Good films

Some good upcoming films, many based on novels…..


Goodbye Christopher Robin

Directed by Simon Curtis. Stars Domhnall Gleeson as A.A. Milne and Margot Robbie as Daphne Milne. Explores the life of A.A. Milne and his relationship with his son. Milne suffers post traumatic stress after WW1 and writing the Pooh stories for his son helps him cope. However, international success comes at a cost to his family. Opens 23 Nov.



Based on the book by R.J. Palacio. Directed by Stephen Chbosky. Stars Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay. A young boy with a facial deformity deals with friendships, prejudice, love and life. Opens 30 Nov.


Namatjira project

Documentary tracing the quest of the family of indigenous artist Albert Namatjira to have the copyright of his works returned to them. The Northern Territory public trustee sold the copyright to a private art collector in 1983 for $8,500. The Namatjira Project is also an initiative that seeks to highlight the continued appropriation of indigenous culture. Opens 7 Sept.



Based on the novel by Stephen King. A terrifying being terrorises a group of bullied children in a small town in Maine. Opens 7 Sept.



Based on the book by Brian Selznick. Directed by Todd Haynes. Stars Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams. Set in 1927 and 1977. Two children run away from home – one to find their idol, and the other to solve a mystery about his father. Half of the film is silent as the main character is deaf. “Alive with the magic of pictures and the mysteries of silence, this is an uncommonly grownup film about children, communication, connection and memory.” (David Rooney). Opens 14 Dec.


Blade runner 2049

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, co-produced by Ridley Scott. Stars Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling. Set 50 years after the events of the first film. A new blade runner unearths a long-buried secret that could plunge society into chaos and sets out on a quest to find a former blade runner, missing for 30 years. Opens 5 Oct.


Rebel in the rye

Biopic of the life of J.D. Salinger. Directed by Danny Strong. Stars Nicholas Hoult and Kevin Spacey. After the horror of WW2, a young Salinger embarks on his writing career under the mentorship of his professor at Columbia University. In real life, Salinger fought during D-Day and was at the liberation of Dachau concentration camp. He always carried notebooks and wrote about Holden even during WW2. Opens Oct.


Loving Vincent

World’s first fully hand-painted feature film – an animated drama about the life and mysterious death of Vincent Van Gogh. The film uses a new oil painting for each shot, with movement added from one frame to the next by a painter’s brush. Each of the film’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas, using the same technique as Van Gogh. Stars Saoirse Ronan and Chris O’Dowd. Opens 2 Nov.


The man who invented Christmas

Biopic  adapted from the book by Les Standiford. Directed by Bharat Nalluri. Stars Dan Stevens and Christopher Plummer (Scrooge). A young Charles Dickens sets out to write and self-publish A Christmas Carol, after suffering the failure of his last 3 books. Opens 30 Nov.


Murder on the Orient Express

Directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh as Poirot, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench. Poirot investigates the murder of a wealthy American on the train. Opens 9 Nov.


The greatest showman

Directed by Australian Michael Gracey. Stars Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron. Musical about the life of the original showman P.T. Barnum and how he founded Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. “It started as a movie about the power of imagination and will and never giving up on your dreams. It grew into a deeper idea that what makes you different makes you special.” (Hugh Jackman). Can’t wait – a musical with Hugh J Opens 26 Dec.


Other fun upcoming films include Captain Underpants : the first epic movie (14 Sept) and The emoji movie (14 Sept) – emojis go on a mission to save the hidden world within our phones. Jumanji: welcome to the jungle, sequel to the 1995 film, opens 26 Dec and also in December Star Wars Episode VIII: the last Jedi. Will Kylo Ren make a reappearance??


What’s new in ICT, popular culture, media and education?

Some interesting developments – artificial intelligence, robots taking our jobs, disengaged students, Generation Alpha, words of the year, great new films, TV and books….

Previous presentations about What’s New can also be found here.



Good films

Some good films coming up for various curriculum areas – fantasy, sci-fi, war, fiction to film…..

Jasper Jones

Upcoming mystery thriller film based on the acclaimed book by Craig Silvey and directed by Rachel Perkins. Stars Levi Miller, Aaron L. McGrath, Toni Collette and Hugo Weaving. A moving coming of age story about a young boy and his Aboriginal friend who find the body of a girl and deal with racism and other terrible secrets in their small town. Due 2 March 2017.



Hacksaw Ridge

Biographical war film directed by Mel Gibson. Stars Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving. Based on the true story of US Army medic Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist conscientious objector who refused to bear arms or kill, but was awarded the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of 75 comrades during the Battle of Okinawa in WW2. Filmed mostly in Australia, the film received a 10 minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival. Opens 3 Nov.


Doctor Strange

Marvel superhero film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton. A neurosurgeon’s life changes after he loses use of his hands after a car accident. He finds hope in a mysterious enclave who are battling dark forces bent on destroying reality and, as a powerful sorcerer, uses martial arts and an ancient guru to save the world. See it if you fancy Benedict in a “velvety neo-Edwardian uniform with an occult medallion and fierce goatee.…like a glam rock vocalist who yearns to do a magic trick in Vegas”. (Bradshaw). In cinemas now.


The light between oceans

Based on the novel by M. L. Stedman. Directed by Derek Cianfrance. Stars Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson. A lighthouse keeper and his wife find a baby adrift in a boat and raise her as their own – only to face the consequences of their actions several years later. Filmed in New Zealand and Stanley, Tasmania. Opens 26 Dec.


Red dog: True blue

Prequel exploring early events in the life of the legendary Red Dog. A young boy is sent to a cattle station in the Pilbara and finds a puppy in a flood. Stars Jason Isaacs, Levi Miller, Bryan Brown. Opens 26 Dec.


Rogue One: a Star Wars story

Directed by Gareth Edwards. Stars Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn. A group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star. Opens 15 Dec.



Sci-fi thriller directed by Morten Tyldum. Stars Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt. A spacecraft transporting thousands of people to a distant planet colony has a malfunction in its sleep chambers and 2 passengers are awakened 90 years early. Opens 1 Jan 2017.


His dark materials (Northern lights)

BBC series based on the award-winning fantasy trilogy by Philip Pullman – an amazing series. Set in a multiverse including Oxford, a young girl embarks on a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust.  No cast as yet. Series 1 will have 8 episodes. Possible launch late 2017.


Mary Poppins returns

Directed by Rob Marshall. Stars Emily Blunt as Mary, Colin Firth Meryl Streep (Mary’s cousin)  and Lin-Manuel Miranda as a new character, a lamplighter. Set 20 years after the original film in Depression-era London, Michael and Jane Banks are grown up and Mary returns to take care of Michael’s children. In the new film, Mary is based more on the character from the series of books. Due Dec 2018.


Big little lies

7 part HBO series starring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley, based on the book by Liane Moriarty. The seemingly perfect lives of a group of suburban mums begin to unravel. The series is set in California, rather than Sydney’s northern beaches. Due Feb 2017.

Happy Book Week!

Literature quizzes

25 fun bookish quizzes:

Great opening lines:

53 best opening sentences:

100 best closing lines:


Better Reading

Australia’s largest annual celebration  of books and reading, encouraging everyone to pick up a book and read.

The first Top 100 list was launched in 2015:

Vote for your favourite book in 2016  and go in the draw to win Australia’s top 100 books. Entries close 31 Aug; top 100 announced 9 Sept. Titles can be fiction or non fiction from around the world.

Top 50 kids’ books:


Dymocks Top 101 2016

  1. The book thief 2. To kill a mockingbird 3. Pride and prejudice


Miles Franklin Award announced 26 Aug

Australia’s most prestigious literary prize is awarded to “a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases”.

Book lists and awards

Literary awards around the world – there are lots!:

Reading suggestions and awards:



The world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations (owned by Amazon). Lists, quizzes, trivia, quotes…

Goodreads Choice Awards:


New York Times Bestsellers

Truly madly deeply by Liane Moriarty at #4.


After something new to read? Try these…


All these perfect strangers by Aoife Clifford

Psychological thriller (Aust. author) with an unreliable narrator. Within 6 months of Pen starting university, three of her friends are dead and only Pen knows the reason why. “A novel of disquieting intimacy and controlled suspense” – Gary Disher.


Ancillary justice by Ann Leckie

Award-winning sci-fi novel, the first in a space opera trilogy. The only novel to win the Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke Awards. Breq is the sole survivor of a starship destroyed by treachery. As the artificial consciousness of the starship, she seeks revenge on the ruler of her civilisation.


The trap by Melanie Raabe

Psychological thriller. “I know who killed my sister. I wrote this book for him”. Twelve years after the murder, Linda sees her sister’s killer on TV as a well-known journalist. She sets a trap for him by writing a thriller about an unsolved murder of a young woman.

Go books and reading!



More good films

Some more good films…..sci-fi, fantasy, human rights, environment, history, animated…..



Directed by Wayne Blair and Leah Purcell. Created by Ryan Griffen. Stars Hunter Page-Lochard , Rob Collins, Deborah Mailman, Jack Charles, Robyn Nevin. This Australian 6 part sci-fi drama looks excellent. In the near future, creatures from ancient mythology – the Hairypeople – live amongst humans in a world that wants to silence, exploit and destroy  them. Their only refuge is to live in The Zone. The Hairies live for more than 200 years and have a knowledge of land, culture and the past. Two estranged indigenous brothers know that there is one chosen being – the Cleverman – who has the power to bring the worlds of humans and Hairypeople back together before everything is destroyed.


In indigenous culture, the Cleverman is a conduit between The Dreaming and this world. The Hairypeople were inspired by identities in many stories across the country and creator Griffen consulted with elders from many communities. They were designed by Jake Nash, production designer for Bangarra dance company, and built by Weta Workshop (Lord of the rings) in New Zealand. Screens ABC1 and iview on 2 June.


“Cleverman is a thrilling and sophisticated drama filled with conflict, unrest and smart storytelling. The show presents an allegorical view of some of the timeliest and urgent discussions going on our world right now — our collective treatment of minority groups and what common values we share that make us a society.” – Joel Stillerman.

“Cleverman marks a new era for Australia’s production sector, inviting audiences to experience a bold new story-world where Aboriginal storytelling meets high concept genre drama. With an 80% Indigenous cast, Cleverman sets the benchmark for diversity on Australian television and its contemporary themes set in the near future will resonate widely amongst diverse audiences” – Sally Riley, Head of Indigenous, ABC TV.


Midnight special

Science fiction-drama. Directed by Jeff Nichols. Stars Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton and Kirsten Dunst. A father and son flee a religious cult in Texas, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special otherworldly powers. “Jangling, darkly addictive and super-mysterious…” -Tim Robey. Sounds intriguing! Rated M. Out now.


Free state of Jones

Directed by Gary Ross. Stars Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Brendan Gleeson. Based on the life of Southern farmer Newton Knight, who, after surviving an American Civil War battle, led a group of farmers and slaves in an armed rebellion against the Confederacy in Mississippi. He later married a former slave and established a unique mixed community in the south which seceded from the Confederacy – the Free State of Jones. Opens June.


Alice through the looking glass

Directed by James Bobin and produced by Tim Burton; sequel to 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. Stars Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, the voices of Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry, and Sacha Baron Cohen as Time (a part human, part clock creature). After travelling for 3 years, Alice returns to Underland via a magical looking glass and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter. Rated PG. Opens May.



Fantasy adventure directed by Steven Spielberg, based on the book by Roald Dahl. Stars Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Rafe Spall. Sophie befriends the Big Friendly Giant who is treated as an outcast by other giants because he refuses to eat children. Trailer looks amazing! Opens July.


Finding Dory

Sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo. Written and directed again by Andrew Stanton. Stars Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brookes. After suddenly recalling her childhood memories, Dory sets out with Nemo and Marlin to find her family in the ocean near California. The film’s ending was revised after executives viewed Blackfish (orcas in captivity) and characters now have an option to leave a marine park. Nemo is now voiced by a younger actor than the original. Opens June.


The legend of Tarzan

Directed by David Yates. Stars Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson. After living in London, Tarzan returns to his jungle home to investigate activities at a mining camp. Rated PG-13. Opens July.


Kubo and the two strings

Animated fantasy action-comedy. Directed by Travis Knight. Stars Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara. In ancient Japan, a spirit from the past ignites an old vendetta. Gods and monsters chase young Kubo, who must locate a magical suit of armour once worn by his legendary Samurai father. Opens August.


And there’s also Captain America: Civil war and X-Men: Apocalypse. And that means battle scenes. Lots of them. Early reviews of X-Men say that it has reverted to too much CGI destruction and loss of life, rather than developing the humanity of the superheroes. Disappointing, as there is a great cast – James McEvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac and Jennifer Lawrence. Captain America: Civil War has received great reviews, as the superheroes question their powers and the collateral damage they have caused. And if you haven’t seen Deadpool….you must…hilarious…but forget about Batman vs Superman.

Station 11, Wolf by wolf and other good books


Good books abound…..


Station 11

What a great book by Emily St John Mandel – dystopian but different – winner of the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award and listed on many ‘best book’ lists. The novel follows the players in the Travelling Symphony, as they perform music and Shakespeare’s works in a world devastated by a flu virus, with few survivors. Their motto: “Survival is insufficient”. This haunting and compelling novel makes you appreciate what we have in our society and how beauty and art are vital for human existence. The backstories of the characters are intriguing and add to the emotional depth of this novel as their lives intertwine and play out.


“Visually stunning, dreamily atmospheric and impressively gripping….Station 11 is not so much about apocalypse as about memory and loss, nostalgia and yearning; the effort of art to deepen our fleeting impressions of the world and bolster our solitude.” – Guardian.

“Mandel’s message is that civilisation – and just as importantly, art – will endure as long as there is life. She tells us that when humanity’s back is against the wall, decency will emerge.” Independent.

“At once terrible and tender, dark and hopeful, Station Eleven is a tragically beautiful novel that both mourns and mocks the things we cherish.” –Neal Thompson.


Loved it – and fascinating to follow the development of the graphic novel “Station 11” within the novel. A film adaptation is in development. Recommended for Year 10 onwards.


Wolf by wolf

YA novel by Ryan Graudin (female author). The novel has been compared to The book thief as well as The Hunger Games and is based on the premise: What if Germany had won World War 2? Set in an alternate Germany of 1956, it is the story of a young woman on a dangerous mission to kill Hitler. Experimented on at Auschwitz, Yael can now change her appearance at will – although she always leaves the 5 wolves tattooed on her arm to remind her of lost loved ones. Using her abilities, she transforms into Adele Wolfe, a famous long-distance motorbike rider.

Themes include history, love, loss, courage, heroism, hope, race, identity, community, human monstrosity and vengeance.

‘Ryan Graudin opens one of the darkest chapters in history and spins a what if
into an incredible tale of survival, identity, and purpose.’ – Victoria Schwab.


Amazon opens real bookstore

Amazon’s first brick-and-mortar bookstore has recently opened in Seattle (Amazon’s hometown). The store “integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping.” (Offline indeed – what a term!). Amazon will use real people and also data from its website to decide which books to stock eg. customer ratings, sales, Goodreads ratings. All books will be presented face out with a sign for each with its Amazon rating and a customer review. The store will also sell Kindles. Amazon commands a market share of 30% of books sold in the US, however, the largest US chain, Barnes and Noble, has reported recent increases in core book sales. In 2015, ebook sales have fallen dramatically in the US. There are now more bookstores and some publishers are expanding their warehouses.


What would Mark Zuckerberg read?

This year the Facebook CEO decided he would read a book every 2 weeks……hmm maybe he’s not as addicted to Facebook as we thought he was 🙂 He believes that “books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today. I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.” He started A Year of Books book club in Facebook, where he discusses the books with other Facebookers. His selections focused on different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies. The 20 books include: The three-body problem – by Cixin Liu (Chinese sci-fi novel– winner of the 2015 Hugo Award); The Muqaddimah – by Ibn Khaldun (Islamic history of the world from 1377); Sapiens – by Yuval Harari (history of humankind); The better angels of our nature – by Steven Pinker (why violence has declined).


Yes Zuckerberg is super rich but Bill Gates is still the richest person in the world ($84.7billion). Mark is number 16 ($47 billion), with Google guys Brin and Page at 17 and 18. Philanthropy is a high priority with Gates (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and also Zuckerberg. In 2014, Zuckerberg and wife Dr Priscilla Chan made a $120 million donation to improve education in the San Francisco Bay area, particularly for low-income students. In 2010 he donated $100 million to schools in Newark.

Victor Frankenstein

Science fiction horror film. Directed by Paul McGuigan. Stars James McEvoy as Victor Frankenstein and Daniel Radcliffe as his assistant Igor Strausman. The story is told from Igor’s perspective and shows his dark origins and his redemptive friendship with medical student Victor von Frankenstein. Working together on experiments to resurrect the dead, Igor witnesses Frankenstein’s journey to legendary status. Rated PG. Opens March 2016.

Star Wars and and good films

Lots of good films….useful for various subject areas…..


Star Wars: Episode VII – The force awakens

Opens 17 Dec. Set 30 years after Return of the Jedi (1983). Widely rumoured to feature the offspring of Han Solo and Leia. Directed by J.J. Abrams (co-writer with Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote Eps V and VI). Stars Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker??, Chewbacca and Dark Helmet. See below for all the Star Wars you can eat….trailers, Luke Skywalker conspiracy theories, lightsabers, waffles.….

The movie will be followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 16, 2016), Star Wars: Episode VIII (26 May 2017) and the Han Solo  anthology movie (25 May, 2018). No release dates have been announced for Star Wars: Episode IX.

New trailer:

Luke Skywalker conspiracy theories:


Star wars and has partnered with Disney and Lucasfilm for its Hour of Code event with a tutorial featuring characters from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The online lesson will teach kids how to build their own computer game, featuring characters Princess Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2, as well as new characters, Rey and BB-8. The tutorial will be available for free in 180 countries, translated into more than 400 languages and will be smartphone and tablet-friendly.’s Hour of Code takes place every year during US Computer Science Education Week 7-13 December 2015. The goal is to get as many people as possible to commit to an hour of coding. Since its launch last year, more than 5 million students from around the world have enrolled in’s online platform. In 2014, the Hour of Code tutorial featured characters Anna and Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen,” and was completed more than 13 million times. This year’s tutorial will feature leading female characters from Star Wars Ep. VII.


He named me Malala

In cinemas now. Rated PG. Directed by Davis Guggenheim. Stars Malala Yousafzai, “the girl who dared to learn” and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner (at 17). The film charts her determination to recover from the Taliban shooting in Pakistan in 2012 as she headed to school on a bus, defying Taliban orders forbidding girls to attend school. Now she is an advocate for the education of young women globally. The film also shows the strong influence of her family, especially her father Ziauddin. “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” – Malala.


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The final instalment of the 4 part series opens 19 Nov. Katniss and District 13 engage in an all-out revolution against evil President Snow and the Capitol. Directed by Francis Lawrence. Stars Jennifer Lawrence and Philip Seymour Hoffman in his last role. The film has received very positive reviews from early critics. There is a possibility of a future prequel or sequel, even though all the books have now been filmed.



Fantastic beasts and where to find them

Fantasy drama film, the first of a trilogy, inspired by the book by J.K. Rowling – a spin-off of the Harry Potter film series. It is Rowling’s screenwriting debut. Stars Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Morton, Colin Farrell. When a number of dangerous creatures escape from Newt Scamander’s briefcase at a Magical Congress in New York in 1926, there is a sharp increase in tension between magical and non-magical peoples (No-Maj….not Muggles). Opens Nov 2016.


Finding Dory

The sequel to Finding Nemo will premier in June 2016. Written and directed by Andrew Stanton (who created Finding Nemo). Stars Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Diane Keaton.

Dory discovers where she came from and reunites with her family, getting a better understanding of who she is and why she is. The film has a central conservation theme and Pixar changed the film’s ending after seeing the powerful documentary Blackfish, which examined the inhuman treatment of orcas at Seaworld.

Trailer just released:


Star Trek – new TV series

Due in 2017. This will the 6th version of the show, which began in 1966 with various versions being made for over 39 years, along with 12 films. All of them have been successful….well you can’t beat Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard IMHO. The next movie will be Star Trek: beyond, to be released in July 2016. Meanwhile, William Shatner, now aged 84, sets his sights on Star Trek: the musical to celebrate 50 years of Star Trek in 2016!


Pride and prejudice and zombies

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a zombie-slaying man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a zombie-hunter wife. The film is based on the 2009 mash-up novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, which combines P&P and zombie fiction.  Stars Lily James, Sam Riley, Matt Smith. Directed by Burr Steers. Rated PG. Opens Feb 2016.

According to the author, the original text was well-suited for use as a zombie horror story: “You have this fiercely independent heroine, you have this dashing heroic gentleman, you have a militia camped out for seemingly no reason whatsoever nearby, and people are always walking here and there and taking carriage rides . . . It was just ripe for gore and senseless violence”. Zombies in P&P alter the plot in various ways – couriers are eaten, characters are judged on their zombie-fighting abilities and the Bennet sisters are trained in zombie-slaying skills. Of course, Elizabeth clashes with the haughty monster-hunter Mr Darcy, but later they fight together to defeat the evil zombies and live happily ever after.


And there’s always Bond, James Bond – in Spectre – out now. Leigh Paatsch says “devotees will be satisfied after feasting on this whopping chunk of spy candy” J

Good books and movies

Some good books and movies….


Inside out – movie

The latest animated Pixar film has had great reviews. Directed and co-written by Pete Docter (director of Up), the film is set in the mind of Riley, a young girl who is moving with her parents to a new city. Five personified emotions guide her – Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear and Sadness. These animated “creatures” live in Headquarters, Riley’s conscious mind, where they influence her actions and memories via a console. As Riley’s life changes, different emotions become prevalent, affecting her personality and mood.  A year later, Riley has adapted and her emotions work together to help her lead a happy and emotionally complex life. Psychologists provided their expertise for the story, emphasising that human emotions are mirrored in interpersonal relationships and can be significantly moderated by them. The film has been praised for its concept and poignant subject matter. “Wise, witty and warm…” (T. Evans); “A fireworks display of fizzing ideas and bursts of imagination…” (J. Graham). I recently saw the film and its depiction of emotions was fun but also informative, opening discussions about mental health and memory. It would be useful in discussions about feelings and emotions with younger children, whilst older students could analyse features of emotions, the subconscious, neuropsychology and behaviour.


A monster calls by Patrick Ness – book and movie

This 2011 book is truly outstanding – winner of the Carnegie Medal, Kate Greenaway Medal and other awards. A film is currently in production, due for release in Oct. 2016, starring Liam Neeson as the monster, Felicity Jones as the mother and Sigourney Weaver as the grandmother. Author Patrick Ness was asked to write the book, based on an idea by YA author Siobhan Dowd, who died from cancer before she could write it. Thirteen year old Conor’s mother is being treated for cancer, when Conor is visited by an ancient monster who insists on telling him 3 tales. These tales ultimately help Conor face his mother’s imminent death and allow him to deal with the frequent nightmare that disturbs him. It is extraordinarily moving, even harrowing – and yet it offers real insight into what a child must cope with. The illustrations by Jim Kay are dark and frightening, adding great atmosphere to the story. “Realistic and magical, it is a fable about the complexity of our emotions, giving us permission to feel anger and illuminating the nature of loss.” (N. Jones). “Compelling, powerful and impressive.” (Philip Pullman). Ages 10 to 16 – but really for everyone. I loved it and definitely needed tissues.


Unwind by Neal Shusterman

This 2007 dystopian fiction book is on the ALA Best Young Adult Book list and consistently rates highly on Goodreads. It is the first of the Unwind Dystology series (4 books), set in the US in the near future. “The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child ‘unwound’, whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state, is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.” (Goodreads). Themes include free will, society, consciousness, law, trust, betrayal, hope. “Thought-provoking, terrifying and almost inconceivable.” (TeensReadToo). Book 5 in the series – Unbound – is expected in 2015. A film is currently in development.


Goosebumps – the movie

This 3D live action/computer-animated horror comedy film, based on the children’s book series by R. L. Stine, is due for release in Oct. 2015. In an unusual approach,  the film is also a fake biography about Stine the author (played by Jack Black), who keeps the ghosts and monsters in the series locked up in his manuscripts, until teenagers Zach and Hannah accidentally release them. They must then all work together to put the monsters back where they came from. A TV series has previously been made, but not a film. Jack Black said he plays R.L Stine as a darker, more brooding character than he is in real life. Stine will make a cameo appearance in the film. “More monsters than you imagined, in one incredible adventure” – includes the abominable snowman, the dummy, giant mantises, the clown, the mummy and  the scarecrow. Should be scarily crazy J


More good films and TV

Upcoming good films and TV….fantasy, crime, sci-fi, war stories, fiction to film….



The film of Tim Winton’s powerful novel is to be directed by Simon Baker (The mentalist), who will also produce and star in it. Set in a small Western Australian town in the 1970s, two teenage surfers become friends with an older surfer (Baker) and his wife. Their addiction to extreme surfing parallels their relationship with the older couple, leading to devastating consequences that impact on their lives forever. The novel is controversial and some schools would not choose to use it, but we use it with our senior classes. I think it is one of Winton’s best. His novels The riders and Shallows are also being developed as films.



Commissioned by the ABC’s Indigenous unit – an innovative 6 part futuristic action drama set in the near future. A group of non-humans battle for survival in a world where humans feel increasingly inferior to them, wanting to exploit them as well as silence them. Two estranged indigenous brothers are forced together to fight for their own survival in this landscape, with Dreamtime creatures living in this world as refugees. Many of the stories in Cleverman are drawn from Aboriginal story-telling, for which series creator Ryan Griffen obtained permission from Aboriginal elders.  “The arc of the stories is fiction but the heart and genesis of the stories come from Aboriginal  story-telling. There is a definite truth to the stories.” (Rosemary Blight, producer).

Stars Iain Glen, Deborah Mailman, Rob Collins, Frances O’Connor. Directed by top indigenous directors Wayne Blair (The Sapphires) and Leah Purcell. Weta Workshop (Lord of the Rings) and Jacob Nash (Bangarra Dance Company) will provide the creature designs. Sounds excellent – screens in 2016.


The Kettering Incident

8 part mystery series set in Tasmania. Influenced by scandi-noir dramas, with otherworldly overtones. Stars Elizabeth Debicki and Matt Le Nevez. A doctor returns to her hometown and finds herself inexplicably linked to the cases of 2 girls who disappeared in the wild 15 years apart. To clear her name, she must delve into her troubled past and the power of the mysterious land. Screens late 2015 on Foxtel.


Tomorrow when the war began

6 part series based on John Marsden’s best-selling young adult war series…at last! The 2010 film was popular, but only covered the first book, so this series will be more satisfying for fans of the series. Filming starts soon.



4 part series based on the novel by Christos Tsiolkas. A young man deals with his obsession and the pressures of elite swimming as he aims for the Olympics. Filming starts soon.

Book review:


Nowhere boys: the rise of the bear

Telemovie of the popular young adult series created by Tony Ayres about 4 teenagers who get lost on a school excursion and return home – only to find they never existed. In the telemovie, an evil power invades and they discover that in order to save the multiverse, they must be ready to sacrifice their lives. Filming starts soon.

Good films

The secret river

How good do the previews look for this 2 part historical drama coming soon to the ABC? Adapted from the excellent book by Kate Grenville (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize); directed by Daina Reid (Paper giants; Never tear us apart); stars Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Sarah Snook (who was amazing in the awesome sci-fi film Predestination) and Tim Minchin (always excellent). Convict  William Thornhill and his free wife Sal are transported to NSW in 1805, where conflict arises between the new settlers and local indigenous people and Thornhill is drawn into an horrific event that will change him forever. “The Secret River  is an epic tragedy in which a good man is compelled by desperation, fear, ambition and love for his family to participate in a crime of inhuman savagery. It allows an audience, two hundred years later, to have a personal insight into the dark heart of our nation’s foundation story” (Richard Finlayson, ABC).


Ex machina

Sci-fi thriller in cinemas now. Directed by author and screenwriter Alex Garland (The beach); stars Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander. A young programmer wins a competition to spend a week at a private retreat owned by the mysterious CEO of his company. He must then participate in an experiment interacting with and evaluating the human qualities of a beautiful female robot, to prove that AI (artificial intelligence) has been born. “Stylish, elegant, tense, cerebral, satirical and creepy” (Dan Jolin, Empire). Rated MA15+.



Me and Earl and the dying girl

Comedy-drama based on the 2012 debut novel by Jesse Andrews. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon; stars Thomas Mann and Olivia Cooke. The film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival to a standing ovation, winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award. Awkward high school student Greg befriends Rachel, a classmate with leukemia. He and his friend Earl make films in their spare time and decide to make a film for her. “Anyone who buys a ticket goes in fully expecting to cry….the surprise then is the laughter: the near-constant stream of wise, insightful jokes that make it so easy to cozy up to characters dealing with a tough emotional situation” (Peter Debruge, Variety). Opens June in the US.



Sci-fi mystery adventure. Directed by Brad Bird; stars George Clooney, Hugh Laurie and Tim McGraw. An intelligent curious girl and a jaded inventor embark on a mission to unearth Tomorrowland, a place that exists in their collective memory. What they must do there changes them and the world forever. Plot details are sketchy, just the way Disney planned it, and no reviews are yet available. Intriguing…Rated PG. Opens 28 May.


Absolutely anything

Sci-fi comedy. Directed and co-written by Terry Jones; stars Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale and the voices of all living Monty Python members – Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Eric Idle and also Robin Williams as the voice of Dennis the dog (sadly his last role). A disillusioned schoolteacher suddenly finds he has the ability to do anything he wants – an ability given to him by a group of power-crazed aliens (the Pythons) who watch him from space. Opens 22 October.


Looking forward to seeing Matilda in Sydney, the multi-award winning musical from the Royal Shakespeare Company, based on the book by Roald Dahl with songs by the awesome Tim Minchin. “Gleefully nasty, an evening of unadulterated bliss” (The Guardian). “Easily the standout musical of the decade” (Sunday Times). “Hilarious, moving, glorious” (Daily Telegraph). And Les Miserables was superb.


And then there’s Mad Max: Fury Road and The Avengers: Age of Ultron….too hard!