original it is Eliza that initiates the path to transformation.

After an embarrassing misread of signals from a co-worker leads her to make a strong pass at him, a married man, she finds herself airsick and makes a mess of herself when the barf bags break on her. After this, Eliza becomes aware that she has no real friends, only followers. The next day, Henry is being praised at a meeting for re-imagining and re-branding one of the company’s products. Eliza figures that he might be able to do the same for her, and goes to him for help. Strangely and sadly, that only lasts an episode, he continues to help her, but she is back to her old tricks. I guess old habits do die hard, and good thing; they wouldn’t have a show without it!

abc-upfront-selfieIn this day and age, good etiquette and being proper are not held with the same weight as they were years ago, when “polite society” was something to aspire to rather than just a term used when scolding someone’s who burps or farts in public or at the dinner table, elbows on it and all. I don’t, by any means, want to glorify a class society, where people need to “know their place”, but am only referring to it as the setting and general whole to the original story. By taking that away, it changes the way the characters seem, act, and fit together.

Where the original story takes a well respected man of society, Henry Higgins, and has him take on a wager that he can turn a lower class, cockney, Eliza Doolittle, into a proper lady, this new one takes a similar route, but borders on turning the story on its head, by making us and Henry understand that it might be him that needs a radical change. That is not to say that Eliza is without her own faults. She is still classless, but more to today’s standards: vapid, self-obsessed, almost totally annoying in my opinion, and a slave to what she thinks her followers want (as Henry said, “It’s not an outfit of the day, it is just an outfit” and “don’t tweet it, eat it” to Eliza as she snaps a selfie with her fancy macaroon).

She also wears, as I said, questionable work attire, which although her clothes are not super revealing, they are provocative. I do not stand to shame her on this, most of her clothes have a great style to them, but I do not appreciate that she wears them just to get the attention of lonely doctors, hence top sales rep, and even male coworkers, propagating the continuation of sexism. It irks me a bit… actually, it irks me a lot.

Still, to see the two of them try to balance each other out is an adorable display each week, with Eliza and Henry giving each other a goal to reach, i.e. Henry should not work for the entire weekend and Eliza should do a good deed just for the sake of doing a good deed. Although their relationship seemed to be hitting a climax earlier than expected, it might have come at a good time. It’s a nice giddy jolt to give to the few fans the show has  and might bring in some more.

In last week’s episode (#5 Even Hell Has Two Bars), Henry and Eliza find themselves at the boss’s ranch, where after a string of disappointments for Henry, he realizes that Eliza really is his better half, and brings out a more human, less robotic, persona in him. Eliza is dazzled when Henry rides to her on a majestic white horse to apologize. He claims that he chose the least majestic horse and did not mean it as a romantic gesture, before pulling the famous line “I’ve grown accustomed to [your] face.” This again colors Henry’s character new shades of socially inept and emotionally stunted. The line was said directly to Eliza, instead of to himself in the privacy of his own home, which led her to reply with a quizzical “thanks?”, leaving a bit of awkwardness that we have come to know and love with these two. The kicker is that she tweets a selfie she took with Henry and the horse, saying it got no likes and she would delete it, but she doesn’t and Henry likes/favorites it. It was a nice “awww” moment.

For some reason, they aired two episodes last week, and in the next one their sexual tension is back to its regular level, so it might not be that they went too far too fast with the pacing of the series, but it left me wondering, if for any reason this does not actually get cancelled, where would they go from here?

I say all that because despite many websites saying that Selfie is in fact cancelled, the real news that I have read merely states that the network will not be ordering more than the original 13 episodes for this season. I have read elsewhere that this can be a sign that the show will be cancelled, but some first seasons really are only 13 episodes. This also happened to shows like  A to Z, but it has not been officially cancelled. The fact that they aired two episodes last week is not a good sign, but this week’s episode aired as normal, and we shall see what happens to the rest. It might mean that the network will give this show a second chance. It’s not unheard of to “un-cancel” shows.

I hate to say it, but I have become a loyal follower of Eliza and would like to see where they could go with this show. This, of course, includes the unsung heroes of the show like Charmonique the receptionist and her son, who are amazing actors and characters and have livened up and rounded out the premise of the show. And I can’t forget Larry, an awkward lab guy that seems to constantly latch onto Henry, and Bryn, Eliza’s neighbor and the only real normal person in the show, giving Eliza something to aspire to. The side characters really take the pressure off the main story of Eliza and Henry and add a bit more comedy, as well as give Eliza reason to not be so damn annoying. The show has gone over the top at times, but we live in a crazy world filled with crazy characters, so I like it. If it does officially get cancelled, I will be very sorry to see it go, as will many of my friends, but I cannot say that I didn’t see it coming, in fact I called it after the pilot.

Tell us what you think of the show and its characters. Are you glad to see it go? If you wish it to not be cancelled, what plea would you make to the network?

Gracepoint: Why aren’t we just watching Broadchurch?

There have been many disastrous (Life on Mars, Coupling, etc) and some surprising (Three’s Company, Sanford and Son, etc) US remakes of UK television. The most recent is one without a verdict, called Gracepoint – a US remake of Broadchurch, a BBC show that only aired over a year ago.

American television is not unfamiliar with the suave leading man or stylish lady who turns out to be an adorable Brittan putting on a great American accent (like Sonya Walger as Sally in the US version of Coupling). Here, however, we have a British actor, David Tennant, reprising his role as the outside detective who is hired in the position that the leading lady was promised. I put it that way because in Broadchurch his name is DI Alec Hardy and in Gracepoint he is Detective Emmett Carver, but essentially it is the same role.


I love David Tennant and was an avid watcher of Broadchurch when it aired in the UK, so when I heard they were making an American version called Gracepoint, I was non-too happy. But when David Tennant signed on to reprise his role, but with an American accent, I was curious. I have heard David Tennant do an American accent before, when he played Peter Vincent in the 2011 remake of Fright Night, but somehow his accent in this is a bit weird. I’m not sure if it is just because I have become accustom to his delicious Scottish accent, if he has more lines or more consecutive lines in this show vs. Fright Night, or if he is putting on a special twist to his accent because of the character. It’s not bad or overly jarring, but sometimes it’s a bit nasally.

So far,  only two episodes have aired, but it is holding true to the original. The differences are minimal, the family whom the murdered boy belonged to is a Hispanic mix rather than the straight up English white, but that just plays up the melting pot that is America. Other than that it is just the cast, obviously, but there is definitely something to be said about it.

We have not yet gotten to know all the American characters well enough yet to speculate the overall casting, but some of the ones we have make me cock my head in question. Anna Gunn plays the lead opposite David Tennant, Detective Ellie Miller, the American version of the character of the same name played by Olivia Colman. It might just be biased opinion, but the first episode Anna’s portrayal was just more annoying than I remembered Olivia’s. There is a particular scene at the beginning where Ellie returns to work after a vacation, only to be told that the promotion she was promised has been given to another. She proceeds to run into the bathroom and calls her husband to vent. This happens the same in both version of the story, but Olivia’s portrayal of that moment was one of betrayal, frustration and anger and Anna’s was whinny and defeatist.

I felt a bit offended by it, honestly, as it looked like she was playing the victim and was going into a stereotypical “womanly” hysteria. This only amplified the line later, when she reaches the body and her new partner and she has to explain to him that she is a detective and not a bystander trying to get close, and he says “Really?” like she couldn’t be a detective. I believe the line is in both version because DI Alec/Detective Emmett are both a bit arrogant and are not used to small town detectives or politics. But the American one just seemed to strike the wrong chords.

I thought it was odd as well, that they hired a British actress for the owner of the Hotel/B&B. Do not get me wrong, I love Sarah-Jane Potts, but they hired her to play a Brittan, which is a weird offset to David Tennant playing an American. It’s not a good or a bad thing, just a question of – why?

The sad thing is that, even though I am born and raised American, brought up with American TV, I recognized more of the British actors in Broadchurch than I do with the American ones in Gracepoint. I do not know if that biases my opinion or not, but what does kind of bias me, is this:

In a world that is connected by technology, where things like Hulu plus can give you shows from all over the world, past and present, and there are cable channels dedicated to bringing in ‘foreign’ shows, like BBC America… Why did they feel it necessary to remake this show?

I had the good fortune of being in the UK while Broadchurch aired, but my parents easily watched it on BBC America. The same goes for things like Downton Abbey. Americans have to wait a little while for it to air on PBS, but it still airs in the United States. Neither of which have been bombing in the ratings and in need of a re-do or reboot.

So, if a show is this new, and so well done to begin with, it begs the question – why bother remaking it? To put an American spin on it? Would an English small town be that different from small town America?

Now, I will not claim to be unbiased when it comes to American remakes of ‘foreign’ TV or movies – in fact the track record of some of my favorite movies or shows getting redone for America has been a piss poor one and so I am generally against it. If you want to watch Godzilla – see the original Japanese, Pulse – the Japanese, Life on Mars – the British, Coupling – the British, Gracepoint – watch Broadchurch.

Still, this remake is shaping to be a decent one, with generally the same tension and who-dun-it feel. There is also the promise of a different ending, which means that although so far the secrets are the same, the murderer might be different. I have come to realize that sometimes it is said to get the views, so the mini-series end might disappoint me, but hopefully I will be enjoying the ride as much as I did with Broadchurch. Where this will fall in the spectrum of remakes, is still to be decided.

 *** Broadchurch Spoilers Below ***

My predictions for it, if they actually change the killer, would either be:

Rev. Paul Cotes – because in Gracepoint, he seems a lot shadier than in Broadchurch, and I mean, Kevin Rankin is no Arthur Darvill

or Mark Solano’s business partner – whose name was Nigel in Broadchurch, but they have changed the name and I don’t think we have been formally introduced to him just yet.

*** End of Spoilers ***

The killer, once revealed in Broadchurch, was a fabulous shock – so although it would be a failure on their part, it wouldn’t be the worst to have that again in Gracepoint… but then again, at that point you might as well just watch Broadchurch.

I guess my point is that everyone who hasn’t seen it should watch Broadchurch!

Have you been watching Gracepoint? What do you think so far?

Is there any reason that you are watching is instead of Broadchurch (if that’s the case)?

Let me know in the comments!

What really makes a good adaptation?

Here at Adaptation, we are soon to be recording our 100th podcast and we just passed the one-year anniversary of our YouTube channel. *Pops the champagne*

So let’s take a moment to discuss the foundation of what we do…

 What makes a good adaptation?

It’s a funny thing to discuss because I often wonder if it is a matter of opinion or biased by what a reader feels or knows about the story and characters.

Let’s look at a few examples of different adaptations:

 Atonement (2007) – based on the novel by Ian McEwan

This is an example of a “perfect” adaptation. I put the quotes around perfect because I mean it in no way as a definitive “this is a perfect adaptation” and more of a description of how it translated book to movie. This type of adaptation is one that is more literal.

I had read the book a few years before the film opened and I was amazed at how the film was really just a visual version of the book. I thought to myself, “Now this is a great adaptation”, until I told my parents, whom I had been watching the film with, why I felt that way. I asked them “Do you want to read the book? I have it.” However, because I said that the film was exactly like the book they said no. Why would they bother?

That saddened me because I absolutely loved the book, and it is something that we have mentioned in podcasts: We like it when the movie makes you want to read the book (again) and vice versa.

The thing is, even when I gripe and nit-pick at some of the films on podcasts here, when we talk about an adaptation, I do feel that there should be signs of someone’s interpretation. But how much should be strictly accurate and what exactly should be up for the creator’s interpretation?

 My Sister’s Keeper (2009) – based on the novel by Jodi Picoult

I saw this film without having read the novel and I really liked the film. Of course, those of my friends, on and off the podcast team, who had read the book, were infuriated! The ending was completely different from the book; in fact you could say they made it totally opposite.

Now, we always try to say here at Adaptation that books and films are two different animals and we have to keep them separated. I agree, and I try- oh how I try- but is there a breaking point? Was it right or wrong of the filmmakers to change the ending? Did they feel that the ending they used was a little more believable or true to life? Does that matter?

The film itself had good pacing, character development, and acting. It flowed together well and was never slow or boring or abrupt. So, would we consider it a good adaptation? Or just a good film?

 Stardust (2007) based on the novel by Neil Gaiman

This is one of those adaptations that came out nearly 10 years after I had read the book. Yet, this book is one that was so unique and such a great read that it stuck with me all that time. When the film was about to be released, after working on it with the filmmakers, Neil blogged a warning to readers and lovers of the book: “The movie will be different”.

I was so glad for that because when I saw the film I expected changes. I even wish I could have known about them in  more detail, because it had been so long since I’d read the book. While watching the film, I wasn’t always sure if something had been in the book or not. But5 maybe that is not such a bad thing.

However, there were many things that I knew for sure where not in the book, and some of them were things that I felt changed the feeling of the story. The book was much darker and grittier than the film, which was produced by Disney. They really did Disney it up with a happily-ever-after and things of the like. It was a family friendly movie that many kids and parents alike enjoyed.

So, can I really knock it? Was it so bad for me that I can call it a bad adaptation? Most of the story was intact and the ending wasn’t so different, unlike my previous example. It spread the word about the novel and more people now know who Neil Gaiman is… but still the feel was different.

Total Recall (1990 & 2012*) and Blade Runner (1982) based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” and novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheeprespectively

*Technically the 2012 version is an adaptation of the original film and neither the short story nor P. K. Dick is credited.

Here are examples of taking either a very short story or a vague idea and running with them.

Total Recall’s original material is much shorter than you would expect and not nearly the number of characters in the film (1990). Basically, the idea of the character having memories in his head that have been implanted, who later finds out that there is something more going on. But in both screenplays, the story is much more out there than in the original work. They required so much expansion.

Blade Runner’s original novel is similar. Again, the ideas were in the film where Androids are trying to pass themselves off as human, and a bounty hunter is out to retire them, but there are so many things that were cut and others that were added.

I can’t say for sure that the reception for Total Recall in 1990 was a good one, but I know that Blade Runner by Ridely Scott is still considered a great film and the director’s cut version was even reviewed very recently by The Telegraph, saying that it “is a masterpiece of dystopian science fiction on film”. I myself love both of these films and was honestly surprised to read the original material. I love both written and screen work for different reasons- and dislike them for different reasons.

Is this a case of interpretation being the right thing?

Conclusion- if there can be one

Even after thinking about these examples of adaptations (and there are countless more, just check out our podcasts), it is hard to really pinpoint what makes a good adaptation. I would not want to leave this post without some conclusion, but maybe there just isn’t a definitive one. All I have is my opinion, and I can’t say that it hasn’t changed depending on what adaptation we are discussing.

From these examples, in my humble opinion, this is what makes a good adaptation:

  • The overall feel and/or tone is the same
  • The changes mean something: i.e. if they took something in a different direction, they made sure to keep continuity with it and did not half-ass it, leading to a “why did they even bother?” moment
  • If they needed to add to the story, such as with a short story, following a set cannon, if possible, is the best bet. If not, see first bullet point.
  • The so-called adaptation did not seem like they had read the synopsis of the story and then run with it in whatever direction they felt without really consulting the original material. (This can be debatable, of course, because if they expand on the story beyond the original material, much like the previous bullet point, it can become an amazing piece of work)
  • While it is not necessary to stick to the story exactly, the changes or additions need to add something to the whole of the story.
    (Kick Ass 1 & 2, might be considered good examples of this)
  • AND (most importantly) it was an enjoyable experience! Because if it wasn’t, that is already an indicator that it was not very good.

In the end, I do think that it is a matter of opinion on whether an adaptation is done well or not. It is sometimes easier to say when it was not done well at all (*coughs* Al. Vamp. Hunt. Dig.).

What do you think? What can I add to my list on what makes a good adaptation? Do you agree or disagree with me on either good adaptations in general, or one of my examples?

Introducing: Sailor Moon Crystal

sailor-moon-animeAs a fan of Sailor Moon for the past 20 years, I was more than excited to hear that they were creating a new “season” of Sailor Moon called Sailor Moon Crystal. From what I have read, Naoko Takeuchi has not created further manga beyond the previous Codename: Sailor V and Sailor Moon manga printed back in the 1990s, so I worried about exactly how this was going to turn out.

At first, it seemed that all the news was saying that the new series would not be directly from the manga or the 1990s anime, but based on the characters and canon of Sailor Moon. If this had been the case, it would have been interesting to see where they would go after all we had been through with the 200 episode series from the 1990s (broken down into seasons of Sailor Moon, Sailor Moon R, S, SuperS, and Stars). It would have been a whole new journey for fans to see their favorite characters in a new light, hopefully a good one. The creators would have had a lot of breathing space and could have created a really neat piece of anime that goes beyond what we already have established.

Just a Reboot

I was pretty disappointed as screenshots and more concrete news came out. The anime looks wonderful, the characters are drawn in a way that better emulates the manga, but it also showed that they are starting from the beginning again. It is in fact, a REBOOT, news of which was posted by our own Jenn back in 2012.

I really had to take some time to mull this information over because of how I feel about reboots. As far as some of the super hero movies have gone, the reboot of Spider-Man is far superior to the previous set, and although I still enjoy the originals of Superman and Batman, the reboots gave them a grittier more real look, which I very much enjoyed. However, when you look at things like Avatar: The Last Airbender– not that the film was really a reboot, but it told the same story- the original was miles above the film. Of course, I do take into account that some things are just better when animated and in the case of this new Sailor Moon, that at least is not an issue. Still, I’m of the philosophy “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

So, what have we previously established?

  • A full length Manga
  • A 200 episode Anime (less if you only watched the edited dubbed version)
  • A few musicals that went to stage
  • And a live action version from the 2003, which also tells the story from the beginning, but takes a few interesting liberties

So, do we really need it again?

The short answer is… YES!


This new version is going to be a closer adaptation to the fabulous manga.

Although the 1990s anime (the original, unedited Japanese) is fun, exciting, addictive, and has all the feels you would want from a good TV show, there are things that I would like to see them do differently. I would not say that the original anime is bad by any means. I love it and have re-watched it more times than I can count. And though the manga is not drastically different, there are key differences that no adaptation has covered so far.

What the adaptations have done, is taken a lovely story and woven more intricacies into it so we get the same general idea or story line, but characters are more fleshed out. Some characters are taken in different directions, many times showing that even if they are on the bad side of the story, they have good parts to them. In the manga, characters were added and defeated (or otherwise dismissed) so quickly that one couldn’t grasp the characters. It was a case of we root for the good guys, and the bad guys get destroyed, no gray area, end of story.

Character Depth

One character, however, that had much more to him in the Manga than any of the adaptations thus far is Darien/Mamoru. In every TV related story, he never has any real powers- except for the power of bad puns, appearing and disappearing from strange places (i.e. Street Lamps), and enough aim to distract the enemy with a rose so Sailor Moon can vanquish them. But there is so much more to his character than that. Yes, the general things are there: he is the prince of the earth, he was in love with Princess Serenity in the past, was killed protecting her and they are destined for each other, but there are some things that have always been omitted.

He had powers in the manga, real ones. Darien/Mamoru had the power of psychometry, which allowed him to do many things, as Lita/Makoto/Jupiter explained in the original translated manga: he had the power to heal himself or others quickly, but he could use this same power as an attack. Later in the manga he touches the Earth to feel that the planet as a whole had only been scratched, and he could find just about anyone on it. Beyond that, he is the true holder of the golden crystal, to match Sailor Moon’s silver crystal, which is just one of the many things I disliked about the SuperS series in the 1990s Anime. It is the one that went the most wrong in my opinion.

Even Sailor Moon herself as a character is better in the manga. She grows very quickly and doesn’t need to be told to use her abilities- a friend and I watched through the whole series to see how many episodes someone didn’t say “Now, sailor moon!” and trust me, there were not a lot- and she is the true protector. She also uses cute goggles to see through ruses and was convinced that Sailor V was the true princess to the moon kingdom. Not that anyone was really fooled, but I liked her much better in the manga.

Also, let us not forget the near absence of the overpowering evil presence named Queen Metalia, who is the one who poisons Queen Beryl’s mind and starts the whole war. In the 1990s anime, there is some dark blob that Queen Beryl talks to, but she is not really given a name. They did better with it in the 2003 live action, but instead of Beryl absorbing her powers, Mamoru does, which was just one of the many crazy things that happened in the live action film.

I also miss the fact that the four soldiers under Queen Beryl were once loyal to Prince Endymion (Mamoru/Darien’s past life). They were soldiers under his rule and occasionally felt something towards him even when they were under Beryl’s spell. In death, they turn into the stones of their names: Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, and Kunzite and are freed, allowing them to help Prince Endymion later on. This was never touched upon in the 1990s anime, but it was brought up in the Sailor Moon RPG video game as well as the 2003 live action.

An Anime Ahead of It’s Time

Another thing, that anime viewers may not know is that the it got a bit ahead of the manga. By the time the series R was being made that story had not yet been published via the manga. This is why the “Doom Tree” series seems so out of place and why all the senshi/scouts lose their memories at the end of the first series. The creators weren’t sure there would be more so they wrapped up the season in a nicely wrapped package. This of course, is not how it all goes down in the manga. The enemy of that story is defeated and everyone is happy when Chibiusa/Rini comes crashing down, but there was no in-between, confusion, or needing to begin again.

This is why I feel like another adaptation is not only warranted, but necessary. I would like to see all of my favorite things in anime form. I mean, I could just read the Manga again, and now that it is more readily available to people, so could everyone else. But, for those who don’t get into the manga, I think the anime will be a great door opener.

Of course, there are things that people might miss in the new adaptation: there are no rainbow crystals in the manga, Naru doesn’t have a love affair with Nephrite, etc. And if Sailor Moon Crystal does well enough and they continue onto R with the Black Moon series, Sapphire might not have a cute backstory with Prizma, and he may turn out much less likable as he was in the manga. Things will be different, but the new anime isn’t going to erase the old one. We can always watch the original again (and again and again…)

No Time to Waste!

Sailor Moon Crystal is set to premiere on 5th July across the globe. You can watch it one Hulu+, Crunchyroll [available to Crunchyroll’s audience in the following territories: U.S.A, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America (Central and South America including Mexico)] and Viz Media’s Neon Alley.

They are planning on premiering subbed and re-dubbed versions at the same time. Hopefully, since the Japanese and Americans are working simultaneously, the dubbing will be much better quality. I could rant about a comparison between original Subbed and Dubbed of the 1990s anime, but that is for another day.

Now, I’m off to re-read the manga for the billionth time. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do, and if you have, why not once more with feeling?

I am SUPER EXCITED! Here’s a trailer to get you pumped!

What bits do you hope they keep in this version, or what bits do you hope they cut? Let us know in the comments!

Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus on the London Stage

frank3It is hard to know what to expect from a stage production of Frankenstein, especially when all of the films called Frankenstein have been off the mark on their adaptation of the novel by Mary Shelley. The production for the London Stage was written by Nick Dear (The Art of Success), published by Faber and Faber, directed by Danny Boyle (director of the opening ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics; Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), and starred Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary) as the Creature and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) as Dr. Victor Frankenstein. When this production was put up, on alternating nights Miller and Cumberbatch would switch parts, and although I would have loved to see both, I was only able to see the aforementioned one.

Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley’s name appears on the second edition, published in France in 1823 and was always titled Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, which influenced the creators and actors from this production. They also said that even though it takes place so long ago, much of the story still resonates with current events. It was written in an age before science fiction was a genre, when Gothic stories reigned, and the novel stands out above others riddled with fear of what lengths people will take for science, and what immoral acts can come from it. Can Man really play God? It was the first book to ask.

The production begins with a lit circle in the middle of the stage, something of a womb made of canvas and wood. Inside is the Creature being brought to life and he is birthed from this and onto the stage in view. For a while there is a bit of awkward flailing and noise-making as the Creature learns to crawl, stand, walk, run and emit some form of speech. When Victor enters and sees what he has done, he covers the Creature and abandons him, running for his life.

The stage design was Gothic and minimalist- very fitting for this novel. It was dark and sparse most of the time, with only flares of something more, like a patch of grass or a bonfire, or a small structure for a house, etc. There were some scenes that had much more, like the train and rail workers coming in, which was a spectacular sight to see, or where Victor lived and worked. The center part of the stage rotated and was utilized for space and to move scenery. There was also a curtain of lights above, a mass of light bulbs hanging from the rafters, and when they were lit it was a fantastic sight. All in all, the staging was very well thought out and employed very successfully.

The amazing thing about this production that has never happened in a straightforward adaptation of the novel (excluding I, Frankenstein, which could be considered an adaptation of the novel, but is also based on a graphic novel we discussed previously in a podcast) is that the voice of the Creature, his own thoughts and feelings, are so important and central to the production. This differs even from the novel, where although we heard the Creature speak, the story is told from Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s perspective. I have to applaud Nick Dear for taking this approach. This feature is what attracted him and was essential to this production, as Danny Boyle generally said, and unknowingly agreed with me about how previous adaptations of Frankenstein always took the Creature’s voice away, changing the point and the crux of the story.

A  curious yet fabulous decision was that the casting for this play went for a colorblind array of cast members. We never see Victor’s mother, but his father (M. Frankenstein), brother (William) and fiancée/wife (Elizabeth) were black, and as most people can easily tell, Benedict Cumberbatch is a very pale shade of white. For the time it represented, it was unlikely in all accounts. As a viewer today, the fiancée doesn’t make much difference, but the blood relatives did pull me away from the story for a while, if only because I was trying to figure out if his father was really his stepfather and his little brother actually his half-brother. However, I am one to love it when directors and casting turn things on their head and surprise people.

The acting, I expected, was going to be the highlight of the play, and they did not disappoint. It is no wonder that Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller share both the Olivier Award and London Evening Standard Award for Best Actor for their respective performances. They brought the characters to life in a way that made you forget you were watching a play. When choosing which version to go see, I figured that Benedict could play either part very well, but I wanted to see what Jonny Lee Miller could do as the Creature.

For most of the first half of the play the Creature is left to roam through the dirty streets of London, hiding in the shadows and scrounging for food. Anytime he is seen, like when he saves a prostitute from an assault, she sees him and backs away wanting to leave him alone, which is the tamest way a person reacts to him.

As I have said in a previous podcast about the 1931 Frankenstein, the Creature Frankenstein creates is like a child. Everything around him is new and interesting and absolutely terrifying. That is Miller’s take on the Creature. When he comes to a patch of grass he plays on it, feels it and rolls in it. Rain is refreshing and amazing. The sun sets and the birds fly and he laughs and jumps around at all the new stimulation.

My only issue with his portrayal is that it walked a fine line between fabulous interpretation and offensive. This child-like Creature with put together parts and a newly awakened brain had some muscular and speech disabilities, which on one hand I can see how that fits, and on the other hand it took on the guise of someone mentally disabled with stutters, spitting and long pauses in between syllables of speech as he gathered his wits. When the Creature makes it out onto a farm and meets up with the blind man who takes him under his wing and teaches him literature and philosophy, his demeanor and mannerisms smooth out a bit, but still felt a little uncomfortable for me.

***Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence*** (skip next two paragraphs)

Still, the most uncomfortable moment was the culminating one, where Victor and Elizabeth have just wed in Geneva. Victor tells her to stay in her room while he and the guards go hunting the Creature. The Creature is actually hidden very well under the sheets of the bed and springs upon Elizabeth when Victor is away. At first, it seems that they are just going to talk. Elizabeth calms and tell him that they can be friends, which seems to be all that the Creature wants at this point, even though we know that he is desperate for someone like himself to be created.

The mood turns quickly as the Creature says that he feels bad that he has to do this and then proceeds to hold Elizabeth down on the bed and rapes her on stage. I do not remember that being part of the book and  I think that a disclaimer was warranted. It made me very upset and sick and while I want to applaud the actors and director for making me feel so much, it was a bit too much for me and I’m sure for other audience members.

Besides that, the production was highly engaging. There are so many moments that just tug at you: You watch the creature learn and grow, and you pity him; you see him commit his first crime, and anger takes hold; he pleads with his creator to make a companion, and you sympathize with him; Victor takes into account all the ways this could go wrong and destroys the companion after showing the Creature, and you don’t know what to feel; the Creature murders all that is near and dear for Victor, and you feel disgusted. In the end it all culminates with the both Victor and his Creature in the North Pole, where we learn that they are nearly one and the same: both monsters, both human. All the Creature wants is to not be alone.

This play was dark and gritty, it easily held up a mirror to the audience asking who is the real monster? And it was not afraid to go darker and deeper; nothing was held back. Nick Dear really understood the original novel and made a play worthy of it. I applaud all those who worked on this successful production and now I hope that I can see how Benedict portrays the Creature. Can’t wait!

Have any of you seen this production? Are you going to see it now? Let us know in the comments!

Jem and the Holograms: Casting News

The search has ended!

It has only been a month since director Jon M. Chu, Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun, and Paranormal Activity producer Jason Blum announced that they were in the works of creating a Jem and the Holograms live-action adaptation of the 1985 animation. As I previously posted, they were doing a search for talented, new and fresh faces to star in this film via video auditions on Tumblr.

Jon M. Chu has now announced and released a teaser poster of the girls playing the main band, Jem and the Holograms:

*Aubrey Peeples as Jem
*Stefanie Scott as Kimber
*Hayley Kiyoko as Aja
*Aurora Perrineau as Shana




I don’t know about you, but I think the poster looks amazing! I shouldn’t be surprised that Raya has not been included, as she wasn’t added to the group until season 3, but I don’t know what storyline this film will cover yet. So far, no sources have reported on possible screenwriters, studios or release dates. This isn’t completely surprising given the unique path the production team has been traveling so far.

There also hasn’t been any news on further casting, such as Raymond, Rio, The Misfits, or Synergy, or any of the Starlight girls, if in fact they keep the foster home, Starlight House in, or any of the side characters like Video or Danse.

As production gets underway and these things get nailed down, I’m sure we’ll start getting more reveals. When that happens, I will be sure to keep you all informed.

So, are you as excited as I am about this? What do you think of the cast?

Let us know in the comments, or get in touch on Twitter (@AdaptationCast) or Tumblr.

Truly Outrageous 80s News! Jem and He-Man Films in the Works

jem-holograms-movie-comingHave you heard? If you haven’t this is something I personally am very excited about. Director Jon M. Chu, Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun, and “Paranormal Activity” Producer Jason Blum are in the works to create a modern adaptation of one of my favorite cartoons as a kid, Jem and The Holograms.

Jem and the gang were the ones who inspired me to believe that not only can girls rock out loud, but they can also do anything they put their minds to. Plus she made me dream of being a rock star.

The original cartoon first aired in 1985 and was written and created by Christy Marx. The story was about Jerrica Benton, her sister Kimber and their friends Aja and Shana. After the death of Jerrica and Kimber’s father, the girls fight with his second in command, the smarmy Raymond, for control of Starlight Records. Raymond has hired the nasty girl band The Misfits lead by the spoiled rotten Pizzazz and her two colleagues Roxy and Stormer to be the new face of Starlight Records. Jerrica worries that Raymond will ruin her fathers hard work, as well as deny her the money that has kept their foster home for girls, Starlight House up and running. But her father left her a gift- Synergy, a hologram computer program that allows Jerrica to become Jem and save the day. In the later season they add Raya on drums for the Holograms and Jetta, a sassy brit, to the Misfits, as well as other competitive bands, lots of friends, allys and enemies, and love interests for all the girls.

The series is hard to find on DVD, unfortunately. It had a release of it in the early 2000s but was quickly bought up, sold out and then discontinued. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the whole series back then, but now you can see clips of the show and music on YouTube. Have a peep at the opening credits below:

The best part about this announcement is that they are auditioning people via Tumblr! They want to get everybody involved and are asking for fan pictures and video as well as people auditioning who can sing, dance and act. All you have to do is post it on their Tumblr with the #JemTheMovie tag. For more details, check out this exclusive they posted on YouTube:

It is pretty amazing to see my childhood favorites come back into style, and Jon M. Chu has been channeling the 80s vibe with his G.I. Joe movies and by the power of Grayskull, it looks like He-Man is back too, as the director was in negotiations to direct a live-action adaptation of Mattel’s classic 80s toy line.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Chu is in talks to helm the first He-Man movie since Dolph Lundgren‘s 1987 flop (which had little to do with the actual characters and setting beyond their names) and it’s based on a script entitled Grayskull, written by Alex Litvak and Mike Finch. The project is presently called Masters of the Universe and will ostensibly be bringing back all of our favorite characters from Eternia.

Being a child of the 80s, I would love to see He-Man return to the big screen (I actually quite like Lungrens version as well) and Skeletor is an awesome baddie. The question is, are they going to keep it fun, or will they go the grittier, more realistic route that many films like Man of Steel are taking?

When I first heard this news it seemed the choice of director was an interesting one. Chu is best known for Step Up 2, Step Up 3D and the Justin Bieber documentary Never Say Never. However, he has worked on toy-to-movie adaptations before, most recently being G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation, so he has some experience with kick-ass 80s action figures. Clearly, he knows what he is doing and I’m enjoying the 80s comeback.

Who would you like to see take on the role of He-Man? Perhaps Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth, or maybe Jai Courtney from A Good Day to Die Hard? Someone else?

As for Jem, I hope they do pick an unknown. There are so many great characters in the show and honestly, I would love to be one of them, not going to lie. So check out the Jem the Movie tumblr to join in the fun or even audition. I know I will!

If you could play any part in this, which character do you think you would fit? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to add any other thoughts or questions as well.

Showtime Synergy!


War Horse: An Enchanting Stage Production

WarHorse-HeaderNational Theatre Live recently broadcasted encore screenings of War Horse from the New London Theatre in London’s West End. It is based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel of the same name and was adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford.

The story starts in rural Devon just before WWI, where two rowing brothers, Arthur and Ted Narracott, fight for a horse at auction. Each has a son at their side, one named Billy who immediately wants the horse, and the other named Albert who would rather that his drunken father not spend their mortgage money on the purchase. The drunkard wins and brings the horse home to his family’s dismay. His wife, however, tries to think positively about taking care of the horse so it grows up big and strong, which may enable them to sell him and make their money back. She leaves the responsibility to Albert, who bonds with him and names him Joey. The rest of the story tests the strength of their friendship to overcome obstacles through their separation as well as the hardships of war.

Michael Morpurgo described it best during an interview at intermission, when he said that the story is not only about a boy and his horse, but it is also about the human condition of universal suffering and a story of redemption. It brings forth a rainbow of emotions, from pride to sadness, fear to hope, laughter to tears and back again all while reminding the audience that we are all living, breathing and caring human beings… or in some cases, horses.

The production was directed by Marianne Elliot and Tom Morris, and stars Sion Daniel Young as Albert Narracott, Steve North as his father Ted, Josie Walker as his mother Rose, Alistair Brammer as his cousin Billy, and Tom Hodgkins as his uncle Arthur, amongst a long list of other actors and puppeteers that make up the full cast. Many of the actors played a few different characters which led my friend to ask me during the play “didn’t that guy die already?” though I personally had no trouble following along.

This play on its own is a theatrical masterpiece. From the moment the spotlight drops onto the stage until the finale, there is folk music to guide your way. From seeing the horse, Joey, as a free running foal, to him growing up on the Narracott farm and bonding with Albert, to the boys trying to keep morale up on the front lines, songman Ben Murray fills hearts and ears with his breathtaking and haunting sound, singing live on stage  and enhancing each situation in this enchanting tale.

The acting was way above par and although I am unfamiliar with these actors, I would love to see them again. Each one of them took on their roles as if the stage wasn’t sparse. Even the puppeteers became their characters, breathing and moving like the animals they should be. The background characters were not just stand-ins either, they became part of the little scenery, being fences and gates and moving so the audience knew that the scenes had moved from stable to the field, or down the battlefield and over the barbed wire. Adding to the action and movement of the production, the center of the stage was a turntable giving it a movie feel, further enhanced by the ripped sheet of drawing paper (representing one that Albert rips out of Captain Nicholls’ sketchbook) which had projections of drawings, animated visions of Albert riding Joey, and images of war on it.

The puppets alone are a great reason to see this stage production, made by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa. These life-size and life-like puppets were characters of their own and although you could easily see the puppeteers, especially when Joey was a foal, it did not distract from the animals themselves. In fact, it is nice to see the puppeteers credited as the horse’s head, hind and heart. One of my favorite characters was actually the feisty goose played by puppeteer Tom Meredith.

Throughout the play, it amazed me what they could do with the puppets. Characters mounted the horses like a real ones (which is amazing in itself) and as they galloped and jumped the puppeteers could feign slow motion which was not only an amazing sight to see but added to the already building tension of warfare and a failing cavalry in a war that had advanced past their means. Besides that, when *Spoiler Alert: highlight to see text* Topthorn dies, not only is it gut wrenching, but the puppeteers come out from under him once he is down and walk away, letting people know for certain that the horse has died.

Joey and Topthorn moved and nearly breathed like real horses would. A glint in the eye, a flick or perk of the ear and a swish of the tail could tell you exactly what the horses were thinking. Which is great because although the play is staged so you can get everyone’s perspective, Michael Morpurgo’s novel was written in the first person perspective of the horse. During the aforementioned interview, they also spoke with Marianne Elliot who mentioned that they changed it because they “didn’t think a talking horse would work.” I agree that was a good choice.

This production has become a smash hit all over the world, with productions now being put up not only in England and America, but also Germany and China. It is a story that resonates with everyone, and I am not surprised. I was, however, surprised to learn that when Michael Morpurgo’s book was first published, it was not an immediate best seller. He said that if it wasn’t for the diligence of his publishers it might have fallen into obscurity. “There is also another similar book that no one has ever read called Black Beauty” he says, which may have attributed to that.

He was a bit concerned about the stage adaptation because when he read it, as it was clearly different from what he wrote, but he says that it was also because he was unfamiliar with the craft of playmaking, so to him a lot of things didn’t seem to work, but when you “put it in an actor’s voice and the actor doing what the actor does” it becomes terrific and it really works.

The whole production was seamless and although you could see how much work went into the design, staging, and music, the flow of it made everything seem so easy. It is more than worth the watch, so luckily it is available on DVD. For more information on the cast, crew and behind the scenes action go to

I have yet to read the book myself or see the film version, but seeing this has made me want to scope them out and get a full view of the story in all its forms. I will post my thoughts on those once I do.

Has the stage adaptation created any other book readers? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Coriolanus: A Modern Man

elle-reviews-coriolanus_GBI never really considered productions of plays being adaptations of the original written play. Unless it is play to screen – like Joss Whedon’s film and modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, it seemed that productions were just productions of the written play, but when I saw the live stream of the London Theater production of Coriolanus, in my local movie theater, it changed my perception.

The play is formally named, The Tragedy of Coriolanus and is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays and is part of his Historical play set. The story is of a man named Caius Martius, who is a patrician, or aristocratic soldier who has little compassion for the lower classes. He is heralded as a hero after nearly single-handedly defeating the attack of the Volcians, led by his rival Tullus Aufidius at the neighboring Italian city of Corioles and is given the name Coriolanus. However, a famine had rampaged Ancient Rome and the people are in a rage against the upper class. To have their voices heard they have tribunes (representatives) to stand up for them. Coriolanus is given a hero’s welcome, and the Senate offers to make him consul.

In order to gain this office, however, he must go out and plead for the votes of the plebeians (common people), a task that he undertakes reluctantly. At first, the common people agree to give him their votes, but they later reverse their decision at the prodding of two clever tribunes, Brutus and Sicinius, who consider Coriolanus an enemy of the people. This drives the proud Coriolanus into a fury, and he speaks out intemperately against the very idea of popular rule; Brutus and Sicinius, seizing on his words, declare him a traitor to the Roman state and drive him into exile, where his rival surprisingly takes him in and together they plan a bitter attack on the city that betrayed him. For those who have not read or seen this play, I will not spoil the rest.

It is not like a British theatre group to change Shakespeare’s work, and this followed suit, only possibly taking out extraneous and unnecessary but unnoticeable moments from the play. It was done as it would be read, but with more life.

This production of Coriolanus was directed by Josie Rourke and starred Tom Hiddleston as Caius Martius Coriolanus, Mark Gatiss (Mycroft from BBC’s Sherlock) as Menenious a friend and mentor to Coriolanus, Hadley Fraser as the rival Aufidius, Deborah Findlay as his mother Volumnia, Birgette Hjort Sørensen as his wife Virgilia, and Elliot Levy and Helen Schlesinger as Brutus and Sicinia respectively.

Put up at the Donmar Theater in the West End of London, this Coriolanus was different than what you would expect from a Shakespearean play. The theater itself used to be a banana-ripening warehouse, and was utilized as a minimalist theater border lining a black box theater. They used the back brick wall for all of their scenery, which stayed painted half way up in red. It was painted with a bit of graffiti at the beginning, and had firm metal handles in it, which became multi-purpose throughout the play. It was also used as a projector screen to display words of the people chanting in glowing letters.

The stage itself looked like a small canvas square with a ladder upstage left, which allowed Coriolanus to climb offstage. The only set beyond that is a square painted in red by a child at the beginning, chairs to hold characters actively or inactively (as if they were offstage), and a small black square that is aptly painted later on to put Coriolanus on trial – twice. The little set was used very well, with unique staging because the audience was on three out of four sides, having everything stay the same and yet change so seamlessly between scenes. The red square looked like the ropes of a boxing ring, and with scenes of social unrest, political distress and all out war it was perfect for each and every scene.

This minimalist idea continued onto the characters. The costumes were a mix of period and contemporary clothing. It was all very simple and clean, with only a flick of leather chest armor and a sword. The near empty stage never felt empty as it was filled with the voices and presence of each character.

Tom Hiddelston is a fearless actor who took this role full on with the ablity to move seamlessly between all parts of the role and emotions. He portrayed Coriolanus as a complex human being, going from loving son and husband to arrogant aristocrat, from fearless warrior to sarcastic fool, from cold-hearted to soft-hearted. He didn’t put on a mask and go overboard or put on any airs like I see most Shakespeare done. It was a stripped down performance that showed him as a real man and did not feel like we were just watching an actor play out a scene, although I will say I remarked that he was an amazing actor because he could cry on cue and it was absolutely real.

His performance along with the smaller and less cluttered stage was a recipe for intimacy that was felt throughout. At times it seemed so real that it felt like we were all voyeurs looking in on something private. We are there with him every step of the way, watching him become warring god and then wash the blood away to become a flawed and scarred human again, and besides making the whole theater cry with him, he brought us to laugh as he went from having a fit to comforting his mother, and his sarcastic jests as he had to humble himself in front of the “unworthy common folk”.

I could continue to fan-girl over Tom, who is a fine piece of man as seen in this with a near see-through humble shirt and a nice tight pair of jeans, and his fabulous portrayal, but he was not the only amazing actor there. The entire cast made up a superb ensemble, whom under the director were able to bring to life this unique vision of a story that is still relevant today. They all became their characters and spoke Shakespearean English as plain as it was modern English. Where most Shakespeare plays I have seen have been put on as Shakespeare intended, with over acting, big gestures, and over explaining so that any person anywhere in the Globe could understand what was going on, this was a toned down version; a modern play with Shakespearean words.

It is so difficult to talk about this production without bringing up every single moment in it. It isn’t just Tom Hiddleston, it is the power of voice and intonation and character of all the actors, especially Deborah Findlay, Mark Gatiss (as one might expect from Mycroft… with a little more heart), Hadley Fraser and the two tribunes. The way they spoke was natural and human even if the words seem foreign, with snark and sarcasm and love. It was all easy to understand, even if you could not fathom how any of them could memorize those long speeches. The only thing that was questionable at times was the choice of music they used as they changed scenes. It seemed, at first, to be a weird techno fusion, but as the play went on it turned into more warlike drums and sounds that built tension.

This play was put up with such integrity and vision that it easily got under your skin and into your heart. All the actors spurred so many feels; anger, friendship, rivalry and camaraderie, and so much more. Honestly, I would love to have played Virgilia, Coriolanus’ wife, because not only was she a fun character, but she got to kiss him about 4 times throughout the play. Though I would settle for being his rival, Aufidius, because he got to sword fight him, oh and *spoiler alert* kiss him too.

The only way to do it justice is to see the production; the patrons of the theatre I was in gave it a standing ovation even though the actors were not present to receive the applause. Check National Theatre Live for broadcasts and rebroadcasts in theatres near you. Hopefully, they will realize that this is a production too good to keep under wraps and will produce a DVD version.

Did anyone of you see the broadcast? Tell us in the comments what your favorite part was!

‘Seventh Son’ Heading Towards Seventh Delay

seventh sonIf you were waiting for an early or even late 2014 release of Seventh Son, I have bad news for you… even worse if you’ve been waiting since the original February 2013 release date.

For the Nth time, the release date for this film has been pushed. Its release date is now set for Feb 6, 2015. Hopefully, when that date rolls around we won’t hear of another push.

As some of you know, from the podcasts, I am a huge fan of Jeff Bridges. I was anticipating RIPD for 2+ years and similarly with this one, I am frustrated with the delays. So I decided to do some digging.

Seventh Son is:

An 18th century adventure story centered on young Thomas, who is apprenticed to the local Spook to learn to fight evil spirits. His first great challenge comes when the powerful Mother Malkin escapes her confinement while the Spook is away. – IMDB

It is an adaptation of a young ddult novel The Spook’s Apprentice (The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch in the USA) by Joseph Delaney. The first story in the series The Wardstone Chronicles.

The cast is full of goodies: Ben Barnes as the Apprentice, Jeff Bridges as the Master, Julianne Moore as Mother Malkin, and a supporting cast of Kit Harington (Jon Snow from Game of Thrones), Antje Taue (Faora-Ul in Man of Steel, and Nadia in Pandorun), and Olivia Williams (DeWitt from Dollhouse, and Countess Vronsky in Anna Karenina).

So why does it keep getting pushed?

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The Scarlet Letter of Love

thescarletletterI recently came across the 1995 film The Scarlet Letter. Knowing that this is a story that is required reading in most US high schools, I was honestly surprised I had never seen it before (nor known about it). It stars Demi Moore as Hester Prynne, Gary Oldman as Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale and Robert Duvall as Roger Chillingworth (aka, Prynne). Overall, I enjoyed the film. The sex and birth scenes were a bit long, and I wasn’t keen on Pearl narrating, but as a film on it’s own it was pretty good. It sure made me wonder how well I knew the book!

At first, I thought that this was more of a prequel to the book because it starts with Hester arriving in Massachusettes, and the credits said that the film was “freely based on the book by Nathaniel Hawthorne”, but by the end I saw that it was the book’s story, just unraveled in a different way.

CAUTION: The remainder of this article contains book and film spoilers!

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