Month: August 2008

Take One: Book Adaptations

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I apologize for the lack of reviews recently. I haven’t had much time to get out to the movies, much less rent them.

Anyway, this week’s topic is films based upon books. I have had a problem, because I am an obsessive perfectionist when it comes to adapting things (e.g. for papers, films, books). I know it matters more that there is creativity and originality and that it isn’t a shot for shot or page for page adaptation, but I prefer that Renfield isn’t taking the part of Jonathon Harker (in 1931 film Dracula). My least favorite film, or films, is the Harry Potter films. The omit some of the most important characters and plot lines. My least favorite of the series is probably Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. There are so many changes. Had I not read the books, I still probably wouldn’t care for it. The producer of the new film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows stated that he regretted leaving out the character of Bill Weasley, Ron’s older brother, because he has a large part in the film and Bill has not been introduced in the films. Well, serves you right!

Dracula is an excellent film, even if it is inaccurate. Béla Lugosi embodies the character that would start off his career of being typecast. “I bid you velcome” is one of the most memorable lines in cinematic history. In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola directed a more accurate version of Bram Stoker’s novel, entitled Bran Stoker’s Dracula. Despite it being more accurate than any other film version, its graphic nudity is a bit of a turn off.  Though there is stunning cinematography and really “neat” camera tricks, the film is a let down. I must say, Gary Oldman is a great Dracula.

If we are talking about vampires, why not mention F. W. Marnau’s masterpiece Nosterfatu. The film is very accurate and still can give people the chills. Marnau had asked Stoker if he could adapt the book, but Stoker’s wife urged him to say no, so he did. Marnau did it anyway, only changing small plot details and names. Count Dracula, played eerily by Max Schreck, turns into Count Orlok. The score is beautiful, and the acting is spot on. This film should be an example to all film adaptations.

Another great and accurate book-to-film is Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which has been made into a film several times. My favorite version is the 1945 film with the same title as the novel. The film is very funny and yet very suspenseful. Only the ending is different from the book. The acting is great and it is a very memorable film adaptation of a classic story.

Along with Agatha Christie’s famed mystery And Then There Were None is another great adaptation with Albert Finney as the great detective Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express. The only differences in the film really are the changed names, but this great adaptation features great performances form Finney (Christie herself said he was one of the best Poirots), Lauren Bacall as the talkative Mrs. Hubbard, Sean Connery as Colonel Arbuthnot, Ingrid Bergman in her Oscar winning turn as Greta Ohlsson, and  others.

Please tell me about some of your favorite book adaptations or least favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Trailer

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It is finally here! The long awaited teaser trailer:

Drama “Queen”:Review for “Mamma Mia!”

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A jukebox musical is a musical that uses songs that were not originally written for the play, like Moulin Rouge!, Across the Universe, and even Singin’ in the Rain. Moulin Rouge! Has contemporary music like Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”, while Universe has all Beatles songs. Singin’ in the Rain features songs that were in vaudeville revues, like the title song. Mamma Mia! can now be included in that category of jukebox musical. The film has songs all written and preformed by the Swedish pop/disco group ABBA. Originally on London’s West End, Mamma Mia! takes place on a little Greek island where a young girl is about to get married. Her name is Sophie (Amanda Seyfried, HBO’s Big Love) and she has no idea who her father is. Her mother owns abed and breakfast on the island and is played pretty well by Oscar winner Meryl Streep. Her voice, which you may have heard in Postcards from the Edge or A Prairie Home Companion, is not perfect, but very good. Feisty Sophie decides to rummage into her mother’s things and finds a diary that hints at three men being the father. Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard play the potential fathers, but only the ex-secret agent has a chance to belt. The music, which ranges from energetic (Dancing Queen) to dramatic (The Winner Takes It All) to just plain silly (Honey Honey), is very enjoyable. Yes, they songs are covers, but they are enjoyable covers. The songs are the highlight of the film. Amanda Seyfried has a beautifully sweet voice and has talent. Here’s the question: Can 007 sing? Not really. Pierce Brosnan has a decidedly average voice. It will kind of make you cringe when he sings “S.O.S.” with Meryl Streep. The choreography is awful…that is if you can call it choreography. Julie Walters and Christine Baranski play Donna’s spunky best friends. Both are very funny and suited for the role. From very strange movements on a dock to Meryl Streep toppling over on top of a roof, the dancing is memorable only because of how awful it is. The plot is totally outrageous and the dialogue mind-numbingly stupid. What is interesting about this film, however, is the use of the music. Across the Universe uses the songs more as set pieces than dialogue. Mamma Mia! uses most of the songs (all except “Super Trouper”) as the dialogue. Cute enough to get by, but still not that good. Good for a chick flick, though.
 
Grade: C+