The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adaptation

The_Hobbit-_An_Unexpected_Journey.jpegLike many fantasy fans out there, I was eager to see Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I had some misgivings, though, since he had had to condense the weighty Lord of the Rings in many ways to make it fit into three still-epic movies (which I enjoyed), and seemed to be doing the opposite with The Hobbit — a slight volume aimed at children — by expanding it into, well… three epic movies.

Feature Friday: Jón Gustafsson’s Wrath of Gods

Wrath of Gods

 Filmmaking is never easy. But when a perfect storm of financial and weather trouble hit Sturla Gunnarsson’s Beowulf and Grendel, the production took on a heroic scale that rivalled the plot of the movie itself. Jón Gustafsson brought it to life in his documentary Wrath of Gods.


Terry Gilliam once attempted to film an adaptation of Don Quixote. It was a notoriously difficult shoot. Lead actor Jean Rochefort suffered an injury that removed him from the production and floods destroyed sets and equipment, among other problems. The film was never finished — though it became the subject of a famous documentary, Lost in La Mancha.

Sturla Gunnarsson may know how Gilliam felt.

Feature Friday: Sturla Gunnarsson’s Beowulf and Grendel

If you haven’t heard of Sturla Gunnarsson’s Beowulf and Grendel, released in 2005, don’t confuse it with the mo-cap movie that came out years later. This version, starring Gerard Butler as Beowulf, is a more primal take on movie-making, with much of the atmosphere coming from the Icelandic locations. The difficulties posed by the weather, among other things, were epic; that story is told in the documentary Wrath of Gods, which I plan to post about soon.

For now, read what Canadian filmmaker Gunnarrsson had to say about shooting in his homeland.


Where two cultures merge

Iceland-born director brings Anglo-Saxon epic to his homeland

Beowulf & Grendel
Beowulf & Grendel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sturla Gunnarson is bringing an ancient hero to life in the wilds of Iceland. The Icelandic-Canadian filmmaker is helming a international production of Beowulf and Grendel, starring Gerard Butler and Ingvar Sigurdsson.

Beowulf, a poem written in Anglo-Saxon, is believed to be one of the oldest extant works of English literature. Ironically, none of its characters are English. The plot centres on the struggles of a Scandinavian warrior, Beowulf, against the monster Grendel.

Feature Friday: Freddy vs. Jason

Freddy vs. Jason

I have to admit I’m not a fan of slasher flicks. A good scare is worth a lot, and I can appreciate anything from John Carpenter’s The Thing to Se7en.

But buckets of blood provoke a visceral reaction in my guts, and though that has faded over the years, it’s a big reason why I never saw more than a few in those hallmark eighties series, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. I’ll take Dokken and DJ Jazzy Jeff and leave it at that for my Freddy Krueger nostalgia.

Feature Friday: Guy Maddin’s Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary

Despite the vampire fiction genre taking its place in the mainstream — and the movies that have followed — in the 21st century, one vamp still reigns as the granddaddy of them all: Dracula.  But is that just because he’s become a classic monster? Is he still relevant?  Can he still be compelling? Offbeat, acclaimed filmmaker Guy Maddin — Icelandic by descent and from Winnipeg, to boot — tackles those questions in his adaptation, with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, in Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary.

Once bitten, twice Guy

Maddin, RWB reinvent classic vampire

Cover of "Dracula - Pages from a Virgin's...
Cover of Dracula – Pages from a Virgin’s Diary

A character like Dracula comes with a lot of baggage. Despite the relatively recent explosion of vampire fiction (and keep in mind this review was written in 2003, before the explosion of Twilight — DJF), Bram Stoker’s incarnation of the blood-sucking count, followed hard by Bela Lugosi’s screen portrayal, looms large in the popular conception of the ultimate creature of the night.

That hasn’t stopped filmmakers from sallying forth to capture Dracula — but given the heavyweights who have left their mark on the mythos (F.W. Murnau, Terence Fisher, even Francis Ford Coppola), you might think all has been said and done.

Feature Friday: Plaster Caster

For those of you who wondered what the KISS song “Plaster Caster” was really about, the kicker is they were never immortalized by Cynthia Plaster Caster. But the rock stars who were her subjects — such as Jello Biafra, Eric Burdon, and others — really bring to life another side of the fan/rock star relationship in this hilarious, offbeat rock film. She’s still hard at work, as you can see at her website This movie review originally appeared in 2003.


She wants their love to last her

Groupie sculptor immortalizes rock stars’ organs

Plaster Caster
Plaster Caster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

KISS had a penchant for euphemism. It took some deciphering to figure out what Gene Simmons meant by “love” (could be an emotion, sex, genitalia, or some combination). So in high school, when I first heard the song “Plaster Caster” on Love Gun, I wondered. Was it about a groupie who casts plaster, or a porno reference? Is she really taking casts of people’s penises, or are my hormones seriously clouding my interpretation? And if she isn’t, what the heck is this song about?

Well, there really is a Cynthia Plaster Caster, and she really did get access to some of the most notorious rock stars. As the documentary Plaster Caster explains, she never stopped, and has amassed a large collection of famous white penises. (Incidentally, Simmons’s is not among them; she never approached KISS to cast them. Simmons declined to take part in the film.)

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