okay, so a somewhat shortened version of this post since blogger already ate the perfected version. annoying, but what can you do.
anyway, if you're looking for something fun and light and amusing to watch this weekend and either a) have netflix therefore netflix insty or b) enjoy messing about on youtube and/or google video a lot, may i suggest that you watch the television adaptation of the colour of magic?
really, it's an adaptation of the colour of magic and the light fantastic, the first two of terry pratchett's discworld series. the first few discworld novels -- the first three or four, if i remember rightly -- focus on a character named rincewind. death -- a recurring character on the discworld -- once ruminates that rincewind may in fact be a mythological necessity: for every "hero with a thousand faces," perhaps there also needs to be "a hero with a thousand retreating backs." rincewind is a failed wizard and a terrible coward. he runs away from just about everything and always -- but always -- expects the absolute worst. he lives in a condition of expecting the apocalypse to show up just about any minute. the reasons for his failure as a wizard are interesting and complicated and very neatly explained in the first 10-20 minutes of the show, so i won't spoil them for you. suffice it to say that there are some books in a magical library which you really shouldn't touch.
i'd heard of this adaptation before but had put off watching it fearing that it would be clunky or weird or just plain bad. i'm not wildly fond of the first few discworld novels in and of themselves -- rincewind as a written character wears thin very quickly -- but i'm really fond of the discworld as a series and i didn't want to see some crap adaptation that might then spoil the books. the adaptation is lovely -- it's charming and fluffy and never serious. and sean astin, i have to say, does a marvelous job as twoflower, the discworld's first -- and perhaps last -- tourist. i never would have thought to slot his name in for the job in the game of "who would you like to play---" but he does a great job. he's got the perfect mix of intelligence, innocence, willful blindness, and stubbornness that make twoflower able to wander through the world as one vast cross-cultural encounter.
there are some other awesome cameos, too, most notably tim curry as a villainous wizard, trymon, who is determined to get to the top of the academic hierarchy and jeremy irons as patrician vetinari. i have to admit, i've had irons's name written in as "would be ideal to play the patrician" for a long time but i never thought anyone would get him to actually do it. there's also christopher lee as death and some truly lovely dragons.