Friday, 29 May 2009

Chocolate Fish Cafe to reopen soon?

Another rumour I heard yesterday was that the management of the Chocolate Fish have been looking around for another coastal location on the Miramar Peninsula (aka "Wellywood") and have apparently been very interested in one particular spot, at the former Airforce base at Shelly Bay.

For those who haven't heard about this cafe before - it was the favourite hangout for a lot of the LOTR cast members back in the LOTR filming days. Due to the isolated location it was nicely secluded from the rest of Wellington, which meant everything stayed nicely "normal" for the (soon-to-be) stars.

The staff at Chocolate Frog (the former Chocolate Fish's sister Cafe) are vehemently denying the rumour, which means the chances of it being true are no higher than about 50%, I reckon. Still, that's higher than zero.

As an aside, I had my first coffee this morning at the Chocolate Fish's replacement cafe (the Scorch-o-rama, named after its location in Scorching Bay), and as far as I'm concerned it'll be my last one there. They had attrocious service, it took just over 20 minutes (!) to bring a simple cappucino and a latte out to us. The dirty dishes on our table from the previous lunchers never got cleaned up, even when the coffee finally arrived. They were grossly understaffed from what I could tell - only two people on front-of-house duty, which included clearing of tables, cashier-duties, and making the coffees, as well as waiting tables when the kitchen staff finished making the meals. Not good.

I'll stop bitching now. If I hear any other ChocFish rumours, I'll post them here!

Forgot to post a rumour, and have just been one-upped...

I guess it's early days for the blog but it was a bad oversight on my part. TORn got there first with the juicy rumour that Viggo Mortensen was spotted in New Zealand - I can confirm that, as at least one of my spies spoke to him directly.

Apparently he was here working on The Hobbit, and preparing for a small cameo in the second movie when he needs to reprise his role as a dunedain ranger, guarding the Shire against passing baddies.

Two things strike me about that - (1) Viggo is already back and actively working on it, which means they must be getting close to finishing the scripts, and (2) they're working on both movies at the same time, just like they did in LOTR. Fantastic news in any case.

What we can also take away from that is the fact that they're happily re-inserting characters that didn't get a (specific) mention in the Tolkien's "The Hobbit" book, which means that the chances of (for instance) Gimli and Legolas re-appearing are also now significantly higher.

I'm speculating we won't see Sam, Pippin or Merry in The Hobbit, but Frodo might make an appearance late in movie 2 - the others get introduced specifically in FOTR, but Frodo seems to be quite familiar already at the start of that movie.

The other scene that we need to see Aragorn perform is the first meeting with Arwen, which according to Viggo himself in an interview last year ((references?)) has already been filmed.

Interesting stuff.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Wellington revisited

Had a delightful second breakfast this morning with Ryan and Jenifer Rasmussen who came on my tour almost exactly two years ago to the day, according to Ryan's blog. They're back in town for a short stint, having another good look around. They brought their newest family member Hawk this time, although at nine months old, he was still a little too young for the coffee.

Ryan has a knack for making lots of contacts very fast - last time he was here he managed to meet up with Jonathan King, who I've never yet met (much to my chagrin - I loved his Black Sheep movie! (Jonathan, if you're reading this - we're eagerly awaiting Black Sheep II!)

On his first trip, Ryan also tried to set up a meeting with Peter Jackson but had no success at the time. However, he appeared to get luckier back home in Pensylvania when PJ showed up virtually at his doorstep, to film The Lovely Bones in his hometown.

This time around, as I took him to the Weta Cave, we ran into Greg Broadmore, the man behind the world's best looking rayguns. Cool guy, cool job, cool guns. I "happen" to own three of them, so it's always nice to run into the twisted genius that created them.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Headsup : Alan Lee Autograph Session Date official?

Just heard on the grapevine today that Lord Of The Rings artist and designer Alan Lee's promised booksigning session has been confirmed at the Weta Cave here in Wellington for Saturday the 20th of June.

That's less than a month away, so mark that one in your calendars!

Monday, 25 May 2009

New sign on Mount Victoria!

Looks like the Wellington City Council is showing signs of actually recognising us - the fairly basic (but cool) signs that were previously posted on the hill have been replaced with official City Council signs.

Where the old signs used to say "Lord Of The Rings Filming Locations", the new one simply states "Hobbit's Hideaway".

I'm guessing the picture shows an adult and a child but the smaller one could be a hobbit, I guess. :)

Excuse the bad quality picture, it was taken on my phone, which usually has a dirty lens.

- Jack

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Hunt For Gollum released


Just watched the Hunt For Gollum, which was released on the 3rd of May. Before say anything else, can I just state that I usually loath fan-fiction. This one I was prepared to dislike as well, especially when I heard it was being made on a budget of GBP3000 . Surely you can't do justice to Tolkien with that?

Despite my misgivings, I watched it last night, and it's astonishingly good. Halfway through I was kinda half thinking, "wait a minute, are we sure this isn't a Jackson production?".

The actors, though not exact lookalikes, were pretty close, and definitely good enough to be convincing. Aragorn is supposed to be a lot younger (he's not immortal, and this story takes place at least a few decades before The Fellowship), so that was easy. Gandalf is mostly cloaks and beards anyway, so no big problem there either.

The best one was how the problem of a digital Gollum could be solved for a minimal (read : non-existent) budget. In the end, we do see him closeup on screen, but the sccript writers managed to avoid the whole issue by simply following Tolkien's storyline! Well done, and lots of kudos to them!

The music was top rate - orchestral even. And did I hear the tiniest snippet of the Leit-motief for the Isengard Orcs for a moment there? Nice touch!

Speaking of similarities to the PJ films - that Nazgul scream was awfully close to Fran Walsh's Nazgul, wasn't it? Blatant copy? Or convincing homage? I'll let you decide for yourself... :)

The lighting, the locations, the props, the costumes, the makeup for the creatures, all amazingly well done. Possibly too well - I was constantly distracted from the storyline because I kept wondering how the hell they managed to do all that for 3000 quid!

Special mention also to the fightscene choreographers - really well done! It's hard to make sword fights look realistic, but they managed it easily. Good fast action scenes, impressive blows and counter attacks, the overall flow of the fight was easy to understand, and very exciting it was, too!

The best news of all is that there's another one coming - Born Of Hope, which deals with more Aragorn backstory. Especially good news since Peter jackson and Guillermo del Toro have announced that The Hobbit will be split into two movies, rather than one Hobbit movie and a bridge movie. The two fanpics would be that bridge!

If you haven't watched it yet, this one's not going to be available at your DVD store - since it was a fan-made piece it's not going to be for sale anywhere. You'll need to stream it (for free!) right now from here.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Lothlorien Bridge destroyed

The big news after the storm last week was that the newly-restored bridge at Fernside was pretty much completely destroyed by a falling tree.

One of several trees in fact - in total, five separate trees on the property came down in the storm. From the photo it looks more like it's been precariously placed on the bridge rather than crashing down on it.

Most of last year, the property was off-limits to visitors as the new owners drained the lake and refurbished the bridge, which had just been completed. I took this photo of it at the time:

In the movies, the bridge looked more elvish of course - check this one instead.

The bridge was pretty unique in Middle-earth terms - it was allegedly the only man-made object to appear in LOTR, that existed before the movie was made. Everything else (around 45,000 props or so) was custom-made by the Weta Workshop, or carefully digitised by Weta Digital.

For the foreseeable future, my tours won't be visiting the location due to the obvious safety concerns. Watch this space for updates.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

John Howe Autograph session at the Weta Cave

John Howe is back in New Zealand, and is preparing to start seriously working on The Hobbit designs, notably on the dragon Smaug. He took time out to sign some books, or in my case, some maps.

Life long friends?

I met John briefly late last year when Weta staff had been denying that he was back in town. He walked past me minutes later, with Alan Lee, who was also not supposed to be back in the country yet. Apparently they were certainly not here to meet-and-greet Guillermo Del Toro, who was definitely not back in the country at the time either (impossibly, I met him later as well).

Alan Lee is rumoured to be having his own autograph session next month - expect another post then.

For those who don't know John Howe's name or Alan Lee's - they are the two main designers and artists who created the look and feel for Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings movies. Guillermo del Toro is the new director of the Hobbit movies coming soon.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Welcome to the NZ Noldor blog

Hi, my name is Jack Machiela. I'm a Lord Of The Rings tourguide in Wellington, New Zealand - home of Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop. I've been showing hundreds of international LOTR fans around our region for the last five years - I started in 2003 with a company called Wellington Rover, and I'm currently working for another company here, Flat Earth Tours.

I think I've been running LOTR location tours for longer than anyone else in the world - if you think you can beat me there, I'm happy to be wrong, just let me know.

In my job I run across a lot of news and rumours, as well as lots of interesting people. Usually, I don't have anyone to share it with, so this blog should remedy that. The hobbit movies are approaching, so the level of local news and excitement should be increasing greatly in the months ahead.

I'm intending that this site is going to be full of useful (useless?) information to anyone in the Lord Of The Rings tourism industry here in Wellington (or anywhere else in New Zealand).

It might also be informative to anyone who's visited any of the Lord Of The Rings locations here in the country, or is planning to.

I will post any pertinent information that might relate to our little corner of Middle-earth. Im expecting that there won't be huge amounts of traffic here - maybe the best way to follow me is by RSS feed or something. Expect one or two entries a week, tops.

Feel free to post me some questions if you have any.

- Jack