Stardust PosterWent out to see Stardust with a group of friends, and we all enjoyed it. People have been comparing it to The Princess Bride, and it’s an apt comparison: both are light-hearted fantasy adventures with a love story at the heart. Stardust takes itself a bit more seriously, though there’s plenty of humor.

The concept: Three groups of people pursue a fallen star (in this world, a woman). Tristran wants to bring the star back to impress a girl. The cruel princes of Stormhold are seeking the necklace she wears; the one who claims the gem claims the throne. The witch Lamia wants to cut out her heart to restore her own youth for another 400 years. Tristran gets there first, but has to bring her back without the more malicious seekers reaching her.

There’s swordplay, magic, betrayal, comedy, and romance. Michelle Pfeiffer throws herself gleefully into her role as the witch Lamia. Prince Septimus oozes slime as a cross between Prince Humperdink and Professor Snape. And Robert De Niro’s Captain Shakespeare is… indescribable. Charlie Cox as Tristran and Claire Danes as Yvaine (the star) manage to hold their own with the impressive cast of villains and supporting characters.

I was the only one of the four who had read the original novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess, but for the most part I didn’t mind the changes. I did think the climactic battle got a bit overblown after a while, and I really missed one aspect of Una’s character which is revealed near the end of the book.

On a related note, it seems that in the last 3 weeks, the movie “adaptation” (and I use the term loosely) of The Dark Is Rising has been retitled as The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, probably reflecting how far it seems to have strayed from the source material.

Stardust does it right: change the details, or even the structure if you have to, to make it work in a different medium. But stay true to the heart and spirit of the book.

A few minutes ago, I was looking at the latest Stardust Photo Gallery [dead link] (nicely pointed out by Neil Gaiman himself). To save time hitting back repeatedly, I just opened a bunch of the thumbnails in tabs.

Audio started playing, “Congratulations! You’ve been selected for…” Then a second round started in, “Congratulations! You’ve been sel…” A third round of the same ad had started, all of them overlapping, by the time I closed the window.

It’s 2007. People multitask. All modern web browsers have tabs available, not just the alternative ones. The time when you could assume you had the user’s undivided attention is long gone.

Note that I can’t tell you what the ad was for. I don’t know which tabs were playing it, so I didn’t even see the visual portion. It accomplished absolutely nothing that an advertisement is supposed to do—unless you want ads to drive people away from your site.

Oh, yeah, before I forget: Stardust!

Stardust Inn (via

2007 looks to be a good year for fantasy adaptations, at least of books I’ve read. What I’ve seen of Stardust (Neil Gaiman & Charles Vess) looks great. I’m psyched up for His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (Phillip Pullman)—and I’ve got to say I’m glad they’re doing each book as its own movie, instead of trying to condense the whole trilogy. And Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling, as if you didn’t know) looks promising as well, though most of the Harry Potter films have suffered from condensing too much.

I’m a little more apprehensive about The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper), mainly because the IMDB page says they plan to start early this year, but the Los Angeles Times has it down for a September release. For the record, I do think this is the one to start with, not Over Sea, Under Stone, because as I recall it has a much greater sense of tension, which will translate better to screen. Plus it provides more of an introduction to the world and the conflict, since Will is dropped right in the middle of it, while I remember the other book being set more solidly in the “real” world. The Drews don’t get involved as deeply until later.

On a related note, I don’t think I’m in the target audience for The Number 23. We saw the trailer for it on Friday when we saw Pan’s Labyrinth (which is quite good, BTW), and I could not stop laughing. Not because of Jim Carrey, but because of the premise. Perhaps it comes from reading the Illuminatus! trilogy. There’s a great sequence in the book where one of the characters is starting to look for certain numbers, including 23, in everything. Of course, since he’s human, he finds them, using ever more convoluted arithmetic to prove that they’re significant. While reading Illuminatus!, I looked up stuff on synchronicity and found the tech term for this tendency to see connections where none exist: apophenia. And here I’m watching this preview, and there’s a sequence in which the lead character starts finding the number 23 in everything, using ever more convoluted arithmetic…. I don’t think I could take the premise seriously enough to get into the movie.

The Mighty ThorI spent more time walking around outside today, so I did get to fry a bit. (Not too much, fortunately.) Oddly enough, one of the first hall costumes I saw on Friday was Thor.

Caught the Stardust preview. It looks very promising. Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess were there, of course, plus screenwriter Jane Goldman and one of the producers. The director wasn’t there, because he was on set, filming, but they showed a few clips of “very raw” footage which was actually quite good. (And yes, they do want Tori Amos as the tree, if they manage to film the scene.)

The secret to visiting Ghirardelli’s seems to be to go at off-peak hours. We dropped in mid-afternoon, after the Stardust panel, and there were only about three people in line in front of us. Usually we go after dinner, when the main floor and panels are closed, and about half the con attendees are filling up the Gaslamp District, and they all seem to want chocolate ice cream. Of course, it being Friday may have something to do with it as well, though it was definitely more crowded than yesterday.

I was walking past the Keenspot booth, and noticed a drawing of Kestrel from Queen of Wands. Sure enough, Aeire was there. I told her I was a fan of the comic, and asked her whether she had any new projects in the works. She said she had two, one of which is a QoW sequel with Angela, that she’s working on between real life and work. (She wouldn’t say anything about the other one.)

Power of the Dark Crystal is way too early to get any sense of how it’s shaping up, but the people involved seem to be really into it. And they’ve got Brian Froud, who did the designs for the original. (The director and the lead effects guy both said one of the first things they asked when approached for the film was, “Is Brian Froud doing it?”)

We met up with our friend Wayne after the Dark Crystal panel, and went out to dinner at Masala, a new Indian restaurant on 5th Street. It appears to have replaced Octopus Garden, since it’s next to Rockin’ Baja Lobster, but looking at that photo, I’m not 100% certain it’s the same building. Anyway, great food once again.