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Favorite books to movie adaptions

Favorite books to movie adaptions

My daughter is about to start reading Anne of Green Gables. After she’s done, I told her we would watch the television miniseries. It is one of my favorite book to movie adaptions ever. The actress chosen to be Anne Shirley was everything I had ever imagined Anne would be from her carrot-y braids to her penchant for over dramatization.

So often when you see the transformation of a book into a movie there is this let down, a certain disappointment that the movie failed to capture the spirit and magic of the characters you have built up in your mind.

Books have been a ripe source of movie inspiration both in the past and more recently. I don’t have Starz but the production of Outlander has captured the attention of much of my Twitter feed and there are tumblrs devoted to the rising star Sam Heughan who plays Jamie.

sam-heughan-5-facts-about-outlander-actor-including-season-2-cover

I can see why. He emotes in a picture. (I think 50 Shades should have picked him as Christian Grey rather than the Dornan character who looks like he has about as much sex appeal as a thimble)

While the whole of YA books transformed into movies haven’t done as well as the original spawn, Harry Potter, the moderate success of Divergent and the stunning success of the Jennifer Lawrence lead Hunger Games, leads me to believe that Hollywood will take more chances on YA books despite the bombs of Beautiful Creatures and Mortal Instruments.

I’ve been utterly captivated for years by the Tolkien productions of Peter Jackson and anxiously await the third and final installment of the Hobbit. But I think my appreciation for these movies has more to do with the fact that the books themselves were such a distant memory and I hadn’t loved them enough to create the characters in my own mind. Thus Jackson’s rendition was perfectly fine to adopt as my own.

Who the lead characters are is important but the story is as well. When I watched the Harry Potter movies this past year (my daughter was reading the books and then we’d watch the corresponding movie after she finished) almost none of the movies lived up to the books in part because some of the acting was poor but so was some of the on screen storytelling. The Goblet of Fire was my least favorite with the last two being my most favorite. I felt it had a lot to do with the director and the parts of the story the director choose to tell.

As a kid I remember thinking the Swiss Family Robinson movie was loads more interesting than the book because the movie had pirates. The book is just full of awful colonialism. I re-read that with my daughter a few years ago and cringed hard throughout the whole story. The whale is my favorite part in the book–that and the salt cave.

Recently the book Princess Bride was on sale and I mentioned that I loved the book. In the comments someone mentioned disliking both the book and the movie, but the movie had such charm. The casting for that movie was spot on. Cary Elwes played the perfect stableboy turned swashbuckling pirate.

As a young teen I cried buckets over The Outsiders which my brother had rented surreptitiously from the local video store. My parents would never have approved but I saw the movie first which can have a huge impact on one’s opinion of a book.

Stand by Me and Shawshank Redemption were both award winning movies adapted from short stories by Stephen King. Yes, the casting was great in both movies but I thought the actual movie making itself was gripping. I can still vividly hear Morgan Freeman narrating parts of Shawshank Redemption in my head.

The movie version of The Silence of the Lambs was incredible and it actually sent me on a Thomas Harris binge which I regret because I then read a number of mysteries and still have nightmares about the one with the blind girl, the snake and the dish of milks. *Cries*

But there are no shortage of terrible movie adaptions. The Princess Diaries is one of them. I loved those books and even with the smart casting I felt that they never really captured the adorkable charm of Mia. I love Katherine Hepburn but could barely finish the Little Woman movie. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was another movie I thought was awful. Or maybe I just don’t like Michael Cera.

The list of books to movies seems endless. Why not share with your favorite or least favorite books to movies!

 

Friday Film Review: Young Frankenstein

Friday Film Review: Young Frankenstein

imagesYoung Frankenstein (1974)
Genre: Comedy Spoof
Grade: B+

“Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found you!”

When Mel Brooks is on, he’s fabulous and this is one of his directorial efforts which holds up for me just as well today as it did then. Over the years, I’ve discovered that not all of his movies work for me (History of the World, Part I) and some that did then (Spaceballs and Robin Hood, Men in Tights) don’t now. But this film has a great cast, doing fabulous work on wonderful sets that ends with not just one but two romances.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) – and that’s pronounced Fronkensteen – initially has little interest when told of his inheritance from his greatgrandfather in Transylvania. He’s a world renowned brain expert who pooh poohs the work of his famous cookoo grandfather and is due to be married to his fiancee Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn) in two weeks. But he’s persuaded to at least visit the old home castle and is supplied with laboratory assistant Inga (Terri Garr), general dogsbody Igor (Marty Feldman) and a housekeeper named Frau Blucher – whinnying! – (Cloris Leachman).

On his first night there, mysterious violin music leads him to the private library of his grandfather where Frederick discovers a neatly bound account – “How I Did It” – of the Baron’s work. After an all night cram session, Frederick decides that It. Just. Might. Work – if he can find the right body (it needs to be big) and the right brain. Fired with enthusiasm, he and Igor dig up a freshly hung corpse – filthy work only made worse when it starts raining – after which he sends Igor to the brain depositary to snatch the brain a brilliant scientist – oopsie when Igor drops it. Can Frederick correct where his grandfather went wrong and get the angry villagers to give him and the Creature (Peter Boyle) a chance?

After thinking about it and listening to the commentary by Mel Brooks, I’ve decided that Young Frankenstein works because they’re actually playing it fairly straight – which makes it all the more funny. And because the movie has emotion as well as comedy. Brooks says it can’t just be funny and nothing else – and this is why some of his later films fall flat for me. Actually the best relationship here is that between Frederick and the Creature.

Wilder, with his wild Einstein hair, is the one who initially gets you interested in the film and who carries that interest along. He can play “on the edge of insanity” better than a lot of actors as seen when he questions Igor about exactly whose brain is now in the Creature’s body. Terri Garr looks sweet and innocent, yet sexy, so Brooks can get away with all the double entendre jokes (“What knockers!”). Marty Feldman is the only one who could play Igor and he elevates the role beyond a mere gopher. I love watching to see which side his hump will be on in any one scene.

Peter Boyle does an amazing job getting me to love the Creature even though his lines are limited for most of the movie to whimpers, Hmmmmmms and Mmmmmmms. But when, after the brain transference, he does finally speak he makes an eloquent plea for those judged as “different” by society. Madeline Kahn chose the smaller role of Elizabeth but it’s only smaller in terms of the number of lines she has. When she’s onscreen, she’s dazzling. Leachman is a delight as the woman whose name makes horses whinny in fright.

And lets not forget the angry villagers with pitchforks and torches. Never underestimate villagers with pitchforks and torches. Kenneth Mars is the Inspector whose thick accent even the other villagers can’t always understand (“Footschtops!”) but who knows how to win a dart game. However I think one of the loveliest scenes in the film is that between the Creature and a blind hermit. I don’t know how many times I saw the movie before realizing who plays the hermit.

The film isn’t above silly sight gags – such as the “walk this way” arrival in Transylvania and “extra hand” after digging up the body scenes – but since they’re funny too, I agree with Brooks and Wilder in including them. But in the screenplay and choice of B&W photography, Brooks and Wilder reveal a comfortable knowledge about and genuine love of the films they’re spoofing. Honestly I’ve never watched the originals, but after seeing Young Frankenstein I feel that not only have I seen them but that someone’s gone them one better.

~Jayne