Category Archives: Books

Annihilation — First Teaser

And the Trailer of the Day Award goes to…this teaser for Annihilation, an adaptation of the first book of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy.

A biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor walk into a bar strange, isolated area known as Area X, where the laws of nature and of man seem not to apply. Eleven earlier exploration parties have entered Area X, but most the members of those teams ended up dead or deranged.

Much weirdness ensues.

The adaptation was written and directed by Alex Garland, writer and director of the excellent Ex Machina. Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tuva Novotny make up the exploratory team.

Stong cast, talented writer/director, interesting source material. This could be next year’s The Arrival.

We have another long wait for this one. It won’t be released until 23 February 2018.

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Murder on the Orient Express — New Trailer

I posted an item about the new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express back in June, when the first trailer was released. Today we got a new one.

That earlier posting has a good deal of information about the 2017 version, and a video of the trailer for the 1974 film, as well, so I won’t repeat it here.

Instead, a personal note:

When I was a kid, I had three Dream Trips:  A cruise on the Nile, a ride on the Orient Express, and a visit to Schloss Neuschwanstein.

The inspiration for the first two is pretty obvious. At a certain age, Christie’s books were much more interesting than my earlier favourites, the works of the great Franklin W. Dixon. Her detectives had more depth than Frank and Joe Hardy, too, although, in retrospect, not all that much.

I know now that I’ll never cruise the Nile, because I’ll never go anywhere in the Middle East, for obvious reasons.

The ride on the Orient Express is out as well. The original Orient Express is long gone. Its successor, the Venice-Simplon Orient Express train, tries to remind passengers of the glamour of international train travel in the early 20th century. Its London-Venice trip, leaving at 10:30 AM and arriving at 6:25 PM the next day, costs £2,365 ($3,205). I’m just not that nostalgic.

But one dream came true. I spent Thanksgiving Day 2005 at Neuschwanstein. You can walk up the winding road to the castle in about 30 minutes, or you can do as I did, and pay €5 to be carried up in a horse-drawn carriage.

It was off-season, with few visitors and no lines. Because of the sparse crowd, Neuschwanstein’s tour guides let us linger in the magnificent rooms as long as we wanted.

An unforgettable experience. It was one of the highpoints of my life.

Jane Austen in Your Pocket

The Bank of England released the new £10 note today, featuring an image of Jane Austen and of her Pride and Prejudice heroine, Elizabeth Bennett. But Austen fans—and there are reported to be several—are not all pleased.

Some object to the Austen quotation cited on the note: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” A fine sentiment, but delivered, in the book, by the snobbish and superficial Caroline Bingley, who didn’t believe it for a minute. She was just using it to ensnare Mr Darcy.

Given how obsessed many of Austen’s characters are with money and the status it confers, one would think the designers could come up with a more appropriate, finance-related quote for a banknote. I’ve certainly plagiarized borrowed “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” often enough, although, now that I think about it, that line is probably too sexist and too damn heterocentric to be acceptable in the 21st century.

And then there’s a problem with the depiction of Jane Austen. It’s based on a portrait painted years after Austen’s death.

The Sunday Times quotes Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces and author of the book Jane Austen at Home:

“It’s an author publicity portrait painted after she died in which she’s been given the Georgian equivalent of an airbrushing — she’s been subtly ‘improved.’

“Jane had a much sharper face — some might call it sour.”

On the left, a portrait of Austen by her sister, Cassandra. On the right, the image on the banknote.

On the left, a portrait of Austen by her sister, Cassandra. On the right, the image on the banknote.

I think she might have a point.

Still, it’s pleasant to see a nation’s writers and painters celebrated on its currency—the new £20 note, to be released in 2020, will feature J.M.W. Turner—instead of the usual dead politicians. I wouldn’t want it to happen here in the US, though. With the current sad state of American civilization, it’s all too easy to imagine the government replacing Lincoln on the $5 bill with a picture of Ayn Rand‎.

The Disaster Artist — New Trailer

Last month I wrote an item about The Disaster Artist, James Franco’s new film about Tommy Wiseau and the making of Wiseau’s chef-d’œuvre, The Room, which is generally considered to be one of the worst movies ever made. You can read my comments and see highlights from both films here.

A new trailer was released today. It just gets better and better.


I also found this video of a conversation between the Franco brothers and the characters they play in The Disaster Artist. James Franco is, of course, Tommy Wiseau, and Dave Franco is Greg Sestero, who played “Mark” in The Room and wrote the book on which The Disaster Artist is based.

The film is scheduled for release on 1 December 2017.

It’s Dorothy Parker’s Birthday

Dorothy Parker (22 August 1893 – 7 June 1967)

It’s been 124 years since the birth of Dorothy Parker. Poet, critic, short story writer, political activist, and one of the greatest wits of the 20th century.


I do not like my state of mind;
I’m bitter, querulous, unkind.
I hate my legs, I hate my hands,
I do not yearn for lovelier lands.
I dread the dawn’s recurrent light;
I hate to go to bed at night.
I snoot at simple, earnest folk.
I cannot take the gentlest joke.
I find no peace in paint or type.
My world is but a lot of tripe.
I’m disillusioned, empty-breasted.
For what I think, I’d be arrested.
I am not sick, I am not well.
My quondam dreams are shot to hell.
My soul is crushed, my spirit sore;
I do not like me any more.
I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse.
I ponder on the narrow house.
I shudder at the thought of men….
I’m due to fall in love again.

― Dorothy Parker

The Disaster Artist — The True Story of the Making of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room

The Room is a 2003 film that has deservedly earned a high ranking on any recent list of “The Worst Movies Ever Made,” up there with Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space and Nicholas Webster’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

The Orson Welles of this “Citizen Kane of bad movies” is the mysterious and staggeringly untalented Tommy Wiseau, who produced, directed, and wrote the screenplay, such as it is. Mr. Wiseau also plays the lead. Here he is, at his finest:

Acting like that would embarrass William Shatner. Hell, it might even embarrass David Caruso.

So, of course, The Room has become a cult favourite, with midnight screenings and Rocky Horror-esque audience participation.

Greg Sestero, who played the aforementioned Mark—“Oh, Hi Mark”—in the movie, wrote a book about his experience, and now James Franco is bringing it to the screen. A new teaser takes a look at the making of the scene in the above video:

It’s called The Disaster Artist, and in addition to James Franco, it stars Dave Franco and Seth Rogen. The release date is 1 December 2017.


Want to see more?

Here’s a selection of some of the funnier stranger more deranged scenes from The Room:

Ready Player One — First Trailer

Ok, now about that other key trailer from Comic-Con: The trailer for Ready Player One.

Ernest Cline’s science-fiction novel, Ready Player One was the fanboy must-read book of 2011. It’s set in the unhappy and decaying United States of 2044, when a decades-long recession, a trashed environment, and the general collapse of civil society have driven many people to spend much of their time hooked into a virtual reality universe called the OASIS. When there’s a two-year waiting list for jobs at Burger King, escapism is a logical choice.

As our hero and narrator, Wade Watts, known in the OASIS as “Parzival,” points out:

“Now that I was eighteen, I could vote, in both the OASIS elections and the elections for U.S. government officials. I didn’t bother with the latter, because I didn’t see the point. The once-great country into which I’d been born now resembled its former self in name only. It didn’t matter who was in charge. Those people were rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and everyone knew it. Besides, now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”

[Keep repeating, “It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie. It’s only a movie.”]

Anyhow, the now-dead creator of the OASIS was a man named James Halliday who, not unlike many of the readers of this book, was a 1980s obsessive. You know, the kind of person who goes nuts over spotting the 80s allusions in Stranger Things….

OASIS made Halliday very, very rich. When his will was read, it revealed that he’d hidden three “keys” in OASIS, and that the first person to find them, and solve the puzzles linked to them, would be the sole inheritor of OASIS and of Halliday’s massive fortune. All that would be required to solve the puzzles was an encyclopedic knowledge of the movies, music, video games, and TV shows of the 1980s.

Enter Parzival.

I liked the book, but didn’t love it. It’s a fast, easy, enjoyable read, full of Easter eggs for those of us who have, well, “an encyclopedic knowledge of the movies, music, video games, and TV shows of the 1980s,” but it was definitely light reading, without much depth or meaning. It’s a book that’s the perfect source for a big spring/summer movie.

Steven Spielberg (who else?) is directing. The film is scheduled to be released on 30 March 2018.