I started off my panels at Comic-con with the Fox panel which promised both Keanu Reeves and Mark Wahlberg, and then threw a cherry on top with a surprise visit from Hugh Jackman! Keep reading for a rundown of the 20th Century Fox Panel.

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At this years San Diego Comic-Con, Summit Entertainment showcased three upcoming films in their panel; Push, Knowing and the highly anticipated Twilight. Keep reading to find out what was revealed.

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Posted on April 6th, 2008 by Jess | Comments Off on Comic-Con 2008: Summit Entertainment Panel
Filed Under Other

I’m assuming everyone’s seen this and if you haven’t, you should watch it at least 3 times. Watchmen is more than just a graphic novel, it changed the face of comics by proving that something mind blowing, intelligent, and meaningful can come out of the medium. Until Watchmen, the general population assumed comic books were for children; exclusive to tales of super heroes and monsters. Then Alan Moore came along with his critically acclaimed, award winning graphic novel that changed everything.

Photo by Phasekitty.

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Maybe you should brace yourself, because most people will hate what I have to say…

The Book:
Hugely popular and considered one of the best books of 2006, this is the story of Amir, who witnesses something horrific happen to his best friend, Hassan, and does nothing, then tries to redeem himself by returning to Afghanistan many years later to help Hassan’s son. I know that I’m hugely in the minority here when I say that I really disliked this book. But hear me out for a second. It’s a riveting story and it’s great for those who are looking for a quick and easy read (easy like it flows well, but that won’t make it any easier to stomach the material). However, I got to a point about halfway through the book where I became annoyed with how many things were going wrong. I don’t want to spoil it for the few people out there who have yet to read this, but everything was just too coincidental, too horrifying for the sake of being horrifying. It’s written to pick you up with glorifying images, then knock you down with a traumatic incident, then pick you back up…and knock you down again, over, and over, and over. I realize that there are many hardships to those in Afghanistan and that traumatic events happen every day to children and adults alike over there, but everything in this book happening to one person is just too depressing to be real. For example (this is by no means a spoiler), Amir meets with someone in the embassy at one point to travel back to America and that person is rather short and rude to him. On his way out, he says “Your boss could use some manners” to the secretary, and she replies back with, “Yes, he hasn’t been the same since his daughter killed herself.” Really? Seriously? Why did that have to be so shocking!? Why can’t this character, who literally exists in all of 3 or 4 pages of the book, just be a crabby guy? Does he have to have such a tragic background? He can’t just be in a bad mood? Apparently not. And that’s why I hated this book, because about halfway through I got sick of everything being so damn sad and started laughing at the ridiculous circumstances that make it this way. This book has a great story in there, if you just subtract some of the bad coincidences and give it a reality check. However, it seems as though it was written to be a Hollywood film, complete with twists and tragic turns and in my opinion, that is no way to write the sad story of two Afghani boys.

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The Movie:
The movie captured a lot of the book, in both beautiful and haunting images, yet something felt as though it was missing. While the book is twisty and tragic, the film is all off on the deliverance. When it reveals the book’s biggest twist, it’s a fact that’s simply stated to Amir and takes just moments for him to accept. It relies too much on the audience to fill in the emotional blanks, and I just couldn’t do it. Even the few parts that choked me up in the book did nothing for me on film. I did enjoy the kite flying and racing competitions. As silly as it may sound, the sound effect that accompanied the cutting down of kites was really neat. I never realized that the point of flying kites was to cut down other ones (personally I would have been pissed if someone did that to my kite when I was a kid), but to see it executed on film was pretty cool. Other than that, I really had a hard time enjoying this film and it wasn’t because it was so sad to watch (though it is), it was because it was lacking any engaging performances or plot lines.

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What’s Missing:
The film manages to cram a lot of the book’s material into it, but of course there are some losses. We don’t get much of Ali, Hassan’s father and the missing mothers are cut out altogether (most noticeably Hassan’s gypsy mother who reappears in the book). When Amir arrives in Pakistan, there is less of him and Rahim Khan and no fake American family living in Pakistan taking in orphans. There’s a lot less of Farid, the driver who takes Amir from Pakistan to Afghanistan and we don’t meet his family at all. There’s no embassy issues, no hospital stays, and finally, the most notable absence is the last tragic event of the book that befalls Amir and Sohrab.

What’s New:
Not a lot. The film is almost a direct adaptation that cuts characters and plot lines out, but never adds to it. Even most of the dialogue is ripped directly from the pages of the book.

Overall Adaptation:
I didn’t like the book, and therefore liked the film even less. While I can see how the book would be very emotional to some, the film felt like it lacked that heart. They were just going through the motions of adapting this tragic story, rather than embracing it and making it their own. There are cases when a direct adaptation is not necessarily a good thing, and I believe this is one of them.

Okay, commence the insults because I know they’re coming. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t like the book, so I imagine all the ones who love it will be a bit upset by this review. But bear in mind, I’m in no way belittling the hardships that have fallen on those who still live in Afghanistan or have managed to escape. I know that it’s not easy, and these tragic things happen every day, but this book just does it too neatly for me to truly believe it. I’m generally against the norm in my opinion, and this is no different.

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Posted on April 4th, 2008 by Jess | Leave a Comment (2)
Filed Under Other

I’m a sucker for old Westerns, usually of the John Wayne and John Ford variety, but this story proves timeless in both its classic and current incarnations.

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1957:
This film serves as a great example of the old black and white, sweepingly cinematic, character driven westerns that were so popular in the early to mid 1900’s. Dan (Van Heflin), a rancher down on his luck because of a draught, agrees to escort infamous outlaw Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) onto the train headed to Yuma prison while keeping one step ahead of Wade’s gang and their attempts to free Ben. Ford brings to life Ben Wade with an intense performance that calls to mind the toughness of most Western villains, but with the sympathy of the typical cowboy hero. Every scene between Dan and Ben is filled with tension, as the two characters begrudgingly achieve a mutual respect and recognize their own characteristics and tendencies in the other. The film accomplishes the difficult task of getting its audience to root for both sides. We want Dan to gain back the respect he deserves from his family, and get the money to support his ranch, but we also want Ben to escape with his gang, as it is in his nature to be an outlaw. The world would have no heroes if there were no villains out there like Ben Wade.

2007:
In this updated version, we get a lot more characters and sub plots to deal with, but the story is mostly untouched and a lot of the dialogue remains fully intact. Dan’s family is fleshed out more, as well as Wade’s gang and those who accompany Dan and Ben as they head to Contention. It’s reassuring to see that today’s modern actors can still be very convincing cowboys. Christian Bale and Russell Crowe (as Dan and Ben, respectively) both give wonderful performances that play off each other well, however, the most notable performance is given by Ben Foster as Charlie, Wade’s second in command. The character has evolved from the original, envious Charlie into Charlie Prince, a psychopathic murderer who would go to the ends of the earth for his boss. Even with most of the original dialogue, the story does not seem outdated and still stands as a riveting tale. The new film takes the liberties that come with today’s “R” rating, offering a lot of profanity and violence that would not have passed in 1957. It’s more realistic, however I often found myself wondering if the phrase “a**hole” was around back in the 1800’s. While this version is longer, it cuts back on the one on one scenes between Ben and Dan and replaces the bulk of their battle of wits with those of guns. This is a shame, as Bale and Crowe’s performances excel here, however today’s audiences will be more satisfied with the action, gun play, and suspense that is in its place.

What’s Different:
Ben Wade’s character. In the original he is sympathetic from the beginning, and only kills when he has to. In the new film, he is rotten through and through, and allows his gang to kill often, though their victims are mostly railroad workers so they presumably kill with purpose. Also, the ending. Without giving away any spoilers, when I saw the original I figured they would have to change things up a bit as today’s audiences may see it as anticlimactic, and it turns out I was right. I think many will be surprised leaving the theater, but I can understand how the new ending is more interesting for today’s audiences.

What’s New:
Back in 1957, if there was one thing that Westerns didn’t have it was disrespectful children. The sons and daughters were always innocent, sweet, and upstanding, even when wronged by their parents. In today’s society, such is not the case. In the 2007 film, Dan’s son William is 14, and does exactly what you would expect from a 14 year old. He disrespects and sasses his father, secretly admires the outlaw Ben Wade, and sneaks out to follow the gang taking Ben to Contention. His character has a great arc, though, and really works to make Dan a more sympathetic character. Not only is he now risking his own life, but his son’s as well, and is working harder to earn his respect. There are many new characters to accompany Dan and Ben on the journey, from the pig headed lackey Tucker to the bounty hunter McElroy and the vet, Doc Potter. Also, the 1957 film is 90 minutes long, while the 2007 version stands at 120. The extra 30 minutes is mainly spent on the journey in between Dan’s ranch and Contention, adding what audiences expect from a western: camp fires, sleeping under the stars, shootouts with Indians, and narrow escapes on horses. We also see what happens to the decoy stagecoach and Wade attempts to give Dan and the boys the slip a lot.

Overall Remake:
Both movies are beautifully made with wonderful performances. The update pays the homage that the original deserves, and beefs it up with more characters, action, and violence. While adding 30 minutes to the runtime makes the 2007 film a tad on the lengthy side, it remains faster paced than the original and ensures that even those who are not fans of the original, slower paced Westerns, will still enjoy this film by adding action and Western clichés.

Here’s one where I saw the movie first, then was inspired to read the book. In cases like these I am often left having enjoyed the movie more, but there is that rare occasion when the book fulfills my expectations and then some (Harry Potter). This, however, was not one of those occasions.

The Book:
This novel, as we all know by now, is derived from the author’s experiences working for Vogue’s editor-in-chief. While the anecdotes of a crazy boss are often amusing, I also found that most of the time instead of sympathizing with Andy, I found myself annoyed with her. Sure, she had to take the job, sure it was a great opportunity that she just had to live through for a year, etc., but most of her problems, such as her failing relationships with her boyfriend and best friend are truly her own. Working in Hollywood, I am no stranger to high maintenance people, there is at least one on every show, and I’m also very familiar with long hours, being available by cell 24 hours a day, and working 7 days a week. And yet, I have somehow managed to maintain all my relationships, including best friends and a boyfriend whom I live with and rarely see. Andy often complains of her salary being next to nothing, yet at one point indicates that it may be around or more than $1,000 a week, nearly twice as much as I made when I was a “gopher” (and LA is just as expensive as NY, so there’s no arguing about cost of living). Also, I can’t imagine that those designer clothes and handbags were difficult to accept as perks. Out here we get t-shirts declaring the movie we worked on and a hat if we’re lucky. Maybe it’s because of all this that I found it hard to read this book with sympathy, and maybe those who work real 9-5 jobs with real salaries will be appalled at the hours and things that Andrea does for Miranda. However, I felt the book was too chatty and whiny for my tastes. It has lots of anecdotes, little drama, and no arcs or growth for any of the characters.

The Movie:
…and yet, I really enjoyed the movie. Due in large part to the wonderful performances in this film, everyone is so much more believable on screen than in print. Andy is less whiny, Emily is more catty, and Miranda is far more wicked. Sure, Andy lets it get a bit out of control, but she’s more sympathetic and I found myself thinking that she really needs more understanding friends. The changes regarding how Andy leaves Miranda make her seem far less b*tchy than in the book and make Miranda seem like an actual human, if only briefly, which is perfect for the character. Great costumes, music, and some well cut montages show that this story is better visually than in print. There is a lot of drama added, but it all comes together to give the film actual values and makes it’s characters grow in a way the book can’t seem to pull off.

What’s Missing:
Lily, Andy’s best friend and roommate, who sinks from fun, party going best friend, to a promiscuous and depressed alcoholic whose car accident causes Andy to leave Paris. (There’s a Lily in the film, but she’s just another friend of Andy’s who ends up disappointed in her.) B-DAD, the exciting, jovial Texan husband of Miranda who is incredibly sweet to Miranda’s assistants, though is often a lot for them to handle. (Think Bullet from The OC.) Andy’s family (except the brief visit from Dad): the parents that complain about her job and the sister who has a baby that Andy doesn’t even meet until she’s finally free from Runway.

What’s New:
First we trade “Alex the teacher” in for “Nate the chef.” Then we have job scandal. Divorce. Cheating other people out of their jobs or promotions to benefit oneself (whether one realizes it or not). Car accidents. Hospitals. Sex. The impossible task of getting the Harry Potter manuscript, conceivably before it’s even written. available domains . Plus, a much more pleasant ending where we trade curse words and comas for wordless exits and kind job references and a more promising future for our Andy and “Nate the chef.”

Overall Adaptation:
Here’s a great example of a direct adaptation that takes its gratuities with the source material. They took a lot of scenarios, even lines of dialogue, from the book, yet they developed the characters into actual humans and added a lot of drama to give it’s characters plot lines, obstacles to overcome, and goals to achieve.

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Believe it or not, I somehow managed to rifle through tons of mandatory literature in high school and college without hitting this epic poem. So I picked it up right before I went to see the movie and was surprised at how easily I got through it. To see my thoughts on both the book and film, read below.

The Book:
This story about a hero and his battles and accomplishments was far more straightforward than I expected it to be. Granted, I likely would have benefited from a professor’s detailed notes and discussions to accompany the book, but as a standalone piece I was surprised at how much I grasped up front. It generally takes me at least two reads to really get what’s going on in Homer, or even Shakespeare. This story, however, is very simple. Beowulf is a hero, born and bred. He comes to the aid of King Hrothgar, whose mead hall Heorot is being attacked by the monster Grendel. After a fierce battle with Grendel, Beowulf incurs the wrath of Grendel’s mother, whom he confronts in her lair. Finally, the third act picks up Beowulf’s story fifty years later when his kingdom is threatened by a dragon. Overall, the story depicts the life of a selfless hero, who simply desires to protect and serve for the greater good.

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The Movie:
There have been many adaptations of this story to film in the past, but this one was not only the largest, most anticipated, and heavily promoted, but by the trailers it appeared to be the truest to the source material. Mostly it is, with the exception of incorporating Wiglaf into the story from the beginning (which I found an inspired way to avoid his sudden appearance that occurs in the third act of the original story), until the end of the second act. The film sticks to the books three-act format, however changes something major in the fight between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother in order to weave an underlying plot that is constant through each part and leads up to a twist ending.

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The results are far more detrimental to the film than may have been intended: Beowulf’s character is transformed from a selfless hero to a selfish, corrupt, and pretentious warrior. It also succeeds in changing Hrothgar, Queen Wealthow, and possibly, thanks to an ambiguous ending, Wiglaf into despicable versions of the original characters. Plus the dialogue’s stab at modernizing the ancient poem often makes for unintentionally laughable lines (“There have been many brave men who have come to taste my lord’s mead.”) All in all, the movie is only worth seeing for the stunning visual effects in fantastic 3D.

What’s Missing:
Since the poem is relatively short, there’s not a lot missing, just a lot that has changed. Beowulf no longer returns to his homeland Geatland for the third act, but stays in Hrothgar’s kingdom. Also, instead of introducing Wiglaf in the third act he is introduced from the beginning as Beowulf’s most trusted warrior. In the poem, Beowulf’s most trusted warrior, Eschere, is killed in the second act and Wiglaf is introduced in the third act as the only warrior who stays by Beowulf’s side as he faces the dragon. The introduction of Wiglaf sooner makes for a more relatable, and at times touching, relationship between Beowulf and Wiglaf.

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What’s New:
From the moment Beowulf enters Grendel’s mother’s lair, all the way through the end of the film, there are a lot of new elements to the story. Grendel’s mother takes on a much larger role and is not gone after her battle with Beowulf. When Hrothgar learns the true resolution to Beowulf’s battle with Grendel’s mother, he steps down from his post as king (literally, heh) and relinquishes his kingdom (along with his queen) to Beowulf. Thus changing the third act and some very important details that lead to the circumstances surrounding the appearance of the dragon.

Overall Adaptation:
It’s not necessary to update every story (especially the oldest story in our language) to conform to a typical Hollywood movie. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s out of style. same sites . This story would have been better off left alone, and tampering with it discredited the entire film. By weaving the acts together they have succeeded in making it a Hollywood film, complete with unlikeable characters who lack motivation, sex icons, and heroes with questionable morals.

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