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Take me with you!

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Moe is on holidays right now, so she's asked a few other Movie Maniacs to step in and write some guest blogs for her while she's away. I was totally fine with this prospect until she revealed exactly where it was that she'll be vacationing.

Hint: It's New Zealand.

Now! This is a pretty excellent destination to choose at any given time, but it just so happens to be the BEST destination at THIS given time.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Clearly you're not as big of a fan-girl as I am (neener neener)...

The reason why New Zealand is the place for any Movie Maniac to be right now is because Peter Jackson is currently working on the second leg of his new Tolkien epic, "The Hobbit" in that glorious country as I type.

Now what you have to understand, is that we're still AGES away from the release of this movie. The first phase of it JUST got into post-production, and they've still got loads of editing and tweaking and awesome-ifying to do yet, and everything else is in pre-production. This is ALSO only the first half of the journey -- they're splitting the novel into two films, like any smart adapter does these days.

Which means, my friends, that they are filming RIGHT NOW, in all their dwarvish make-up glory, in beautiful locations all across the land of the Kiwis. And I couldn't be more jealous of Moe for getting to be there.

If the set production vlogs are anything to go by (which I'm hoping they are, even though Jackson is not releasing them NEARLY as often as he should be...) this second leg of shooting will carry on well into December. And even though the sites and sets are a very closely guarded secret, this makes me hopeful that Moe might just stumble across a hobbit or an elf or a dragon here and there. She has told me they love drivng down back roads just to see where they come out, so with a little luck... At any rate, I've told her it's probably best to bring her lady-dwarf costume (beard and all) and some speedy running shoes for dodging the security guards.


As a tribute to the epicness that is Jackson's work in New Zealand, I've decided to include a couple of OTHER movies shot in this locale. Click on the titles for links to the Calgary Public Library catalogue!


Whale Rider, possibly the biggest film to actually focus on Kiwi culture and life, revolves around a young Maori girl and her search to fulfill her destiny. Beautifully filmed, beautifully acted, this one was up for an Oscar and 28 other awards. It won most of them.

King Kong and Lovely Bones (both directed by Jackson) are not set in NZ, but do use its gorgeous locations as backdrops. Both are written by Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, two collaborators of Jackson's on LOTR. Both also have all-star casts, and one of them has Jack Black. What more can I say?

If you're into horror, 30 Days of Night (originally a graphic novel series) is a terrifying, and R-rated, Vampire flick... I promise these blood-suckers don't sparkle. Almost half of the cast is either Kiwi or Aussie, but you can't tell, because they're all pretending to be from Alaska.

I swear, New Zealand must have the most diverse climates and landscapes of any country... where else could pass for Pennsylvania, Alaska, Middle Earth... or Pandora?

That's right, James Cameron's epic Avatar was shot there too. Wanna know why? Check out this article from "Film New Zealand".

Other epic NZ-based movies include The Chronicles of Narnia,The Bridge to Terabithia (starring The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson), and Spielberg's highly anticapted Tintin movie, out this Christmas.

Horses, horses and more horses

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In recognition of all the horses who participated in the Stampede, as well as Spruce Meadows recent North American show jumping contest, I thought it would be fun to look at the many titles that CPL has featuring man's second best friend. Several of these horse titles have been recommended previously under Guaranteed Embarrassement Free, but lets see what else we have.

Secretariat---Behind every legend lies an impossible dream. Witness the journey of Secretariat and the moving story of his unlikely owner, a housewife who risked everything to make him a champion. Includes bonus features.

The Horse Whisperer---heads up on the opening scenes, it is very intense, but the movie settles down afterward---good cast in this one.

The Man from Snowy River---there are several incarnations of this Aussie drama. My fave is still the original from 1982 with Kirk Douglas. There is also a series with the fine talents of Guy Pearce and Hugh Jackman.

Hidalgo---Set in 1890, this is the story of a Pony Express courier who travels to Arabia to compete with his horse, Hidalgo, in a dangerous race. This stars Viggo Mortensen fresh off his huge success as Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. It certainly isn't his strongest performance, nor the best movie, but the man sure knows how to sit a horse.

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron---As a wild stallion travels across the frontiers of the Old West, he befriends a young human. Animated.

Seabiscuit---during the Great Depression this horse became an unlikely champion and a symbol of hope to many. Another very stron cast including Jeff Bridges, Tobey Maguire and Chris Cooper.

Lonely are the Brave stars Kirk Douglas as a modern day cowboy trying to maintain his fiercely independent lifestyle as civilization steadily encroaches upon him. This is a really good film and you'll be glad you gave it a look.

They Shoot Horses Don't They---despite this title it has absolutely nothing to do with horses, but I wanted to put it in somewhere and this was as good a place as any! It is a very compelling movie set during the depression and gives us a look at the strange phenomenon of dance marathons-4 months anyone? By one of my favourite directors, the late Sydney Pollack and starring Jane Fonda in an Oscar nominated role.

There is always the 1947 Fury with Spenser Tracy, National Velvet, and Black Beauty, which we have just got as a series.

by Moe