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Why did they recast Buttercup in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire?

22 Nov

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In the true form of a movie junkie, I headed to the cinema at midnight on release day to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

I’ve been waiting for it to open since the day I finished reading the book, and nothing like commonsense or the need to get a good night’s sleep was going to get in my way.

Anyway, I’m not going to talk about it too much, because I know the pain spoilers can cause.

But one plot point that did catch my eye, and I think is OK to mention, is Buttercup.

As fans know, the Everdeen’s cat is very obviously described as yellow in Suzanne Collins’ involving trilogy, but in the first film he had become black and white for some reason. This time around though, authenticity prevails.

So I decided to find out what prompted new director Francis Lawrence – who took over from Gary Ross and is pictured above with stars Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence – to make the change.

He revealed all in an interview with Meredith Woerner on io9.com

The first big change I noticed from The Hunger Games to Catching Fire was you recast the cat. Why did you recast the cat?

You know what that was actually, and I was happy to do it, that was a request from Nina the producer and Suzanne the author. That they thought the cat from the first movie was not the way he was described in the book. And that had annoyed a bunch of fans, and things like that. But it also just kind of bothered them that Buttercup was not a black and white cat. So I was happy to get one that felt like the Buttercup of the book. It’s funny because now people are split. Some people think we should have continued on with what happened in the first movie. And some people are really happy. You never win.

Personally I think the right move. I can totally understand why changes have to be made to make a book filmable, but a cat colour doesn’t seem to much of an ask to get right.

How long did the Titanic take to sink?

19 Nov

titanic

I’m busy packing up to move at the moment, which unfortunately means shoving carefully placing everything I own into cartons and boxes. And as it turns out, a good proportion of everything I own are movies (and, of course, the books I can’t be parted from).

As I’ve packed and packed and packed, I’ve come across the good (Garden State), the bad (Mammoth, starring Tom Skeritt) and the ugly (Vanilla Sky, which I can’t discuss without gritted teeth).

Then there’s the blockbusters.

I am definitely a girl who likes big action on a big screen. So over the years I have picked up everything from Independence Day to 2012.

And in among such gems I found Titanic, which I loved – and still love – right up until the moment that daft old woman throws the necklace into the ocean.

Anyway, the discovery got me thinking about what it would have been like to be on the ship when it hit the iceberg and how long it would have taken to sink.

I turned to the official Titanic website for the answer. Here’s what they had to say…

Titanic collided with the iceberg about 11.40 on 14th April. She sank below the water at 2.20am the next morning. A ship which had taken three years to fully construct was sunk in less than three hours.

Within half an hour of the collision, Thomas Andrews, the chief naval architect, was dispatched to assess the extent of the damage and to work out how long the ship would take to sink. His calculation was “an hour and a half, possibly two, not much longer.” At this stage, Captain Smith gave the order to uncover the lifeboats.

So there you have it. Less than three hours all up, but still enough time to see the waters rising and feel the absolute terror of knowing you were going into the freezing Atlantic Ocean.

If only the lifeboats had taken their full load.

Who created supercalifragilisticexialidocious?

15 Nov

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As a child, I can well remember entering some sort of competition run by a milk company. I’m not sure what the link was, or even what the prizes were, but I do know it involved making as many words as you could from the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Now, it would be fair to say I poured my little heart and soul into the task. I literally went through the dictionary word by word, finding ones that matched. And yes, it took as long as you might imagine. So long I actually missed the deadline for entries. And was somehow still surprised I didn’t win.

Anyway, this chunk of history came to mind when I noticed the movie Mary Poppins listed in the TV guide.

I’ve never seen it – and am less likely to do so the more anyone tells me I ‘have’ to – but I do know it unveiled the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. So I decided to find out its origins.

The answer lay in an laist interview with Richard M Sherman, who wrote the score to the musical with his brother, Robert. Here’s the relevant bit…

How did you make up the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ?

That’s a word we sort of concocted from our childhood when we used to make up double talk words. In the screenplay version of Mary Poppins we wanted her to give the children a gift they could bring back with them from inside the chalk drawing when they came out into the real world. If it was a tangible thing like a seashell or pine cone it would disappear. So we said “Remember when we used to make up the big double talk words? We could make a big obnoxious word up for the kids.” And that’s where it started. Obnoxious is an ugly word so we said atrocious, that’s very British. We started with atrocious and then you can sound smart and be precocious, we had precocious and atrocious and we wanted something super colossal and that’s corny, so we took super and did double talk to get califragilistic which means nothing. It just came out that way. That’s in a nutshell what we did over two weeks. All together you get supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Great explanation. Now, who feels like a spoonful of sugar?

Could a Sharknado really happen?

14 Nov

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I don’t drop the word ‘glorious’ into conversation all that often.

In fact, I’m pretty sparing with its usage, saving it purely for such moments of awesomeness as the shirtless scene in Thor and Thor 2.

But every so often a piece of entertainment comes along that is so exquisite, so unique and so innovative that no other word will suffice. And so it is with Sharknado.

Now first, I should offer a disclaimer, which is that I am naturally pre-disposed to like this film.

I am obsessed with/terrified of sharks, am noted for my love of B-grade animal monster movies and am slightly famous for loving things other people consider crap. Plus, it has the ultimate in B-grade acting pedigree by way of Iain Ziering and Tara Reid. What’s not to love?

Anyway, while the nuances of the plot are non-existent would take far too long to explain, the official synopsis goes something like this: “When a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, nature’s deadliest killer rules sea, land, and air as thousands of sharks terrorise the waterlogged populace.”

And when they say terrorise they mean terrorise, with sharks appearing everywhere from helicopters, highways and manholes to living rooms as they bite people clean in half. At least until Iain – playing Fin Shepard – starts fighting back with a chainsaw.

In short, it is gory, blood-spattered, mind-blowing, ridiculous and glorious. With a subtle plot that points out a punchline from about 1km away and then smacks it right in the face. Like when the man says “My mum always told me Hollywood would kill me” literally a split second before he is crushed by the Hollywood sign. See what they did there?

Like I said, solid gold.

Anyway, I had to know who was responsible for writing this work of art. And as it turns out, his name is the equally glorious Thunder Levin, who did a great interview with iO9.

You can read the full Q&A transcript here – including the inspiration for the movie and whether alcohol was involved – but first, the burning questions that came to my mind as the DVD ran its course…

Is there any scientific basis, however tenuous, for Sharknado?

Yes. There are numerous confirmed reports of fish falling from the sky, sometimes even on a clear sunny day. We just took it to the “logical” extreme.

How are the sharks cognisant enough to keep biting people while they’re flying through the air?

If you were a shark and you found yourself flying through the air, wouldn’t you keep biting? I think you’d be pretty pissed about being plucked out of your nice familiar ocean where you’re king of the predators, and you’d probably take it out on whoever got in your way. Honestly, I don’t understand why people are so perplexed by this concept. The logic is undeniable.

Well sure, if you say so. Now check out the best scene from the movie…

Does adamantium really exist?

10 Jun

Some days when I write this blog I want to discover something useful that will enrich my knowledge base. Other times, I just want to find an excuse to run a photo of a naked Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Today was one such day, and fortunately I had a justified reason at the ready, as I’d always been curious about a key plank of the X-Men mythology. And that is whether adamantium really exists.

As anyone who’s seen Wolverine or another X-Men film knows, this is the metal Colonel William Stryker has grafted on to Wolverine’s bones in a bid to make him an indestructible killing machine who can be used/manipulated for evil ends. Doesn’t sound like something our goodie would sign up for, and it’s not. He’s tricked into the surgery when told it’s the only way he can become strong enough to avenge his supposedly murdered girlfriend. Of course when he discovers she was alive all along, and he’s been played, all hell breaks loose. Only now he isn’t just a powerful soldier-turned-logger with unchartered healing powers – he’s an indestructible metal man hell-bent on revenge. You can imagine how that ends for everyone involved.

Anyway, the metal sounded pretty impressive so I wanted to know if it was drawn from the world of real science. And the answer is no. It’s simply another fantastic creation from the superhuman-minded brain of Stan Lee and his team.

You can read more about it at the Marvel Universe. But for now, let’s see some of Wolverine in action here and also below. You’re welcome.

Did 50 Shades of Grey start out as Twilight fan fiction?

12 May

I’m a terrible one for impulse purchases. I go to the store for a bottle of milk and somehow arrive home with a magazine, strawberries and a packet of Menz Choccy Snakes (not a sponsored plug, I just love them!).

So it was no surprise today when a trip to the local shopping centre for shoes (red, suede, divine) extended into a book-buying frenzy.

Top of the list was 50 Shades of Grey.

I had held off on buying the novel simply because I had been ferociously busy (and was admittedly re-reading The Hunger Games trilogy for the billionth time). But when I saw it on special for less than $10 the decision was made; I love a book bargain and was also curious to investigate the hype, which has labeled the multimillion seller as ‘mommy porn’ for its explicit and risqué depiction of an S&M relationship between a billionaire businessman and a young female student.

As always, I read a chapter or two at the back first, and while the intimate scenes were quite graphic, I didn’t find them as boundary pushing as expected. Probably because I have the open mind/seen-it-all-before mentality of the typical journalist. But what I did find intriguing was the suggestion the novel had started out as a piece of Twilight fan fiction.

For those who don’t know, fan fiction is, like the name suggests, where fans take established characters from books, movies, TV shows etc and write their own stories around them.

This can serve several purposes, from simply the desire to be creative to a chance to bring together two characters a writer thought should have ended up together. Needless to say there’s been plenty of words devoted to Frodo and Sam from Lord of the Rings and Harry and Hermione from the Harry Potter series. There’s even one or two about Harry and Dobby, but frankly I’ve never been interested enough to go there.

Anyway, when I looked into it, I discovered author EL James – whose erotica series continues with Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed – did indeed first draw inspiration from Stephenie Meyer’s tale of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. As her agent, Valerie Hoskins, told Deadline Hollywood

This did start as Twilight fan fiction, inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s wonderful series of books. Originally it was written as fan fiction, then Erika decided to take it down after there were some comments about the racy nature of the material. She took it down and thought, ‘I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve got a couple of unpublished novels here. I will rewrite this thing, and create these iconic characters, Christian and Anna’. If you read the books, they are nothing like Twilight now.’

Thankfully she also lost the pen name Snowqueens Icedragon.

Read an excerpt from the book here.

PS: Yes, Hollywood has snapped up the movie rights. Will be very interesting to see who they cast…

Who invented Post-Its?

8 Apr

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion was on TV the other day. And while I didn’t see the whole movie, I did tune in just in time to catch my favourite bit.

It’s where Romy tries to take credit for inventing Post-Its, only to have her lie brutally undone by an acerbic Heather Mooney (Janeane Garofalo), who reveals they were really created by a guy called Art Fry from 3M.

It’s a cringe inducing catch-out, and the recriminations from the popular girls Romy is trying to impress are brutal. But it did inspire me to find out his story. The answers lay in MIT’s Inventor of the Week archives.

Turns out it all began with a colleague called Spencer Silver, a senior chemist in the company’s research labs, who had created a high-quality, low-tack adhesive that was strong enough to hold papers together but weak enough to let them pull apart without tearing. He freely shared his invention with colleagues but none could come up with a marketable way to sell the product. Until it came to Art’s attention. MIT takes up the story…

“Fry sang in his church choir and was frustrated by the fact that, when he stood and opened his hymnal to sing, the paper bookmarks he used to mark the songs on the program would slip out of sight or even on to the floor. In a moment of insight that has become legendary in the realm of contemporary invention, Fry, musing during a rather boring sermon, realised Silver’s reusable adhesive would provide his bookmarks with precisely the temporary anchoring he required.”

And thus the seed was sewn, resulting five years later in the official release of Post-its.

And for the record, the reason they were first created in yellow is because the original testing/playing around was done on some scrap paper, which just happened to be yellow, and the colour struck a chord.

And now, let’s watch the magic moment …

What inspired Lisa Lutz to write the Spellman books?

3 Apr

Today filled me with a massive amount of happiness. And not because the approach of Easter means times for my annual chocapocalypse. Instead it was because I found out about a new book by one of my favourite authors. And I didn’t even know she’d written it.

Her name is Lisa Lutz and I first stumbled across her several years ago in the same way I discovered Janet Evanovich – because her book cover wouldn’t stop screaming at me from the shelves.

It was called Revenge of the Spellmans and I loved it immediately, not least because she incorporated a really quirky technique in her story, which was to use footnotes to tell what a character was really thinking when it was at odds with what they were saying. It sounds tricky to do but she pulled it off, and today that book still makes me laugh out loud.

Even better it had two predecessors – The Spellman Files and Curse of the Spellmans – so I didn’t have to wait too long (hello JK Rowling) before diving into more of the series.

Anyway, as luck would have it, yesterday brought a phone call from my mother who asked me to buy myself a book she could give me for Easter. So I headed to my favourite online bookstore and there it was – book five, Trail of the Spellmans. Just the sight of it made me a very happy girl. So much so I suspect it will be gone long before the chocolate eggs I will hopefully receive on Sunday.

Of course under my Mum’s rules I’m not actually allowed to read it until she gives it to me. So to while away the time I decided to find out what kickstarted the story. Naturally the tale was to be found on her website, where this interview – old but still relevant – filled in the blanks. Here’s the pertinent bit..

Question  You burst on to the writing scene in your early 20s, penning a screenplay. From what I gather, that didn’t go so well. Fill me in . . .

Answer  I wouldn’t say “burst” — more like stumbled. Eyes were on me for a brief, awkward moment and then they returned to whatever they were previously doing. There was certainly no fanfare involved in my long and unsuccessful screenwriting “career.” I wrote many screenplays over that 10-year period, but only Plan B got any real interest. During that time I mostly made my living doing odd jobs or office work. Plan B was optioned in 1997 and it was finally bought and made in 2000. The resulting film, based on what I’ve read on the IMDB database, is unwatchable. My so-called screenwriting career was over at that point, but I didn’t realise it at the time and continued to write screenplays, because that’s just what I did. As each one was finished, the rejections came quickly and without any signs of hope. The last screenplay I wrote was The Spellman Files. I couldn’t get anyone to read it — and that’s when I decided to write it as a novel. It was a total act of desperation, but as I worked on it, I realized that the story really needed more space to be told properly.

Now, for those who haven’t read any of the books, they focus on Izzy Spellman, whose family runs a private investigation firm. Between her parents, siblings and a straight-laced cop called Henry Stone, things never get boring (or entirely legal). Here she describes how she came to create their world.

I first envisioned the Spellmans over seven years ago. And if memory serves me, which it rarely does, the entire cast of characters sort of came to me over a short period of time. The germ of the idea was always to write about a family of private investigators and how the nature of the business affected their family life. I knew that if the parents were spying on their children, they’d need a motivation. That’s when Isabel’s character took form. I figured a history of rebellion would keep the parental unit constantly on watch.

To whet your appetite even more I figured Lisa wouldn’t mind if I shared the following excerpt from the first book, which is also available here

THE SPELLMAN FILES: CHAPTER EXCERPT

The Interview —
Chapter 1

72 hours later

A single light bulb hangs from the ceiling, its dull glow illuminating the spare decor of this windowless room. I could itemize its contents with my eyes closed: One wooden table, splintered and paint-chipped, surrounded by four rickety chairs, a rotary phone, an old television and a VCR. I know this room well. Hours of my childhood I lost in here, answering for crimes I probably did commit. But I sit here now answering to a man I have never seen before, for a crime that is still unknown, a crime that I am too afraid to even consider. Inspector Henry Stone sits across from me. He places a tape recorder on the center of the table and switches it on. I can’t get a good read on him: early 40s, short-cropped, salt-and-pepper hair, crisp white shirt and a perfectly tasteful tie. He might be handsome, but his cold professionalism feels like a mask. His suit seems too pricey for a civil servant and makes me suspicious. But everyone makes me suspicious.

“Please state your name and address for the record,” says the Inspector.

“Isabel Spellman. 1799 Clay Street, San Francisco, California.”

“Please state your age and date of birth.”

“I’m twenty-eight. Born April 1, 1978.”

“Your parents are Albert and Olivia Spellman, is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“You have two siblings: David Spellman, 30, and Rae Spellman, 14. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“Please state your occupation and current employer for the record.”

“I am a licensed private investigator with Spellman Investigations, my parents’ P.I. firm.”

“When did you first begin working for Spellman Investigations?” Stone asks.

“About sixteen years ago.”

Stone consults his notes and looks up at the ceiling, perplexed. “You would have been twelve?”

“That is correct,” I respond.

“Ms. Spellman,” Stone says, “Let’s start at the beginning.”

I cannot pinpoint the precise moment when it all began, but I can say for sure that the beginning didn’t happen three days ago, one week, one month or even one year ago. To truly understand what happened to my family, I have to start at the very beginning and that happened a long time ago.”

See what I mean about her funky writing style? Want another taste of her words? Well you can read excerpts from all the other books at her website, including this selection from her latest. But to finish, I had to share these questions I pulled out from an onsite Q&A, which also revealed another two more Spellman books are on the drawing board.

Q. Is Lisa Lutz your real name?
A. Yes.

Q. How old are you?
A. You should know better than to ask questions like that.

Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. I have an imaginary friend named Ralph. I steal his ideas and pass them off as my own.

Q. Do you have any fears?
A. Many. Trucks, mostly. But I’m not fond of moving vehicles in general.

Q. What is a typical day like?
A. Breakfast in bed while reading the New York Times. I do the crossword puzzle, even on Sunday, without any help. Then I write for an hour. In the afternoon, I usually go yachting or I fly my jet. Wait, no. You meant a typical day for me. That’s a typical day for Stuart Woods.
Hmmm, a typical day for me always involves the consumption of coffee (unless I’m being held hostage) and maybe some writing or thinking about writing, and almost without fail some teeth brushing.

Like I said, happy days…

Who invented Maltesers?

23 Mar

I am a creature of simple habits when it comes to the movies.

I must sit on the aisle, I must be seated in time to see ALL the trailers and I must be accompanied by a choc top and Maltesers. At a pinch I can do without both of them, but at least one sweet treat is compulsory. A friend to come with me is not.

And so it was that at midnight on Wednesday as the opening strains of The Hunger Games brought an audience of mostly teenage girls to shush, I started in on my packet of delicious malt balls, secure in the knowledge their excited screams would soon drown out any sound of my packet rustling. They did, and I munched away happily. In an even bigger bonus, I had some left over for breakfast the next day (a sad yet ultimately true state of affairs).

So tonight, when I longed to finish the working week with a simple quest for knowledge, my eyes fell on the by now empty packet and I knew what I wanted to know – who invented Maltesers? And the name probably won’t be a massive surprise to fellow connoisseurs of the chocolate arts.

His name was  Forrest E Mars (maybe the surname rings a bell?) and he came up with the confectionary in 1936. These days it’s still produced by his famous family-named brand and here’s a fun fact I discovered – the balls are actually so light they can float on water. I wonder if they’ve considered making life jackets? At least then people might actually listen to the safety briefings!

Anyway, I don’t want to rave on, in case people start thinking I was paid for this blog (I wasn’t). But I do like to know about who makes my favourites movies, my favourites books and my favourite music, so somehow doing the same for my favourite chocolate doesn’t seem so bad.

Now, who wants to know how to make that delicious looking confection above?

MALTESERS LAYER CAKE

INGREDIENTS
If you want to use normal sandwich tins, double the ingredients and split between the two tins.

65g self raising flour
65g room temperature butter
65g golden caster sugar
35g Horlicks
1/3 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1.5 tbsp milk
1.5 tbsp boiling water
Ganache
150g dark chocolate
150ml cream
Decoration
2 packets Maltesers

METHOD

Cakes
This is the mixture for a 5″ tin – you make two batches and then split each one into two. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and line the bottom of a 5″ tin. Cream the softened butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and beat in. Sieve the flour, baking powder and Horlicks into the bowl and then fold in until nearly combined. Add the milk and fold again, then finally add the boiling water. Quickly spoon into the tin and put in the oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until deep gold and a skewer comes out clean.
Ganache
Break the chocolate up into small pieces and put into a bowl. Heat the cream then pour over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes and then beat in.
Decoration
Split the cakes carefully into two. Sandwich them with some of the ganache, then cover the whole cake with a ‘crumb coat’ – this is a thin layer of the ganache icing and will give your cake a better looking finish. Put it the fridge to set slightly. While it is cooling, chop the Maltesers. Remove the cake from the fridge and use the remaining ganache to cover the cake. Starting from the top, arrange the Maltesers in the desired pattern, then go down the sides, being careful when placing the pale-side-out halves. Put in the fridge for 10 minutes or so, then serve. Best eaten on the day.

Who founded The Razzies?

13 Mar

I write about movies a lot. Mainly because I’ve seen so many of them. And in typical form, I did write a piece on the Oscars when the awards show rolled around because hey, it’s like the mothership of star and frock spotting.

But good movies weren’t on my mind today, it was bad ones. More specifically those starring Eddie Murphy. And it’s all because news.com.au mentioned them.

I’m sure you can understand how impossible it was to resist a headline that screamed “Eddie Murphy stars in The Worst Movie Ever Made.” I mean, that’s a big call to make if you’ve ever sat through Vanilla Sky or two hours of my life I’m NEVER getting back The Whole Ten Yards. But apparently the critics have voted, as his latest movie, A Thousand Words, has scored an almost unheard of zero percent rating on movie website Rotten Tomatoes.

The story then went on to list the actor’s many disasters, including The Adventures of Pluto Nash, which holds court as one of the most expensive flops in Hollywood history. It wasn’t kind and it did overlook a few gems such as Bowfinger. But Eddie does have the Razzies to deserve such a dumping, including last year’s Worst Actor of the Decade and a trifecta of Worst Actor, Worst Supporting Actor and Worst Supporting Actress for Norbit.

But what are The Razzies I may hear you ask?

Well, for those who don’t know, the awards, handed out by the Golden Raspberry Foundation, are basically the anti Oscars, recognising the worst in the previous year’s movie making. It rarely draws the same star power – although Sandra Bullock (All About Steve) and Halle Berry (Catwoman) did pick up their Worst Actress awards in person – and it’s little wonder, given how much s**** it gives Hollywood A listers.

Adam Sandler, for example, has secured a record 11 nominations in this year’s awards, which appropriately enough will be announced on April 1. And this stat inspired me to find out how the awards got started. For once, Wikipedia seemed right on the money. Here’s their take on it…

“American copywriter and publicist John JB Wilson traditionally held potluck dinner parties at his house in Los Angeles on the night of the Academy Awards. In 1981, after the 53rd Academy Awards had completed for the evening, Wilson invited friends to give random award presentations in his living room. Wilson decided to formalise the event after watching a double feature of Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu. He gave them ballots to vote on worst in film. Wilson stood at a podium made of cardboard in a tacky tuxedo, with a foam ball attached to a broomstick as a fake microphone, and announced Can’t Stop the Music as the first Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture. The impromptu ceremony was a success and the following week a press release about his event released by Wilson was picked up by a few local newspapers, including a mention in the Los Angeles Daily News with the headline: “Take These Envelopes, Please”.

From those humble beginnings, the Razzies have grown to become big news worldwide, and are even televised these days. And the one bright spot for nominees is they don’ t have to perfect their gracious loser smiles.

Funny fact: In the Worst Actress category, two of this year’s five nominees are men – Martin Lawrence as Momma in Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son; and Adam Sandler as Jill in Jack & Jill. The others include Sarah Palin as Herself in Sarah Palin: The Undefeated.

You can read the full list of nominations here and check out The Razzies YouTube channel here.