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.

 

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 Even with most of the original dialogue, the story does not seem outdated and still stands as a riveting tale.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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

This was easily one of the best adaptations I’ve seen this year; the movie does the book justice and puts it’s own cinematic and original spin on the source material.

The Book:
This book is a great read no matter what kind of reader you are. If you’ve ever enjoyed a fairy tale, a love story, happy endings, whimsical characters, or compelling action, then Stardust is for you. It’s a short, fun, and exciting fantasy novel that depicts an epic journey and a beautiful love story with some really colorful characters. Tristran Thorn journeys into the land of Faerie when he promises to retrieve a fallen star to impress the object of his affection, the much admired Victoria Forester, and win her hand in marriage. Tristran is shocked when the star turns out to be a beautiful woman, Yvaine, who is not thrilled about being given as a gift, and he must embark on his journey home with her avoiding others who seek the star for more malicious purposes. Only from the magical mind of Neil Gaiman can this story of immortal witches, greedy princes (both deceased and living), sweet and caring pirates, helpful trees, and a wall that contains such a world truly come to life. In Gaiman’s depiction of both the village of Wall and the world of Faerie, every character and setting is easily visualized and there is a sense that everyone we come across has a story to tell, whether we hear it or not. Where Gaiman could have been wordy and detailed in the journey of Tristran and Yvaine, he often offers just the broad strokes of everything they encounter, such as their time on the pirate ship described by Tristran simply, “…as one of the happiest periods of his life.” Leaving so much up to the imagination of the reader is quite a different style than other classic epic journeys such as those of Tolkein, but fits in such a whimsical story as Stardust. I don’t doubt that we will see Tristran and Yvaine again on their journey home, crossing paths with another’s story, as Gaiman is far from finished with the spectacular world of Faerie and the interesting village of Wall. check website load speed The story is complete and satisfying, with the details left for many others to tell.

The Movie:
In this visually exciting adventure into Faerie, the movie depicts the characters of Tristran, Yvaine, and the witch-queen, here called Lamia, as the stars of this beautifully conveyed journey. The book’s six month trek is condensed into a week, though it feels as epic as the book has written it to be. Gaiman’s source material gave director Matthew Vaughn a lot to work with, and also offered room for elaboration, which is done well. The pirate ship and it’s captain (deemed Captain Shakespeare in the movie) was the perfect place to expand on these interesting characters that could have had their own novel. what is a proxy server . Robert DeNiro brings his comedic shtick that he has been perfecting over the last decade to a tough pirate captain with a not so tough secret. The climatic ending, which brings Lamia, Septimus, Tristran and Yvaine together for a final showdown, is derived wholly from the minds of the filmmakers and gives the movie a cinematic ending that the book was lacking. Michelle Pfeiffer’s depiction of the witch-queen Lamia is deliciously evil and allows the character to have more laughs than the book had given her. She gracefully glides through the role, even as her beauty so rapidly declines throughout the film. Also to be noted, when reading the book I wondered how it would look to see the living princes being followed so dutifully by the ghosts of their brothers, but the film illustrates the murderous princes in a wonderfully comedic light. The scene in the inn with Primus and Yvaine, while the ghost brothers marvel at their brother’s stupidity, is downright hysterical.

What’s Missing:
The rest of Tristran and Dunstan’s family: Daisy Hempstock, Tristran’s reluctant mother, and his sister Louisa. In the movie, however, there is a stronger bond between father and son since they only have each other. The lone traveler who gives Dunstan his heart’s desire in exchange for a place to stay. The little hairy man who met Dunstan in his youth and accompanies Tristran on the first part of his journey and obtains the Babylon candle for Tristran to find the star. The irony that the witch-queen’s attempt to make Ditchwater Sal forget the star is what allows the star to pass by her once more unharmed. Septimus’ attempt to attack the witch-queen. Una as Lady of Stromhold in the years of the rightful crown holder’s absence as he travels the world of Faerie.

What’s New:
Captain Shakespeare and his big secret that he hides from his crew. Tristran undergoes a major makeover aboard the pirate ship and comes out a much hunkier version of himself. Tristran and Yvaine’s share a special night at an inn before Tristran returns to Wall. The new climatic ending brings together Tristran, Yvaine, Una, Septimus, and the three witch sisters for an exciting ending. Another Babylon candle is used at the end (and makes for a much happier ending than the book had, in terms of the fates of Tristran and Yvaine).

Overall Adaptation:
Like I said, definitely the best I’ve seen this year, and a strong contender in my book for Adapted Screenplay. It’s movies like these that display the very practice of adaptation, by doing justice to the source material while cinematically expanding the story to create the beautiful world depicted in the words, changing only what needed changing in the translation process.

I have long since admired Warren Ellis’ sick, dark, and twisted style of writing, but until now it was only available in the form of comic books and graphic novels. Which is why I, amongst many others, was really looking forward to this book release this summer, second only to Harry Potter. I was slightly disappointed by the length of the book (at 277 pages, and only 7 inches tall, it’s an easy, one sitting read), but that was pretty much the only thing that disappointed.

The story follows a washed up private detective, Mike McGill, who is a magnet for bad luck. He meets a pretty, tattooed girl named Trix who wants to accompany him on his latest case tracking down a mysterious book for the government. Throughout their journey across the States, they run into a series of strange circumstances and characters. Ellis is known for exposing the underbelly of America in his work, and this novel is no different. He sheds light on some of the strangest, underground practices from Godzilla porn to saline injection parties and what upstanding Los Angeles lawyers really do at their high profile get-togethers. At certain points in the novel, you may find yourself stepping back a moment and thinking “That could never happen!” only to find yourself musing a few seconds later, “But, would that happen? Could it?” While I had a hard time stomaching everything that Ellis drudges up about our country, I firmly believe that this stuff is happening somewhere around America at this very moment.

Ellis’ most notable work (in my opinion) is his graphic novel series, Transmetropolitan, which tells of a journalist in a futuristic New York City that has descended into crime, violence, sex, and poverty. It is a major exaggeration of what NYC is like today, and could become in the future, though not impossible to believe. At times during Crooked Little Vein, I felt that Ellis had mistakenly thought he was writing for his fictional, future version of America, instead of present day, most especially in dealing with the government’s story line and the character of the Secretary of Defense. Even the Las Vegas hotel Trix and Mike stay in is just a bit too far fetched to be erected in present society.

Whether you accept it all as a possible reality or simply fiction, this book still offers a great detective mystery and love story for our modern age. It’s a quick, fun read that will leave you questioning what really happens in those dark alleys of NYC, the campy hotels in Las Vegas, and the lulls of suburbia in the Mid-West.

****

Posted on May 9th, 2007 by Jess | Leave a Comment (1)
Filed Under Entertainment

The Book:
John Krakauer offers a beautifully written and researched journey into the last few years of Chris McCandless- a boy born to a well off family who leaves it all behind to travel the country and live off the land, until he meets his end one summer while camping out in Alaska. Originating from a magazine article, it’s amazing to read the details and fascinating recounts that Krakauer has tracked down about McCandless’ last few years alive. McCandless proves to be a fascinating individual who touched the lives of many while traveling around the country. Whether it’s Wayne in South Dakota or Ron at the Salton Sea, everyone who knew McCandless lends a poignant story of how he entered and exited their lives and in many cases, changed who they are today. The stories are so detailed (you can see Krakauer’s blood, sweat, and tears in his work), however, a good portion of the book is stories of other individuals similar to McCandless. Often after revealing a few details about McCandless, Krakauer will tangent onto another wanderer who walked into the Mojave desert and never returned, or those who decided to mountain climb in Alaska and were never heard from again. Krakaeur even spends two chapters recounting his own journey into Alaska and his attempts to climb the dangerous slopes of the “Devil’s Thumb.” Krakauer uses these stories as frames of reference and to sew together any gaps in McCandless’ travels in which we only have speculation, however I often found myself bored and wishing I could hear more about McCandless during these points. The novel may have been better off being shorter, without these “filler” stories, or perhaps published with them, but as an aside from McCandless’ journey. Having them inserted throughout McCandless’ story, I felt, did the opposite of what was intended- instead of making the story seamless it felt slightly disjointed. sub domains . McCandless’ story is interesting enough on its own that we don’t need to hear about how many others had done it before him.

The Movie:
Perhaps the faults I saw in the book are why I loved the movie so much. Sean Penn picks out McCandless’ story and then lays it into a visual timeline (though not completely chronological) that we are simply present for. The film brings to life the wonderful characters that are sprinkled throughout McCandless’ travels and takes its audience on the journey with him. I felt as though I was sitting in the theater for hours upon hours, but that is how Penn intends you to feel- as though you were present for every step of McCandless’ journey. The carefree wanderer couldn’t have been portrayed better than Emile Hirsch’s harrowing turn as Chris McCandless, for which he deserves every ounce of the Oscar nomination (and possibly award depending on who he’s up against) that he will receive. Penn adapts the novel so well that I actually felt a terrifying anxiety as McCandless takes his last breath, as though it would be mine as well. This film does what so many fail to do: it gives it’s audience an experience; something more than just two and a half hours of sitting and staring at a big screen. The superb writing, direction, and acting, all set to Eddie Vedder’s amazing musical accompaniment, make this movie an absolute must see this Oscar season.

What’s Missing:
Not much. With the exception of the additional stories regarding other wanderers that pop up throughout the book, the film is such a direct adaptation that Penn managed to squeeze in all the acquaintances that McCandless encountered on the road. Pretty much the only thing cut for time is Chris’ second trip to South Dakota, where he works for Wayne once more before he takes off for Alaska.

What’s New:
The character of Tracy is more prominent. In the book it’s simply mentioned that a girl had a crush on Chris, but in the movie Chris and Tracy become friends and she’s used as a device to show that Chris didn’t give in to temptations and chose to be celibate. The two Swedes that Chris meets while kayaking the Colorado weren’t in the book, but served as great comic relief and broke up Chris’ reflective journey down the river.

Overall Adaptation:
A direct adaptation of a tragic story; all of McCandless’ journeys are yanked from the page to the screen. Though it will likely take you just about as long to read the book as it will to see the movie (the book is just shy of 200 pages, the movie is just over 140 minutes), the movie will guarantee you a better experience than the reading will- and that is saying something.

Posted on May 5th, 2007 by Jess | Comments Off on Book to Film: Into the Wild
Filed Under Entertainment
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