Archive for the ‘Novel Adaptation’ Category

The Hunger Games – Killing time

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

One of the biggest movies of the year has been yet another adaptation, with Suzanne Collins’ young adult novel The Hunger Games getting the blockbuster treatment.

In a post-apocalyptic North America, one boy and girl from each of the outer regions of a rich city are drawn to fight each other until only one remains, in a gladiator-style arena bloodbath ruckus. Once drawn from this annual lottery of death, the children and teenagers take part in glitzy ceremonies, presentations and training as a prelude to the ultimate death match, which is watched with glee by the rich city-dwellers.

Bow and arrow enthusiast Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) lives with her mother and sister in region 12, and when her sister is drawn to take part in the Hunger Games she volunteers to take her place. She not only has to leave her family, but also her best friend Gale (played by Liam Hemsworth, Thor’s younger brother).

The plus point is that she’s actually pretty good at hunting things with legs.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – Remake or rehash?

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Steig Larssons’s Millennium Trilogy consisted of three novels which focused on Lisbeth Salander, a feisty computer hacker with a troubled past who helps a newspaper editor investigate and uncover some secretive and sinister goings-on in sunny Sweden.

The novels received Swedish-language remakes, and the first was particularly well received. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a fast-paced, thrilling and captivating piece of cinema, driven by Noomi Rapace (seen recently in Prometheus and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows), who put in a stonking performance as Lisbeth.

In the first entry, Michael Blomqvist, the editor of Millennium magazine, is hired to find out what happened to a wealthy man’s grandniece some 40 years previous. Blomqvist, in turn, finds the legendary hacker Lisbeth, and convinces her to help him. She is under legal guardianship and has to report back regularly to a man who is basically hideous scum. As she copes with this grotty fellow, she also manages to unearth some fairly horrendous information which will help Michael in his quest for the truth.

Some scenes in the original made for uncomfortable viewing, but it was all there as a key part of Lisbeth’s motivation; the way she acts, with a cold, calculated and distant demeanour, as well as her attitudes towards sex and violence, were justified by story elements which occurred both on and off-screen. It was at times torturous to watch, but at the same time you really rooted for Lisbeth, and Rapace deserved all the acclaim she received and more.

So, with this film being awesome but in Swedish, those marvellous chaps at Colombia Pictures started the process of doing an English-language version. From this point onwards, scepticism shall be rife.

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The Thing – Snow need to panic

Friday, March 30th, 2012

the_thing_wallpaperThe Thing is a prequel set before The Thing, which was originally a remake of The Thing From Another World, based on a novella which wasn’t called The Thing.

The original novella Who Goes There? told the story of a vicious shape-shifting alien, which had previously crash landed in Antarctica and frozen in the ice. Discovered by researchers, and subsequently thawed, the creature goes around generally causing chaos, violently murdering the protagonists, ingesting their corpses and imitating them individually, thereby creating a sort of whodunit horror.

In 1951, it was given a typically American movie reinvention, replacing Antarctic researchers with the U.S. Air Force. The Thing From Another World was a hit, but the adaptation was rather loose, and in 1982 John Carpenter stepped in and gave us a an intense horror masterpiece which was far more loyal to its source.

The Thing 1982 took the whodunit horror concept and joyfully played with it for an hour and a half. Kurt Russell was brilliant in the lead role of MacReady, and the creature effects were as elaborate as they were shocking. It was horrific, but heart-pounding fun and a riveting watch, as each character tried to work out who had been infected with The Thing, before meeting a brutal demise. Upon being rumbled, those infected would freak out and split into some kind of deformed mess of filth. Grim.

Now there is a prequel; first and foremost, just calling it The Thing, like its predecessor, was a stupid idea. Moving on, there are two ways of looking at The Thing 2011; either it is a loving and loyal tribute to, and story expansion of, John Carpenter’s 1982 effort of the same name, or it is a horrible cash-in. Although if you want to cash in on a movie, best not to wait 30 years. This has been evidenced by the meagre box office takings.

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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Aching Yawn

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

breakingdawnposterIt’s that time of year again, when we are subjected to a movie adaptation of one of the Twilight novels. Whether or not the books are good is irrelevant; the first film was a fine balance of grim and dull, the second was an absolute slog and full-on filmmaking disaster, and the third was a marginal improvement but still awful in a way that leaves searing pain coarsing throughout the central nervous system.

So, Breaking Dawn was unlikely to do much except for the fully committed and blinded-by-devotion fans of the series.

Breaking Dawn – Part I sees the eternally depressed Edward and the eternally depressing Bella get married on an island, sleep together and have a baby. There isn’t much more to squeeze out in terms of a premise; the marriage ceremony seems to drag on longer than a German opera, and then they finally have sex, but not without Edward whinging his pitiful way through the process, emanating about as much eroticism as a dead cat.

Bella gets a couple of bruises from their night of vampire-human playtime, and then Edward insists they play chess for the remainder of their honeymoon. Lucky Bella!

We are saved from this nonsense by her pregnancy, but the weird baby-human-vampire inside her is a bit much for her measly pelvis. Jacob is still really upset about her choice, and stumbles through the film looking miserable and being annoying. Much of the same ground is covered, and there is a meagre threat from some of Jacob’s clan.

The performances are abhorrent, with US daytime soap-style line delivery, and a total absence of charisma. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner are all terrible in slightly different ways, and their little triangle has somehow been stretched out over six hours of achingly dull cinema. The minor shining light is a cameo from the awesome Michael Sheen during a mid-end credits sequence. Too little too late, sadly.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

pirates-of-the-carribean-4-poster1Anyone who claims to be able to resist Captain Jack’s inimitable mix of swagger, swordsmanship, salamander and anti-sobriety must be off their Jolly Roger. It is a testament to the character and the actor that Jack ‘Sparrah’ can almost single-handedly pull this franchise through some serious scriptwriting issues and the excruciating presence of Orlando Bloom’s William Turner.

It is hard to believe that Johnny Depp nearly walked because the execs at Disney thought he had gone mad when they saw early footage of his daft pirate. The series would have experienced a short drop and a sudden stop had Sparrow been sacrificed, or played straight by a less creative and more submissive actor.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a refreshing surprise blockbuster, whilst follow-up Dead Man’s Chest had some great moments but got a bit tangled in its own fishing net. The second part of that story, and third entry in the series, At World’s End, also had some nice set-pieces but the story was contrived and needlessly complex thanks to the writers’ attempts to have everybody double-cross each other to the point of storytelling redundancy. All the way through, Jack Sparrow was great, thankfully.

A wise move, then, to give Jack a new stand-alone story without the irksome William Turner or his posh tomboy squeeze Katherine Swann. The general plan of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was to reduce the needless complexity, keep up the laughs and action and give Sparrow plenty of screen time. Too much of a good thing could be bad, but never with Jack… sorry, Captain Jack.

Loosely (very loosely) based on a novel called On Stranger Tides, this film sees Jack in search of the Fountain of Youth, with the Spanish and King George II also keen on the prize that would see skincare products wiped off the face of the Earth. King George II sends his surprise employee Captain Hector Barbossa, once again played by the wonderful Geoffrey Rush, on an expedition to beat the Spanish to the Fountain. In general, everyone wants to get to the Fountain, but there is a little more to this legendary elixir of life than meets the eye-patch.

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Limitless – A pill a day…

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

limitless-poster-7Fresh from playing Face in the high-octane, brilliantly bonkers A-Team Movie, Bradley Cooper continues with the running, jumping and relentless grinning in novel adaptation Limitless. Based on techno-thriller The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, Limitless follows writer Eddie Morra as he discovers a sneaky shortcut to Enlightenment…

Drug peddler and Eddie’s ex-brother-in-law Vernon Grant offers our scruffy protagonist a random sample of NZT, which the obviously trustworthy and reliable gent says will allow any user to open up 100% of their brain’s potential. Eddie, suffering from writer’s block and laziness, drops his magic bean and becomes Super Eddie.

He finishes his book, impresses his agent and generally shifts up several gears in all facets of his life. The grisly demon that is withdrawal leads him back to Vernon who, oddly, asks Eddie to do his dry cleaning before he can have more NZT. Upon Eddie’s return Vernon is dead, and so begins a sort of cat and mouse game where there are lots of cats, some of them Russian, and the mouse has nice hair.

Along the way, Eddie encounters wealthy businessman Carl van Loon, who looks suspiciously like Robert De Niro, and must also contend with the erratic nature of his relationship with Lindy, played by Aussie stunner Abbie Cornish (Somersault, Sucker Punch), as well as the attentions of a mafia thug called Gennady, and a man in a tan coat who can only be described as persistent.

The premise of Limitless relies on a now defunct myth that once claimed we only use 10-20% of our brain power. This fanciful bit of fallacy has been pounded into pulp by scientific overlords such as Barry Gordon and Barry Beyerstein, as well as those blokes on MythBusters. This leaves the story in a bit of a shambles. But then if we want to go down that route then we aren’t allowed explosions in space, and no-one wants that.

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The Town – Ben Affleck burgles Boston banks…

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

the_town_poster2Despite appearing in a collection of incredible stinkers, with Daredevil, Gigli, The Sum of all Fears and Surviving Christmas heading the list, it should be remembered that Ben Affleck was one half of the writing team behind the excellent Good Will Hunting screenplay, and turned in a great performance too.

He was given the opportunity to direct, as well as write and star in, an adaptation of Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan (a story that has very little to do with Robin Hood), which was retitled as The Town and provided a showcase of Affleck’s raw movie-making talent.

The Town begins by highlighting the severity of bank robberies in the area of Charlestown, located in Boston. This is followed by a heist on a local bank, orchestrated by Affleck’s career criminal Doug MacRay, along with his lifelong friends Jem Coughlin, Gloansy Magloan, and Dez Elden.

The masked thieves encounter a minor hitch, which results in the kidnapping of bank manager Claire Kessey, who gets blindfolded and dropped off at a nearby beach. After the robbery, MacRay decides to follow Kessey, which leads to a relationship between the two, whilst she is blissfully unaware of his involvement in the robbery and her kidnapping.

Whilst MacRay tries to hide his guilt, and keep his friends from knowing his actions, FBI Special Agent Adam Frawley is behind a concentrated effort to get MacRay and his crew behind bars.

For a heist movie, there is very little in terms of bank theft, but this is a conscious decision by Affleck, and allows time for the impressive characterisation and performances to develop fully. This film really is a clever mixture of action and drama, with startling efforts from all the leads.

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – in the garden of Sweden

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

girldragontattooposterPrior to his untimely death in 2004, Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson wrote a trio of novels collectively known as the Millennium Trilogy. Written in his native Swedish tongue, the stories have proved a critical and commercial success, and all three have already been turned into Swedish language movies.

This month sees the DVD rental release of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, originally titled Män Som Hatar Kvinnor or Men Who Hate Women. The film, much like its source material, has enjoyed mass acclaim from pretty much everyone, and deservedly so.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo introduces the trilogy’s two main protagonists; firstly Mikael Blomkvist, a middle-aged investigative journalist writing for the magazine Millennium. His attempts to uncover the corrupt nature of Swedish billionaire and industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström have gone awry and resulted in a libel case against him. He will have to serve three months in prison, but has a few months before he must face his sentence.

The title character and movie heroine is Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-something with prior issues relating to behaviour and mental stability, but a brilliant researcher. She has been hired by ultra-rich Henrik Vanger of the Vanger Group in order to check the legitimacy and authenticity of Mikael Blomkvist’s reputation as a skilled investigator.

Satisfied with Mikael’s credentials, Vanger meets with Blomkvist and requests that he investigate the disappearance of his foster child Harriet, who has been missing for 40 years and presumed dead. The circumstances surrounding the disappearance are more than suspicious, and Henrik suspects foul play from none other than a member of his own twisted, money-hungry family.

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Shutter Island – Things are not always what they seem

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

shutterislandposterModern cinematic heavyweights Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio team up for the fourth time in this eerie and brooding mystery thriller, based on a novel by Dennis Lehane.

Set in the fifties, Shutter Island sees Leo’s U.S. Marshall Edward ‘Teddy’ Daniels investigating the apparent disappearance of a mental patient from a totally locked and guarded room. The patient, Rachel Solando, is a resident at the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane, located on the otherwise desolate Shutter Island.

Daniels is accompanied by his new partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), as they attempt to solve the unusual case. Their hospital ‘guide’ is head psychiatrist Dr. John Cawley, portrayed by Sir Ben Kingsley, who makes no bones about coming across as rather sinister and creepy.

It does not take long to establish that there is a lot more going on that a crazy woman with a talent for matter displacement. Daniels believes from the offset that the island and its inhabitants, including Cawley, have some dark and desperate secrets buried within those not-so-solid hospital walls.

Secrets from Teddy’s own past, a few suspect twitches from various characters, a cameo from Max von Sydow, a visit to the ‘off-limits’ prison/hospital on the hill, a secluded and mysterious lighthouse and some weirdness on a cliff all help to create a bizarre, baffling and intriguing mystery shot by a master of cinema.

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The Lovely Bones – Knockin’ on heaven’s door

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

the-lovely-bones-posterIn 2002, relatively unknown author Alice Sebold saw her first fiction novel, The Lovely Bones, become a bestseller, garnering almost universal critical acclaim from the literary world, and owing many of its sales to word of mouth.

Such surprise success would almost certainly result in talk of a film adaptation, and Peter Jackson, the man behind the glorious Lord of the Rings adaptations, was the man eventually handed director’s duties by producer Steven Spielberg.

The film adaptation of The Lovely Bones sees 14 year-old photographer-wannabe Susie Salmon lulled into an underground trap by a neighbour named George Harvey. It appears at first that, after a brief struggle, she manages to escape and run to freedom, but it quickly becomes clear that she has been murdered and is watching the subsequent events that occur after her death.

She watches from a heaven-like place; a world that is only limited by her own imagination, and one which serves as a precursor to her spirit’s final resting place. She remains in this limbo until such time that she chooses to move on; something which she is regularly encouraged to do by a mysterious little girl who accompanies her.

She observes her family and friends, and their respective responses to her untimely, grotesque demise. Her attempts to contact her loved ones have minimal success and only serve to aggravate the situation, as her father, Jack, starts to lose his mind in his relentless quest for justice. Meanwhile, her murderer attempts to cover up any evidence of his sickening act, although it is clear he has other secrets to hide.

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