Thought for the Day

Posted on July 15, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , |

I know I should be over this by now, but I ended up talking to one of the teachers at school today about My Sister’s Keeper.

She was planning to show the film to her students in order to spark some discussion about the issues raised.  Like me, she’d enjoyed the book and thought it had an important message.  I asked her if she’d seen the film or knew about the changes they’d made to the plot, and when I filled her in she decided that the movie version had lost it’s poignant message and decided not to show it.  We both agreed that the butchering of the ending took so much away from the film that it became pointless.

Well done Nick Cassavetes and co.

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A Handbag?!

Posted on September 18, 2009. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

Following on from my recent post about adaptations and free from reading revision-type books, I found myself racing through The Importance of Being Earnest yesterday. The Colin Firth/Rupert Everett film is well known, so having really enjoyed the play (I think it’s the fastest I’ve ever read anything) I was eager to watch it straight away.
I’m happy to say that it is a brilliant adaptation of a brlliant play. Firth and Everett are both perfect in their roles, topped only by the incomparable Judi Dench as Lady Bracknell.

The only real changes to the script were some shifts in the timeline, aided by the freedom a film has over a stage play.  The cinematography is clever too, with Cecily’s fantasies adding humour to an already hilarious script.  It’s pretty much impossible to improve on Wilde’s writing and luckily Screenwriter Oliver Parker doesn’t mess about with it, keeping most lines in tact and just adding a few new ones which blend seemlessly with Wilde’s style.  The result is a great portrayal of Wilde’s dry wit and cutting satire.
The most notable difference was the addition of a song, performed by our male leads. Those of a weak disposition, be warned, you will be exposed to Colin firth singing, and I’m still having counselling after Mamma Mia. Luckily in this instance the duet is performed with much passion, little accuracy and tongue firmly in cheek. especially if you carry on listening throughout the credits.
Both play and film are very good, a great example of Wilde’s genius if Dorian Gray hasn’t quite managed it for you.  I think in this case, it doesn’t really matter whether you read or watch it first, as the adaptation is so close, as long as you do both!

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Book to Screen

Posted on September 13, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

A while ago I spent a number of unhealthy hours getting very angry about the new film adaptation of Jodi Picoult’s novel My Sister’s Keeper.  Managing to suppress my rage, I got thinking about other novel adaptations and tried to separate the hits from the misses.  Before I start, I should admit that reading has never really been my thing, much to the exasperation of my English teachers, but when I get into a book, I really get into it, meaning I get a bit protective over the adaptations.

Here’s my run down of the best and worst of the Book to Screen translations…there will be some obvious omissions, but I better not comment on things I haven’t actually read…

Oh and just in case you haven’t read the books, beware SPOILERS!

1.The Lord of the Rings- HIT!

LOTR

Well, let’s get the obvious out of the way first shall we?  It’s no secret that I’m more than slightly obsessed with this trilogy.  For me, LOTR represents the best of screen adaptations, making a book which (I admit) is hard to get into, much more accessible.  Tolkein doesn’t exactly make it easy to read, and even die hard fans like me can find it tough to wade through the history and fine detail given on every page.  If you’re like me, this is the sort of thing that will put you off , but I persevered (after a short recess when I got mired in the “hoomming” of the Ents) because, like many out there, the film made me want to read the book.  Literature lovers often tear their hair out over those who read books after seeing the film, but without Peter Jackson’s incredible storytelling LOTR would never have entered my radar, and who knows how I might have turned out?! 😛  For those who did read the books first (and between the release of Fellowship and Two Towers I was pretty well versed) Jackson is rigidly true to the books, only removing parts that would make the marathon films even longer and detract from the main story arc.  As a fan of the books himself, and recruiting other Tolkeinites (stand up Christopher Lee) as well as Tolkein’s own family, Jackson made sure that the final film was as close to Tolkein’s own vision as possible.  The result is a series of films which are able to live up to the incredible imagination of the author, including all of his fine detail and still capturing the main message.

2. The DaVinci Code/Angels and Demons-MISS! (but only just)

DaVinciBefore I start, please do not berate me for actually liking these books.  I fully accept that Dan Brown is not exactly the cream of writing talent, and that the plot in these two books is basically identical with slightly different character names, but he managed to keep hold of me with the codes and the mystery and I figured it would translate to screen pretty well.

It almost did.  Apart from taking out one set of codes to make the film a bit shorter, the plot is quite true to the book, and the fact that they bothered to actually film in all the famous locations mentioned scored points.  The reason I’m forced to put it in the miss pile is for one simple reason: they completely destroyed my favourite character.

When I first heard that albino monk Silas was to be played by Paul Bettany I was really happy, since he fitted exactly with my mental picture of the character and is a good enough actor to play the part really well.  Here’s what went wrong: in the book, Silas has a turn around at the end and saves the life of another character, redeeming him for the earlier murders and showing him to be a very sympathetic character who is left impressionable and easy to manipulate after a lifetime of abuse.  In the film? He’s battered by a group of police snipers and left for dead behind a wall.  I was not impressed.

I haven’t yet seen the sequel (well actually it’s a prequel but for the sake of argument…), and the fact that I haven’t read the book in a long while will probably make it easier for me to swallow.  Since its predecessor got it so nearly right I’m willing to give it a fair shot, and the casting is still pretty good, so maybe this one’s a hit?  Something tells me it wont quite make it though.

3. The Prestige-HIT!

PrestigeThis one is actually a rare example of where I reckon the changes they made to the book are actually better than what the author originally came up with.  (The only other one of these I can think of is Wicked but that’s a musical and not (yet) a movie).  Again, I saw the film first, which is the wrong way round, but what I found surprising is that novel and film seem to be at odds when it comes to whose side we’re supposed to be on.  Watching the film, I was firmly on the side of Borden and really didn’t take to the privileged but unappreciative Danton.  The book however, is told predominantly form Danton’s viewpoint, and paints Borden as the villain.  Obviously a lot has been changed by the screenwriters, but I think this element of sympathy for Borden is necessary to build a contrast between the two magicians.  The ending is also completely different in the film, and in my opinion  much more dramatic.  For starters, the big twist is revealed at the start of the book, taking all the impact out of a turn which, in the film, had me speechless.  True, the way the opening of the novel (Borden’s diary) is written is very clever, but giving away the twist so soon means the impact of many later events is lost.  Similarly, the side plot of the descendants of the two men (removed from the film) seemed slightly unnecessary and lead to an ending which actually really irritated me when compared to the drama of the film.

I don’t know what my opinion would be of I’d read the book first, but the film is so well written and performed that it would probably be much the same.  Christopher Nolan has taken what is a brilliant premise from a novel, and re-designed it to be something more, leaving me slightly disappointed when I eagerly picked up the book.  So in this case, my love for the film is not because it falls in line with the authors first ideas, but mainly because it doesn’t!

4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. MISS!

HitchhikersIn fairness, I don’t think anyone could’ve made this work because it’s the way in which Douglas Adams writes that makes these books so brilliant.  The opening “Yellow” passage is pure comic gold which just couldn’t translate to screen, even with Martin Freeman, who basically is Arthur Dent, at the helm.  Generally the casting is good, with Bill Nighy as Slartybartfast and Stephen Fry narrating, but Mos Def is completely wrong, and although Sam Rockwell is a great actor, he just doesn’t quite work as Zaphod.  I think my main issue with that though is that in the book he has a lizard head and in the film…well he doesn’t.  Not that I can really complain about that. It js bugged me.

Some other minor plot tweaks took some of the fun out of the film,but I think the main problem was they tried to make it logical, which Hitchhiker’s jsut isn’t.  The whole point of Adams’ Trilogy in Five Parts is that it makes no sense at all and contains a series of events difficult to imagine let alone put on screen.  Like I said, it was an impossible task, and credit to them for making the generation of a blue whale (voiced by Bill Bailey) and a bowl of petunias via the Improbability Drive actually work on screen.  In the end though, the film just doesn’t do the book justice.

5. Dorian Gray-MISS?

DorianI haven’t seen this one yet, but my early fears are being confirmed by poor reviews and I’m starting to think I might give this one a miss.  Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a tough read at times but it’s a book with a real meaning and a lot fo valid points to make.  There’s more than a suggestion that the new film does well with the vice and debauchery of Gray’s life (which is alluded to but never really described in the novel) but has slightly missed the point.  As I’ve said before, our only other incarnation of Gray on screen is in LXG which, although a great character, is just plain wrong in terms of the book, so Ben Barnes can only be closer, but I’m not holding my breath that this is the great adaptation I’ve been waiting for.  Anyone who has seen it feel free to let me know.

I could probably write more but I think I’ll leave it there for now.  Any comments on other adaptations more than welcome.  I’m hoping to read The Time Traveller’s Wife soon, so that I can do the novel/film thing the right way round for once.  I’m worried that one has gone that way of My Sister’s Keeper, so I don’t want to get the wrong impression.

PS. I’ve deliberately left out the Graphic Novels because that is a completely different list of films.  Plus, if any type of book lends itself to a big screen adaptations it’s the comics, they’re pretty much storyboards ready to go.

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My Sister’s Keeper-The Outrage Continues!

Posted on June 26, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , |

It gets worse.

I wanted to find out if they changed teh ending to go for the Hollywood happy.  So I went here. And now I am totally horrified!

I wont say too much, because I don’t want to ruin the book for you (the movie is beyond saving) but suffice to say they have completely mangled the ending and taken out the twist which made the book good.   They’ve also taken all of the power out of Jesse’s character by being too scared to give a kid a drug addiction. Well done Hollywood, you’ve killed another one.

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My Sister’s Keeper

Posted on June 21, 2009. Filed under: News, Trailers | Tags: , , , , , |

I am not a lover of books.  This has frustrated every English teacher I have ever encountered, but generally I’ll always choose a film over a book.  Reading is just something that I don’t really get on with, which is why movie adaptations of bestsellers ususally catch my attention.  Of course, most bookworms are utterly horrified by the notion, and not without good reason.  Adaptations have to abridge and contract in order to translate to the screen and in doing so a lot of the author’s original intentions can be lost.  There are those who get it just right though (trying very hard not to mention Lord of the Rings yet again here.)

Why am I telling you this?  My Sister’s Keeper is one of the few books that I truly love.  It was suggested to me by a school librarian and while I started reading it somewhat skeptically I was almost instantly hooked.  So, when I heard they were making a movie, my first thought wasn’t good.  The novel itself is written from the perspective of the 6 protagonists, each chapter changing voice, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to translate to sceen.  Also, the subject matter is quite easy to turn into a Hollywood sob story full of schamltz and everyone telling eachother how much they love one another, making me more than slightly uneasy.

I tracked down the trailer (below for your viewing pleasure) and I’m still reserving judgement.  It may be that the movie lives up to the novel perfectly and all my fears are unjustified, but Cameron Diaz is already causing me problems.  And Alec Baldwin as Campbell (who’s meant to be in his early 30s max) is just wrong.

I hope I get proved wrong; as the novel really is good and the potential is there for a really good movie.  Unfortunately its all to easy to turn this into another girlie weepy which totally misses the point.  I guess I’ll have to see.  Chances are I wont be rushing to the cinema for this one, so if you see it and it turns out OK, let me know.  Out 26th June.

*Update*

I re-read the book yesterday.  I’m still not happy with Alec Baldwin playing a 33 year old lawyer, but I realised that this movie, like the book, entirely centres on Anna and Kate, the two sisters.  They are being played by Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassileva, who don’t have much to their names and so I guess have a lot to prove.  Breslin in particular has a big task ahead of her, but I’m hoping she can pull it off.  Something tells me she can.  I guess we’ll see.

Oh God. It got worse

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