Tag: movie adaptations

Five Decent Movie Adaptation

Posted July 10, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Adaptations, Top 5 / 0 Comments

top-5Yesterday I did a Top Ten Tuesday list where I looked at ten of the Worst Movie Adaptations in my opinion. These were books that really don’t translate well to the screen. But as a counter balance I thought I would give you five good movie adaptations. Yes only five, there are not many adaptations that I feel work as well as the book. So in no particular order:

5. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

4. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

3. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

1. Scott Pilgrim Verse the World by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Also I would like to include The Virgin Suicides, Revolutionary Road, Perfume, Fight Club, The Road, American Psycho and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which are not perfect but they are still pretty decent compared to some of the other adaptations out there. Now it’s your turn, what do you like that worked well as a book adaptation? Maybe next time I’ll look at decent Noir adaptations.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Worst Movie Adaptations

Posted July 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Adaptations, Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

I had so much fun doing Top Ten Tuesday last week that I thought I would join in again. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Top Ten Best/Worst Movie Adaptations. I want to look at ten books that should have never been made into movies because they never work and never will work in this particular format. These are mainly books that have a strong internal monologue, the emotions and inner turmoil is vital to the book and/or they are too many narrators to really work.

10. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
There was a mini-series that wasn’t too bad but the latest attempt at adapting this movie was so bad. I’m a fan of Zooey Deschanel, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Stephen Fry and John Malkovich but no one could save this movie.

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I’m sorry but the 2005 film just doesn’t work for me, there is none of Austen’s wit and only really covers the basic story. I only recently read Pride and Prejudice and adored it but most of the things I love about this book don’t translate to film.

8. Dune by Frank Herbert
David Lynch was faced with the impossible task of turning this seminal sci-fi classic into a movie and he failed, hard.

7. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
One of those movies, I wish I could unsee. The book was so great, why would they destroy that with a film adaption?

6. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
The most recent adaptation was a horrible, horrible adaptation of such a wonderful book. It was weird how they did the movie and they left so much out. I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley so I was looking forward to the end. I’ve not seen any of the other adaptations of this classic and I never want to see them.

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I keep meaning to write about the Baz Luhrmann version but keep putting it off. This is a book about unlikeable characters and symbolism, and that never worked. To be honest I don’t think Baz read the book and just tried to remake the old Robert Redford movie.

4. Dracula by Bram Stoker
I’ve never seen a Dracula movie that actually works, it’s hard to be faithful to Bram Stoker’s seminal piece of literature and still try to adapt it.

3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I’m looking at you Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, and Robert Duvall. It doesn’t work and it shouldn’t be tried again. Try something like a modern retelling like Easy A, it’s not The Scarlet Letter but at least it works.

2. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Most of this novel plays out in the mind of Rodion Raskolnikov; mental anguish and moral dilemmas don’t translate on the screen, I never have watched a Crime and Punishment adaptation and I don’t think I ever will.

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
No, just stop it, you will never get it right in a movie, you can’t tell both Victor and Monster Frankenstein’s story at the same time and explore their thoughts and emotion on the screen. Stop trying to ruin my favourite book.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

Posted May 15, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

The Reader by Bernhard SchlinkTitle: The Reader (Goodreads)
Author: Bernhard Schlink
Translator: Carol Brown Janeway
Published: Orion, 1998
Pages: 216
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Reader tells the story of the teenage years of Michael Berg while recovering from hepatitis and his passionate affair with a mysterious woman twice his age. Later going on to study law and discovering that this woman was involved in the death march from Auschwitz. The book continues on through the war crimes trial and the relationship between the two after her imprisonment.

Bernhard Schlink was born in 1944 (one year before the war ending), studied law then became a professor of public law and the philosophy of law. His passion for reading comes from a teacher in his high school who encouraged his reading and discovery of literature. Later he discovers that this teacher was a member of the Gestapo and involved in some questionable practices. His first series of books featuring a sixty year old private investigator Gerhard Selb (Selb translates to Self) also had a questionable past during the war and his coming to terms with this. This is interesting since the books in the series are called; Self’s Punishment, Self’s Deception and Self’s Murder. Also he has a collection of essays called Vergangenheitsschuld which translates to Guilt about the Past, which leads you to believe that Bernhard Schlink has a fascination about the effect of World War II has on the next generation of Germans.

This is not a book about the Holocaust novel; while this historical event plays a role, this is rather a novel that gives you a lot of questions and problems to think through. Divided into three parts; the summer of love, the trial and imprisonment; The Reader explores three different scenarios as well as the notion of keeping secrets. At the start of the book Hannah comes across as Good Samaritan trying to help Michael who was throwing up in the street. Later he pursues her and she gets an impression that he is old enough to be out of school; he doesn’t correct her, thinking the papers he leaves behind was enough for her to know his true age but we later finds out she would never have looked at them. When she finds out, they are in bed together and he tells her that he is skipping classes to be with her. She throws him out and it’s not until very later in the book we discover just how important education is to her. Hannah is his first love, he is too young to fully understand the kind of relationship they are having, while Hannah remains guarded and tries to protect both her public and private shames.

While most people focus mostly on the relationship between the two, but there is so much more to look at in the novel. Years later Michael finds Hannah again in a trial and the reader is asked to consider two things; the nature of her guilt and the significance of her other secret (the one she is more ashamed of it). While she was never the ringleader of her charges and she was following orders, when it came to the damning report, she let the court believe she wrote it to continue to hide her illiteracy. This brings to the overall concept to the book; ignorance is not necessarily innocence. The pride to protect herself from people discovering of her illiteracy works against her though out the entire book. She gives up promotions and lands herself in prison all to protect this secret.

This leads into the third part; years later we find that Michael starts reading to Hannah once again. Sending cassettes both the reader and Hannah mistakenly get the impression that this is an act of affection and when Hannah eventually finds out,  we also find out just how cold he has been acting. I’m not sure if he was trying to gain back the power in their relationship or just the bitterness of his life doing it but we are led to believe he still cares about Hannah when all he really cares about is that summer fling when he was still a teenager.

The book wants you to recognise that you are the reader, and Hannah, in particular, wants you to realise just how blessed you are to be able to read this book. I remember there was a great movie adaptation of this book a while ago; while very meta to have a movie about reading, I’m surprised how well it came together. I didn’t remember much about this movie while I read this but it all come back to me as I discovered it in the book. It was a great feeling to remember as I read and not know what would happen next.

I really loved this book; there is that element of uncomfortableness with the relationship at the start, which really is something people can be afraid to talk about but with a book like this it can be scandalous.  There are also so many other interesting elements that I think are equally valuable; especially with the whole German shame towards what they did in World War II and the next generation having to deal with it. While the movie closely follows the book, it is still worth reading; I highly recommend it.

In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

Posted April 16, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp / 0 Comments

In A Lonely Place by Dorothy B. HughesTitle: In A Lonely Place (Goodreads)
Author: Dorothy B. Hughes
Published: Penguin, 1947
Pages: 186
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Post World War II Los Angeles, the place you go to find the great American dream, but a stranger is preying on young women. Ex-airman, Dix Steele offers to help his detective friend solve the case and catch the serial killer in the hopes it will help him with the crime novel he is writing. Along the way he meets the luscious Laurel Gray—the femme fatale. The queen of noir, Dorothy B. Hughes blends psychological suspense with conventional hard-boiled and noir styles to give us In a Lonely Place.

Dorothy B. Hughes is known for her crime novels, 14 books primarily in the hard-boiled and noir genre and In a Lonely Place would be her most recognisable. This could be because of the Nicholas Ray adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame or because of the psychological elements she brings to the genre. A lot of people will compare this novel with Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley and while they are very similar I can’t help but thinking of the works of Jim Thompson as well. This might be because they all share the same influences Kafka, but more importantly Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

In a Lonely Place starts off like a typical noir novel and immediately the reader suspects there is something not quite right with Dix Steele. Could it be the fact that he is pretending to write a crime novel to sponge off his friends and family? Or the fact that he is a cynical misogynist? Maybe, but if you look a little closer at the writing you will find the answer. This is told in the first person but not by Dix Steele himself, like this person is with him at all times and sees everything Dix does. This sets up the psychological portrait of a woman-hating serial killer that really makes this novel work.

Towards the end of the book when Laurel Grey and the detective’s wife discover that Steele himself is the murderer, it comes as no great surprise. The book builds up like this big great reveal but there are so many elements throughout the book that give it away. I don’t think it was ever meant as a twist, just a way for Dix to find out himself. But through the whole book I was waiting and waiting for it to happen, I never really thought it would happen so late in the story.

The movie In a Lonely Place is vastly different to the book; for one thing Dix Steele is a successful screenwriter not a conman pretending to be a crime writer. Also true to Hollywood form, during the whole film everyone suspects Steele to be the killer but he turns out innocent. He still was a cynical vet but he never really had a chip on his shoulder towards the opposite sex, it felt like it was towards everyone. Also femme fatale Laurel Gray really wasn’t sassy or strong minded in the movie which was the biggest disappointment of them all.

Dorothy B. Hughes wanted to expose the misogyny of American society at that time with this book and she did a great job. The end result is this dark psychological tale that the movie adaptation butchered. Problem is I’ve seen the movie many times before finally reading the book, so it took me a long time to really get going. Both stories are worth checking out but trying to connect the film to the book doesn’t really do either of them any justice.

In a Lonely Place is worth reading; it’s nice to read a woman’s take on the noir genre. This really is a male dominated genre but women like Dorothy B. Hughes, Patricia Highsmith and Megan Abbott prove they can write noir just as well. The thing I loved most about this novel was that the influences of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment were written all over this and yet Hughes made it her own. Make sure you check this novel out if you are a fan of hard-boiled, noir or even psychological thrillers.

Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

Posted November 4, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp / 0 Comments

Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell HammettTitle: Return of the Thin Man (Goodreads)
Author: Dashiell Hammett
Series: The Thin Man #2
Published: Mysterious Press, 2012
Pages: 320
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Dashiell Hammett is often referred to as one of the ‘Big Three’ when it comes to pulp fiction along with Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain. He is known for his hard-boiled novels turned film noir classics including The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man. Return of the Thin man is a collection of two previously unreleased novellas featuring Nick & Nora Charles from The Thin Man.

While “After the Thin Man” and “Another Thin Man” have been promoted as two never before published novellas, these are basically glorified screen plays by the pulp legend. The cynical ex-detective is back along with his very cleaver wife for some more drinking, flirting and crimes. But you really need to have read or seen The Thin Man before reading this because they are sequels that relay heavily on the character development that has already taken place.

The main problem is there are no stories here; nothing to demonstrate the power of Hammett’s pulp styles. These are just scripts for cashing in on the success of The Thin Man film adaptation. I think they would have worked a lot better if they were made into movies in the 1930’s. It reminds me of the recent movie release of Taken 2; all the plot and character development was in its predecessor, it is just cashing in on the success by trying to continue the story.

As a pulp fan I was looking forward to reading this and I really wanted to love it, but I was very disappointed. This is a gimmick release, not recommended for people new to Dashiell Hammett and Nick & Nora Charles. But if you loved The Thin Man there is a slight pleasure in seeing what Hammett had planned for these characters. The Thin Man was never a favourite of mine, I do really like Nora but for someone interested in trying the author I would recommend The Maltese Falcon or my personal favourite, Red Harvest.

Read it 1st – Coming Adaptations

Posted July 5, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Adaptations / 0 Comments

readit1stSince become a bibliophile I’ve tried to read the books before seeing the movie adaptation, but this is often difficult; there are so many books being made into movies and often I don’t find out about them until closer to the release date. There is a site called Read it 1st which sends out newsletters of books being turned into movies but sadly this site has been inactive for a while and Hank Green is just too busy doing all the jobs. So with a little help from an article from iO9 and some Google searching I’ve decided to give people an idea of the 30 new film adaptations currently in the works. Just a warning some of these movies are still in development and some may never make it to a release date.

  • All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  • Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  • Maximum Ride by James Patterson
  • Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Ready Player One by Ernie Cline
  • Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
  • Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  • The Forest of Hands & Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolken
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
  • Wettest County by Matt Bondurant
  • World War Z by Max Brooks

Question Tuesday: Books are Better than the Movies; Any Exceptions?

Posted June 26, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Question Tuesday / 0 Comments

“Never judge a book by its movie” – J.W. Eagan

I’m not sure if I’ve seen a movie that I liked more than the book. I know if I read American Psycho before seeing the movie I might have enjoyed it more. I think there are plenty of examples of books I didn’t enjoy because I saw the movie first. Others include Psycho by Robert Bloch and Limitless by Alan Glynn. There are a few movies that I enjoyed more than the books, like The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver, The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson and The Hunter by Richard Stark (Payback, 1999) There are books I thought were average and I would rather invest 2 hours watching the movie than 8 or more hours reading the books. Even if the movies turned out bad, it was still less of an investment than reading the book.

Graphic novels seem to be the best at being adapted to movies. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, Sin City by Frank Miller, Kick Ass by Mark Millar and V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Watchman by Alan Moore all seem to be good examples of that. While all these graphic novels are decent, I prefer the movies over the books. I’m sure many people will disagree with this but that’s my opinion. What movies do people prefer over the books?

While we are on the topic of Movie Adaptions; one of the things I hate most about them, is when the cover of the books change to match the movie posters or even the name of the book changing to match. I really hate owning a book with the movie name or cover on it but sometimes there is just no getting away from it.

Monthly Review – April 2012

Posted April 30, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

April has been a great month, not only with the amount of reading that I’ve been able to do but also with the celebration of, firstly, my wife’s birthday and then my sister-in-law’s. Also during the month I was able to take a mini vacation from work, a great chance to recharge and enjoy some reading. In terms of reading, I managed to read more books than I imagined, including some great recent releases, a chilling classic and unfortunately a high amount of below average novels.

Surprisingly, I read a few Magic Realism books with The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and the massive 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami; while this genre is weird and not really my style, it was good to experience some the genre first hand. I also read a few novels that have recently been adapted into movies in preparation for their releases; The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Overall this month has been a great month of reading for me, knocking out twelve different books.

Highlights for this month included the steampunkish action adventure novel Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway; imagine if Charles Dickens wrote a good James Bondish novel and that is what you’ll find in this book.  Also the dark disturbing story of a woman suffering the effects and after effects of a very unhealthy relationship in Elizabeth Haynes’ brilliant debut novel Into the Darkest Corner. As well as the Henry James classic, a gothic horror masterpiece; The Turn of the Screw.

April’s Books

Is The Book Always Better Than The Movie?

Posted January 11, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

Book-into film-adaptations is a tricky subject.  Sometimes it’s easier to take the hard line and say the book is always better than the movie, but this isn’t always the case. With some interesting choices for adaptations coming out this year (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Dark Tower & the upcoming TV series; Game of Thrones) as well as some classics redone (The Hobbit, Jane Eyre & The Three Musketeers), I thought that we should see if we can work out, what makes a good adaptation?

I don’t think it’s fair to say all books are better than the movie.  There have been some great examples to prove this isn’t the case such as Bridget Jones Diary & High Fidelity. In fact, one of the first blockbuster movies was adapted from a very ordinary book (Jaws).

But it doesn’t stop there; sometimes great books do make great movies. These books normally have a strong narrative drive; The Road is a really dense novel, full of ideas, very exuberant prose and great language, yet it made a great movie, surprising many, because of the narrative.

A great adaptation also needs to capture the essence of the book; we want fidelity between the book and the film but there is a problem with this. If a filmmaker does a faithful adaptation to the book the people will say you lack imagination, but if you make a movie without perfect fidelity you run the risk of been chastised by the fans of the book.

One of the major problems with adaptations is the fact that as a novel there are all these different ways of expressing character but as a film writer there is only action. A novel can have thousands of ideas and perspectives but in a film it needs to be distilled into one central idea.  There was a quote from someone who worked on the Harry Potter movies that really explained this; “We’re not trying to hit all the bases and reproduce all the favourite characters and the favourite scenes cos that, in itself, is not enough. The film has to have meaning. And you need to distill that and that’s your job as an adaptor.”

On a rare occasion there comes a movie that takes a creative spin on their adaptation and does it really well. From a modern retelling of Romeo + Juliet & the BBC series Sherlock to the ground-breaking Bladerunner which ignores the central theme of the book almost completely. Taking a completely different direction on a book is often risky but can have surprising results.

‘The book is better than the movie’ may not be a golden rule, (but I think there should be a rule that “You need to read the book before seeing the movie”) however, movie adaptations can successes or failures, and more often than not they do fail. On a side note, I think graphic novels adapt a lot better than a novel ever does, is this because it’s almost a screenplay already? I would love to know some examples of good and bad adaptations, as well as your opinions on the subject.