Thursday, 24 September 2009

Three booksignings at the Weta Cave (possibly four)!

The Weta Cave is going book crazy in the next two months - three new books are being released, two of which will definitely have a proper release day (probably he third as well), and on top of that, a famous NZ author is coming to visit.

First up is the awesome Ian Brodie, photographer and author of the immensely  popular Lord Of The Rings Location Guidebooks as well as a host of others (including Cameras in Narnia).

Ian once served time in the Rohirrim militia, before selling bread at the Minas Tirith marketplace. He has recently left his home in Wanaka and is currently residing in the Shire, possibly in a hole in the ground.

He is coming for a short visit to the Weta Cave on Friday October 2nd, and will sign books for all comers from 4:30pm onwards. Bring your own copy or purchase one at the Cave - or just come and meet the man!

The very next day (October 3rd), Alan Lee will be introducing the world to his new book, Shapeshifters: Tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses to which he has added the illustration.

The book itself was written by Adrian Mitchell. Alan Lee was responsible for the design of all things green, curvy and curly in the LOTR movies, and is currently back in the country doing predesign work on The Hobbit movies. He will be signing the new book between 1pm and 3pm. A number of his other books will also be for sale at the Cave.

One month later (Nov 1st), Richard Taylor himself will be introducing the new pre-schoolers book Champ The Chopper, part three in the series so far.

The series was written by Rebekah Palmer, and this installment illustrated by Weta Workshop artist Chris Guise. Chris worked on LOTR in the miniatures department before designing weapons and armour, went on to the sculpting department, and is now in the design shop. Multi-talented indeed!

I'm hoping either Rebekah, Chris or even Daniel Falconer (who worked on the first two books) will be present for the release day as well. In any case, the session will begin at 2:00pm.

Finally, halfway through November (no firm date yet), Greg Broadmore will be releasing his new book Victory!, which is a followup to the earlier work, the somewhat lengthier titled Doctor Grordbort's Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory. Greg may or may not be there on the day, we haven't heard anything yet. I do know he'll be in Las Vegas at the end of October for a short stint at the Trinity Of Terrors Film festival, organised by Fangoria Magazine. He may be back in time - fingers crossed!

Greg Broadmore's recent work can be seen oozing off the screen in the impressive District 9 movie - he was the head designer. I mean, he was the boss of the designers (although I suspect he also designed the alien heads).

Keep an eye on the Weta page for more details as they come to hand on this one - his previous book was great, and this one should be very funny as well.

In short :

Fri, Oct 2nd @ 4.30pm  - Ian Brodie signs books

Sat, Oct 3rd @1pm-3pm - Alan Lee introduces Shapesifters

Sun, Nov 1st @ 2:00pm - Richard Taylor introduces Champ The Chopper

Mid Nov (not confirmed) - Greg Broadmore's Victory!

 - Jack M.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Update on Miramar's Capitol Court Cinema/Theatre

While I'm updating earlier reports - NewsWire reports that the Capitol Court will be restored, starting (as I mentioned earlier) around January next year. They expect to show their first movie around September 2010 already, which is fantastic!

It's all being driven by Jamie Selkirk, who co-owns it with Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor. Apparently the other two are too busy making movies, so he's taking over the project.

Jamie Selkirk has been working with Peter Jackson ever since Peter's first movie Bad Taste, and has edited every PJ movie since then.

The Capitol Court will be TWO screens (not one, as I reported earlier), and will be renamed The Miramar. There was no mention of any Lord Of The Rings exhibits planned.

Two new partners have been found - Penthouse Cinema and Polo Cafe, who will be supplying the coffee.

Full report here.

  - Jack

Update on Chocolate Fish Cafe, Mark II

Last Wednesday the 16th of September, Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper printed (on its front cover, as the headline article no less) the news that the iconic Chocolate Fish Cafe is reopening its doors.

The new location, as I had earlier reported almost three weeks earlier, is to be at the Shelly Bay Airforce Base. The Barbecue Grill (instead of a full kitchen) is also now confirmed. The new "flavour" of the cafe will be kaimoana, (Maori for seafood) - "[...] barbecued fish, scallops, whitebait, paua, corn-fritters... between two bits of bread". Sounds awesome! (full DomPost article here).

  - Jack M.

Gandalf moves in to the neighbourhood.

I just celebrated my birthday over the weekend (yup, 29 again), and since the weather was beautiful, we decided to go for a nice long drive, up State Highway 1.

The Kapiti Coast is a part of the Wellington Great Region that I don't often visit, for no really good reason. It's lovely there, in fact. The day before was horrible weather, and when the forecast for the day after my birthday showed more rain, we figured that the gods must be smiling upon us for a good reason, so off we went. Apart from relaxing, I had one planned stop to make, that have been at the back of my mind for a while.

The stop was at Paraparaumu, a small coastal town that has been going through lots of new development recently. Online recently, I stumbled onto a cool street name in one new suburb there, and we just had to visit it.

As you can see from the map below, it's a small crescent that comes off the main road - there don't appear to be any other LOTR related names in the neighbourhood either. All the empty section currently on Google Earth have been filled in with actual houses now, btw.

View Gandalf Crescent in a larger map

I an not sure about the details of how Gandalf Crescant got it's name - I know it didn't exist about five years ago years ago since it's not actually on my car's (paper) map, and all of the houses in the street look to have been built within the last five years, at most. If anyone knows more, please let me know!

Has anyone else got LOTR related names on their local maps? I know New Zealand has a few more - there's a Galadriel Creek, and also three creeks named Nenya, Vilya and Narya, although I haven't found them yet.

Got anything better? Drop me a line!

  - Jack M.

Poll 2 - The results for the second poll are here...

Voting for the second poll has closed, and the results are interesting.

Recently I've managed to watch a preview of the new James Cameron movie Avatar, due to be released in December this year. The movie was in 3D, which the industry is raving about, and nobody else is, it seems. I did publish my thoughts about it at the time - as you can see, I'm not a big fan of 3D.

It occurred to me that I might not be the only one - so I thought I'd get a quick survey out to find out what y'all think about it, and I'm very pleased with the results - both in number of people voting, as well as the actual answers provided. I want to thank everyone who took the time to click on the poll. It's only a second of your time but I do read the results - if nothing else it shows me that someone's actually reading this blog!

The question was: 
The best format for The Hobbit movie would be:

And 110 people answered it, with the following results:

12 (11%) - IMAX
01 (01%) - 3D
13 (12%) - IMAX and 3D
84 (76%) - same as LOTR, of course

So more than three quarters of you just want the movie in the same format as the LOTR was - widescreen, surround sound, 2D. The easiest format to reproduce at home on DVD or BluRay.

Just under a quarter (23%) of you want IMAX, and approximately half of those also want it in 3D. I'm guessing that if you're going to play with the normal widescreen format, let's go all the way and extend it in front of the screen as well.

The best result of all was though (and I'm disregarding the IMAX+3D segment), is:


I guess James Cameron must have voted then. Hi James.

I'm kinda hoping Guillermo del Toro is reading this blog too, of course, although he has already reassured everybody that 3D is not even being discussed. If I was a lawyer I might question the potential ambiguity of that statement, but I'm just a hopeful fan, so I think there's no more need to panic - the Hobbit will be in 2D, as it should be.

GdT, if you're reading this, please leave a confirmation that I've read this correctly?

- Jack M.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

LOTR filming Day One 10th anniversary in the "too hard" basket?

Sorry, this entry looks like it's going to be another rant. Originally it was going to be a short account of where things went wrong but it's looking like it's a bit longer than that. If you don't like rants, please skip to a different page.

Still here? Read on...

Despite telling many people about it for months, and attempting to call in more than a few favours, it doesn't look like the 10th anniversary of the first day of filming of the biggest movie ever filmed in New Zealand (if not in the world) is going to be remembered by anyone other than myself and a few hardcore LOTR fans here.

October the 11th was Day One, when the first scenes were being put to camera on Mount Victoria right here in Wellington. The now famous scenes of four hobbits hiding under a tree root, and then running away from a Nazgul are well known to everyone we take to the location - I've actually taken people who haven't seen the movie yet, recognise the scene as soon as we walked in (apparently they recognised it from the trailer or from the posters).

In the last five years, I've personally taken literally thousands of people to the spot, sometimes three times a day. Various tour companies visit the location - I work for Flat Earth Tours but Wellington Rover goes there as well, as does Wgtn Movie Tours, and Hammond's has a few tours that visit it (although they're not actually LOTR tours, it's still a point of interest to most people). Of course, Red Carpet Tours come through every month or so, when they tour the country. And finally, there are a large number of LOTR fans who simply purchase Ian Brodie's LOTR Location Guidebook, and find it by themselves. I've even seen various official roadmaps for sale in NZ that include little golden rings all over the map.

I would estimate that at least 15,000 people visit the location every year. And almost all of them come to stay in Wellington for at least one day, and probably two.

So, figuring everyone would understand how important this would be, I approached a few people about 10th anniversary plans.

First, I asked the Embassy Cinema if they were interested in showing the complete trilogy. Apart from its physical proximity to the first film locations - it's located at the foot of Mount Victoria, and less than a mile from the movie locations - it also has a rich LOTR related history. In fact, it would be fair to say that the building would no longer exist if it hadn't been for Peter Jackson - he was the chairman of the "Save The Embassy" trust, and saved it from being turned into a carparking building.

Once the $4.5million dollars of council money was spent on renovating it, it became the magnificent venue it is now. The first two movies had their Australasian premieres here, while Return Of The King enjoyed its world premiere in the same place - an event that drew anywhere between 120,000 to 300,000 people, depending on whether you believe CNN (300k) or everyone else. Even a conservative figure of 120,000 people isn't bad for a city of (then) approximately 150,000.

At first, the response from the Embassy was positive - they were interested in doing something for the 10th anniversary, and would definitely look into it. Everything went very quiet for a month or two, and after enquiring again I was told we'd "missed the boat on this one", and the day had already been booked for other movies. I wondered if we could perhaps squeeze Fellowship into the day's schedule, but apparently not. An email came back with "there are no plans to play LOTR in October. There are plans for some screenings perhaps during the summer but nothing has been confirmed as yet".

Hmm. Ok. Next. Perhaps Peter Jackson's office was planning something then - I had heard some murmerings but nothing solid. So I emailed Peter's spokesperson, who is sometimes curt but always courteous. His reply was simply "no truth to that rumor, I'm afraid". So that's a no-go as well, it seems.

I floated the idea with Weta Cave staff but it never went further than that - or at least, I've heard nothing of any plans (and they have in fact denied that there are any plans).

So about a month and a half ago I spoke to someone at the Wellington Council, who have in the past been quite receptive to these things, and I proposed a few possibilities, like an early morning hobbit's breakfast on the lawn below the filming location, at Ellice Street (where incidentally also the Dunharrow scenes were filmed for ROTK). It all fizzled out unfortunately, and I've heard nothing back there either.

I figured, maybe then just advertise online that I'd be on the hill by myself if anyone wanted to join me for the day, put on a couple of hairy feet and a wastecoat, that sort of thing. Sort of a desparate "last resort" plan really.

It sounded feasible at first, but I hadn't counted on the power of the council's complete lack of consideration.

Last time I was on the hill, this new sign had been put up, advertising the upcoming mountain bike race. Yes, the date is the 11th of October. Incidentally, the route of the mountain bike track has the bikes riding directly over six of the eight film scenes' locations, making it completely impossible to take tourists to the location during a race.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for mountain bikers, and I do think they should have a place to ride - but the Wellington Town Belt is literally miles and miles long - couldn't we exists side-by-side instead of on top of each other? We can't move this (by now) historical site, but they can surely move the track a few meters east or west?

I must admit, I'm close to admitting defeat. If anyone local wants to contact me with good plans, please do. I think it would be a shame if the largest Wellington entertainment project ever had its 10th anniversary skipped through lack of interest. Surely we haven't forgotten so soon? I mean, everyone came to the party in 2003, where are they all now?

Please drop me a line if you live local, or if you have any other suggestions. I had plenty of time to organise something when all this began, but these last rejections came through in the last few days, and we're running out of time.

Alternatively, maybe I'll just get into a few brews on the day. I hear it comes in pints now.

  - Jack M.

Update : Work starting on Miramar Cinema from January 2010

It looks like work may finally be starting on Peter Jackson's old theatre Capitol Court, in Miramar. As I wrote earlier, he bought it originally to turn into a LOTR-themed museum.

My contact has assured me that that is finally now planned for January 2010. Apparently the building will be reconfigured to include one silver screen, so there will be movies playing. On top of that there will also be space dedicated to displaying movie props.

My expectation is that the cinema will hold somewhere around the 150-250 seats.

Watch this space!

  - Jack M.

Work has started on the bridge at Lothlorien (updated)

I visited the Lothlorien location last week and was delighted to see the reconstruction work has begun on the bridge. One contractor estimated that the bridge should be completely finished before the end of September, in fact!

No photos, I'm afraid - I didn't have a camera with me, and it's close to an hour drive. Hopefully later this week (my next visit will be on Tuesday).

Update: It's Tuesday night, I've just come back from (amongst other places) Lothlorien, and although I forgot my main camera again, I did take a lo-res one on my mobile phone. It'll do until I get a better one...

As you can see, the engineer is still hard at work - the struts have been restored, the main beams have been put back on, and the floor is halfway through being restored as well. After this, the bannisters, and a new paint job, and it should be back in no time.

  - Jack