It’s been reported recently that JK Rowling is to write a screenplay called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, based in the Harry Potter universe around the young wizard’s text book of the same name, and, presumably, the fictional text book author’s adventures in researching for it. You can read the book if you want – along with Quiddich Through the Ages, JK Rowling write it as a mini companion to raise money for charity Comic Relief.
With the second season of the Legend of Korra about to begin broadcasting, I thought it would be a good time to rewatch the first season to get up to speed ready for the new stuff. In November last year, I reviewed the series, and frankly I wasn’t too impressed with it at that time. Upon second viewing, though, I have come to re-evaluate my assessment.
Here I’ll go through my previous concerns and look at them again, and below that I’ll add new insights and feelings.
Be warned: this contains spoilers for Legend of Korra book 1 and Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Amazon have announced Kindle Worlds, a new scheme whereby they intend to publish fanfiction in the Kindle marketplace for money. This will be with the agreement of the owners of the intellectual property, who will also get some of the royalties, but it means that for the first time fans can publish fanfiction and get paid for it, without having to either change all the names to make it look like original fiction, wait a few decades for copyright to run out, or make a deal directly with the rights holder.
Authors will have to meet content guidelines, such as a ban on pornography, extreme violence, and crossovers, and a requirement that the work does not give a “poor customer experience”. There is also a minimum word limit works under 5,000 will not be accepted, and those under 10,000 will receive a reduced royalty rate.
Oz the Great and Powerful hit cinema screens today. It tells the story of Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a circus magician who, through events reminiscent of those in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, gets transported to the land of Oz where he is assumed to be the wizard and is tasked with defeating the Wicked Witch, before becoming the wizard of Oz later encountered by Dorothy Gale.
The movie is a fitting tribute to the 1939 film adaptation of L Frank Baum’s novel, the Wizard of Oz. It begins in black and white, mimicking the earlier movie starring Judy Garland, and upon reaching the land of Oz not only achieves full colour, but also widens from a 4:3 aspect to widescreen, a nice trick hinted at in the black and white segment by small, brief elements exceeding the 4:3 aspect frame. The colours thereafter have a brightness that similarly reflects those of the 1939 movie; indeed all the visuals make a very obvious nod to the famous predecessor.
Vampire movies have been quite popular recently. Well, they’ve always been quite popular. If you only count those with some link to Dracula, there are dozens. Vampires are a staple of horror movies, as well as, increasingly, fantasy action movies, abandoning audience fear in favour of a good villain for the protagonist to fight – or a cool supernatural being for the protagonist to team up with. (Oh, and this is not really a how to article, I just wanted to get as many puns in the title as possible and that’s what I could think of).
Some movies do vampires very well indeed. Some manage well enough. But as with all genres, there are some that are just terrible movies. Just really awful, mind-bogglingly so. And for some reason, I’ve deliberately gone and watched some of these.
While the finale to Merlin Season 5 aired in the UK a few weeks ago, I have avoided discussing it until now, partly because my review of the series overall was only posted part way into season 5, not that long ago, and partly because it has taken me a while to get my thoughts straight.
I understand the season 5 finale has not aired yet in the USA and other locations around the world, so if you have yet to see the final episode of Merlin season 5 and don’t want to know what happened, you might want to skip this post as it will be rife with spoilers. Consider this your final warning.
The Last Airbender, directed by M Night Shyamalan, is a live-action adaptation of the western animated series Avatar: the Last Airbender. It tells the story of Aang, a young boy who was trapped in ice for a hundred years. Aang is the fabled Avatar – capable of learning to manipulate all four elements, air, water, earth and fire, in a world where other “benders” can manipulate one element each. It is his quest to correct the imbalance in the world created by the Fire Nation’s invasion of the EarthKingdom and Water Tribes and destruction of Aang’s people, the Air Nomads.
The movie covers the first series of the animation, in which Aang and his new friends, Katara and Sokka, travel from the Southern Water Tribe where Katara and Sokka live to the Northern Water Tribe so Aang can learn Waterbending, dodging Fire Nation forces including the exiled Prince Zuko who wants to capture Aang to restore his lost honour, and General Zhao, who seeks to destroy the moon spirit in the Northern Water Tribe’s city in order to destroy Waterbending, which draws its powers from the moon. The first series, and the movie, end with a battle in the Northern Water Tribe city between the Waterbending defenders and the Fire Nation fleet.
Time constraints and cuts
The film condenses a lot of story into a short period of time. The first TV series consists of 20 episodes of 22 minutes each – for a total run time of over 7 hours. The movie, by comparison, is 103 minutes, less than a quarter of the length. As such a lot was cut. With some episodes in the series that cutting is entirely welcome. But the harshness of the cuts meant that some of the character of the world – in particular the Earth Kingdom through which the characters travel – is lost.
In my earlier article, Films every fantasy fan should see, I listed a few must-see fantasy movies and explained what makes them so essential. But I don’t feel five films is enough, so I am adding a few more.
I had this on video cassette as a child and it was my go-to film when I was ill or sad. It always cheered me up. As I got a bit older, jokes that had previously eluded me now left me sniggering sheepishly. It’s a film that has everything: a princess to rescue, a dragon, a tyrannical ruler, a big scary ogre and a talking animal sidekick. But it had fun with these elements, it twisted things around and made it all fresh and new and modern.
With the recent return to British TV screens of BBC’s popular fantasy show Merlin, based on the King Arthur legend, I think now is a good time for a review, not just of the three episodes so far aired of the current season but also of the previous seasons in a more general way. Continue reading Review: BBC’s Merlin