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New Zealand

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Across the Face of Arda.

“After taking 150,000 photos over the course of three months, photographer Shawn Reeder ultimately whittled the number down to 8,640 in order to complete this incredible visual expedition.” Via The Atlantic and “timelapse cinematographer” Shawn Reeder, a lusciously-shot time-lapse journey through New Zealand.

Screw the Sled. I’ll Drive.

Driving a car actively demonstrates to potential rescue dog adopters that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The dogs have achieved amazing things in eight short weeks of training, which really shows with the right environment just how much potential all dogs from the SPCA have as family pets.”

As if most PetSmart parking lots weren’t crazy enough, an Auckland, New Zealand branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has seemingly taught rescue dogs how to drive. What could possibly go wrong?

Act I: Farewell. Act II: Arrival.

We decided to walk around and for a moment we were like, ‘Are we in Toronto?’ We covered most of downtown in an hour. But as the days went on, we realized that there is great food, it’s very eclectic, and the vibe is quite funky.

Picking up the baton from the NYT, who covered their imminent departure back in August, New Zealand’s Dominion Post checks in with Gill and Ethan on their new (zealand) digs. “Murphy’s family visited New Zealand a few years ago and were charmed by it another factor in the couple choosing to come. They had serious talks about it, though ‘and thought’, says Murphy, ‘about how we felt, individually and together, professionally and personally. A big driver is that it’s a naturally beautiful country, and then coming here and seeing the potential of dance.‘”

Back Down in the Hole.

Warner Bros. has officially announced the beginning of production on The Hobbit, Peter Jackson’s two film epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s timeless classic. The Hobbit is set in Middle-earth 60 years before Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Oh, wait, it’s a prequel?!? Never mind, then. (I kid, I kid.) In any case, many years and pounds later, PJ’s The Hobbit finally begins its Greatest Adventure. And the best news yet? The Return of the Figwit! Bret, you’ve got it going on

Cackling into the Night.

“‘The idea is to use these fragments of cut scenes and use CGI to have The Joker appear one last time,’ a source explained. ‘Chris wants some continuity between movies and for the franchise to pay tribute to Heath and his portrayal of the Joker.‘”

Take for what it worth, but a New Zealand paper is reporting that Chris Nolan will give Heath Ledger’s Joker one final bow at some point in The Dark Knight Rises. “‘It would only be a fleeting moment in the movie and would only be included with the full consent of Heath’s family,’ the source added.” Perhaps an after-the-final-credits flourish? Update: Or not. “‘That’s all wrong,’ said the writer-director.

Riddles and Rivets, Kiwis and Cats.

‘We’ll use many of the same characters as we have all along, and we’ll be introducing some new ones,’ Nolan said cryptically.” Lots of big doings on the fanboy front recently: First up, the next Batman movie has a (lousy) title: The Dark Knight Rises, and Chris Nolan has announced the Riddler will not be the villain. (He earlier wrote off Mr. Freeze.) So whomever Tom Hardy turns out to be, it’s not Edward Nigma. (My current guess is he’s Killer Croc, with a yet-to-be-cast Catwoman as the main villain.)

Riddles may not feature in Gotham, but they will soon be spun in deepest Wellington: In happy news, New Zealand will be returning as Middle Earth for the upcoming Hobbit films. “‘Making the two movies here will not only safeguard work for thousands of New Zealanders, but will also allow us to follow the success of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy in once again promoting New Zealand on the world stage,’ [Prime Minister!] Key said.

Those are the two big upcoming guns. But, also on the docket, James Cameron officials signs up for two more Avatars for 2014 and 2015. Well…ok. I can think of other worlds I’d rather see him tackle than Pandora again.

And, with Black Swan opening very soon, Darren Aronofsky announces his next project (after, um, Wolverine 2), will be called Machine Man. “Machine Man, not to be confused with the Marvel Comics character, concerns a tech engineer who, tired of going through life average and unnoticed, replaces parts of his body with titanium upgrades of his own design. He then discovers that he isn’t the only one with plans for his new body.

A Shadow from the West?

[I]t sure feels like we are being attacked simply because we are a big fat juicy target – not for any wrong doing. We haven’t even been greenlit yet! It feels as if we have a large Aussie cousin kicking sand in our eyes…or to put it another way, opportunists exploiting our film for their own political gain.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire: Still reeling from MGM’s dismal cashflow situation and the departure of Guillermo del Toro, The Hobbit now faces another threat from — according to Peter Jackson, at least —an Australian actor’s union muscling in on Kiwi turf, and potentially sending the Land of Middle-Earth over to Eastern Europe.

The link above is PJ’s account of where things stand. I understand he’s management in this instance, but, speaking as someone who’s very pro-union in general but has had issues with some specific organizing tactics in the past, his summary sounds eminently plausible to me.

Game Over, Man! Game Over!

Move over, dogs-playing-poker. A New Zealand ad company promotes the airing of the weaksauce AvP movies on SkyTV with some classic-yet-forgotten Alien v. Predator duels of yore. (See also the tetherball and chess matches — Hopefully table tennis, foosball, and poker will get their day as well.)

Honoring Hillary.

“Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities. In reality, he was a colossus. He was an heroic figure who not only ‘knocked off’ Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity.” Sir Edmund Hillary, 1919-2008.

Kicked Out.

In a 4-0 rout, Brazil knocks the US out of the Women’s World Cup in the semifinals. Arg, that’s too bad. Despite the time zone issues, I caught several of the round 1 games (including US-Sweden and US-Nigeria, as well as a few random match-ups like Canada-Ghana and Denmark-NZ) and thought we looked pretty solid, give or take an occasionally lackluster offense. But it sounds like we ran into a brick wall here. At any rate, Brazil will face Germany, who beat Norway 3-0 on Wednesday in the Finals.


Happy new year, everyone. My family and I rang in 2007 in the baggage claim at Norfolk airport, after an exhausting 42-hour New Year’s Eve that took us from Turangi to Auckland to LA to Dallas to the EST. So, yes, after much travel, I’m now back in the USA, and will be returning to Gotham in a matter of days (after springing Berk from the local Big House on the 2nd.) Until then, I hope to be catching up on at least some of the recent movies I’ve missed while overseas…which reminds me, due to the recent travels, I’ve given myself an extra week to post the usual end-of-year film list…so, sorry for the hold-up, y’all, and happy 2007 once again.

No Rules, It’s Agrodome.

Hey all…checking in from the Turangi/Taupo/Rotorua district, where we’ve recently zorbed down a large hill a couple of times, taken in a sheep shearing show at the (world-famous?) Agrodome, kicked around the Tongariro National Trout Centre, wandered through a (Wai-O-Tapu) thermal wonderland, and ventured into the very fires of Mt. Doom, a.k.a. Mt. Ruapehu. All in all, not a bad couple of days to close out our few weeks of New Zealand exploring…

Christmas in Dunedin.

Hello again, and a belated Merry Christmas to you and yours. We’ve spent the past few days hiking the lovely and scenic Milford Track, followed by Christmas in Dunedin (no, not Dunedain, although I kept thinking it too) and then a drive back up the South Island through Christchurch to Blenheim (our current location.) Tomorrow, we head back to the North Island for our last extended stop, along the shores of Lake Taupo, for a few more days rest and relaxation. I expect trout fishing, and I’m thinking I might try the Zorbing

Milford Bound.

Hey y’all. I must say, Queenstown/Glenorchy is a really fun area…I was going to regale y’all with pics of various “extreme” events partaken of over the past few days — canyon swinging, jet boating, and the like (along with some not-so-extreme, like mountain luging and a Simpsonsesque mini-putt) — but the Internet situation here in Te Anau, our current location, is a mite sketchy (I’m in a photomat at the moment), and I’m very soon off to hike the Milford Track for the next four days. So, the photos will have to wait — until then, I hope everyone out there is enjoying the last week before Christmas… Update: Obviously, pics are now up.

Glenorchy Glen Ross.

Hello again. We’ve ventured from Mount Cook towards the South, and have now established a new base of operations at Glenorchy, northwest of Queenstown. (For those of you keeping score, we passed the Pelennor Fields, the Misty Mountains and the site of the Argonath on the way here, and Amon Hen, Ithilien, Isengard, and the entrance to Lothlorien are all nearby.) For this leg of the journey, we’ll hopefully be getting in some jet-boating, canyon-swinging and/or bungee-jumping to go along with the hiking and trout-fishing, before we head off for the Milford Track later in the week. Hope all goes well in your respective corners of the world.

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