Monday, 9 November 2009

Peter Jackson: A film-maker's journey by Brian Sibley

Amazon Description:

This work presents an authorised and fully illustrated insight into the life and career of the award-winning director, from his childhood film projects up to "King Kong", together with Jackson's revealing personal account of his six-year quest to film "The Lord of the Rings". Once, Peter Jackson was a name unknown to all but a small band of loyal fans and fellow film-makers.

Now, he is the newest member of Hollywood's elite fellowship, with his name on the most successful movie trilogy of all time. Written with Jackson's full participation, this extensive biography, illustrated with never-before-seen photos from Jackson's personal collection, tells the inside story of how a New Zealander became Hollywood's hottest property - from the early cult classics, through Academy Award -winning success with Kate Winslet's "Heavenly Creatures", the abandoned "King Kong" remake, and the filming of "The Lord of the Rings", a project which was abandoned two years into pre-production, rejected by most of the other studios and then picked up by New Line Cinema in the biggest gamble in film history.

Drawing upon interviews with fifty of Peter Jackson's colleagues and contemporaries, author Brian Sibley paints a portrait of a true auteur, a man gifted with single-minded determination and an artist's vision. Jackson himself is both revealing and insightful about his entire film-making life, from his first childhood steps filming in Super 8 to the grand realisation of his life's dream: "King Kong". Together, these joint narratives provide a truly unique and compelling insight into one of the finest cinematic minds at work today.

I am a big fan of the Lord of the Rings movies. I read the trilogy during a vacation five years ago and I loved the movies directed by Peter Jackson. When I came across this beautiful hardcover biography of Peter, I couldn't resist it. I picked it up and started reading it and before I knew it I had read the entire book from cover to cover.

I guess to begin with I was fascinated that this little-known guy from New Zealand somehow came along and got to do one of the biggest film projects in history. That amazes me. I wanted to know how he did it. The book does a really good job of explaining the whole thing. It describes his humble beginnings and all the challenges he faced making his first movies. Then it gave all the details related to how he managed to get the LOTR movies. Simply fascinating.

I really liked the way the writer, Brian Sibley, managed to keep this biography moving along. I also was very happy with the way that he quoted a lot of what Peter told him. I loved being able to read full page excerpts from conversations he had with him. With authorized biographies like this, you get a lot more real information and it makes you feel good knowing you are getting to the heart of things and not just speculation from a book writer who may just be speculating a lot of the time (I recenly read parts of a Rowling biography that was a complete waste of time because it based a lot on stuff the writer got from newspaper articles and other secondhand sources).

I liked everything about this book and the stories it told. The only thing I felt I missed out on was more about the casting of Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures. Peter's film was Winslet's first film and, being a big Winslet fan, I really wanted to know more about her and how Peter felt about her work on his movie. Oh well, you can't have everything.

Having read this book, I'm very interested in seeing all of Jackson's movies. As well, it has made me even more curious about visiting New Zealand and it has further convinced me that Kiwis are amazing people.

Stay tuned for the new movie The Lovely Bones based on the popular novel by Alice Sebold which is being produced my Peter Jackson and should be released soon. The Lovely Bones is available in the SRR and I'm hoping to get a hardcover before January as it is going to be an even bigger hit once it makes it to the theater in December.

Note: I'm reading a lot of different stuff these days. I just thought I'd post this review to keep you all up to date. There are so many amazing books in the world. Just pick one up! Pick up something you wouldn't usually read. Read something totally "different" today! Take a chance on a different genre or a different writer. You never know.

4/5 Stars

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Amazon Description:

After nearly two decades in Britain, Bill Bryson, the acclaimed author of such bestsellers as "The Mother Tongue" and "Made in America", decided it was time to move back to the United States for a while. This was partly to let his wife and kids experience life in Bryson's homeland - and partly because he had read that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another. It was thus clear to him that his people needed him. But before leaving his much-loved home in North Yorkshire, Bryson insisted on taking one last trip around Britain, a sort of valedictory tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home. His aim was to take stock of modern-day Britain, and to analyze what he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite, zebra crossings, and place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey, and Shellow Bowells. With wit and irreverence, Bill Bryson presents the ludicrous and the endearing in equal measure. The result is a social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain.

I think I'm done with my tour of Bill Bryson books. It was a good run, but I'm done.

Bryson's Notes from a Small Island is a book that covers a trip he took around Great Britain. I thought that I would really enjoy this book, but I found it a bit tiresome.

The first quarter of the book was very good as he described his experiences in London when he was younger. I lived in London for six months and really liked hearing Bryson's take. I especially liked his description of his first trip to Dover and how he reacted to staying in a number of bed and breakfasts. I also found his work experiences in London to be of great interest.

However, as Bryson moved out into the countryside and travelled from town to town, he started to lose me. He gets excited about details and half the time I feel his enthusiasm and I want to know more. The parts I enjoy the most are bits about people and crazy situations and his thoughts on how ridiculous the world is. The problem is that he spent a lot of time describing buildings I have never seen and never will see. If he only wrote about half of the places he did and spent more time talking about the people he met and the funny experiences he had, this book could have been amazing.

My reading style changed as I read this. At times, I read the first sentence of each paragraph and scanned the rest. I only stopped to read the parts that interested me. The only thing is that by the last half of the book I was reading smaller and smaller patches.

2.5 / 5 Stars