Showing posts with label movie tie-in. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movie tie-in. Show all posts

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Men Who Would be King by Nicole LaPorte

Rating: WORTHY!

Playing on the title The Man Who Would Be King which was published by Rudyard Kipling in 1888 and made into a movie starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine in 1975, this audiobook was curiously read by Stephen Hoye. I say curiously because it was written by a woman, so why did the audiobook company choose a man to read it?

Nicole LaPorte is a former reporter for Variety who is well familiar with Hollywood, and if she didn't want to read it, or wasn't able, could they not have found another woman to read this? What, did Tantor Audio buy into the Hollywood paradigm where women and minorities can't carry it, so white men (in this case Stephen Hoye) must be called upon? Well guess what? His reading sucked. It was annoying, and the only reason I stayed with this book (I skipped very little of it, surprisingly!) was because of LaPorte's largely engaging writing.

The book tells the inside story (as reported by insiders to the author) of the 'SKG' of the movie studio Dreamworks SKG. These people are legendary in their own spheres, and the S: Steven Spielberg, is widely known outside of them. Jeffrey Katzenberg is known best as the magician who shepherded several highly-successful Disney animations to success, including The Lion King which I personally thought was laughable, but which was a huge success at the box office.

David Geffen made himself a billionaire in the music industry. The book is mainly about Katzenberg who, fired from Disney and with a grudge over his not-so-golden parachute (and yes, there was a lawsuit - which he won), wanted his own studio. He pulled onboard Spielberg and Geffen, and with backing from ex-Microsoft founder, billionaire Paul Allen, the company launched with great fanfare, proud claims, extravagant promises, and much cash on hand, and began to fritter it away as fast as it could.

DreamWorks was the launch-pad for movies such as "American Beauty," "Saving Private Ryan,", and "Shrek," and began life very boldly, but eventually through mismanagement resulting in an inability to get successful movies out the door in volume, kept on tripping and stumbling. The company slowly crumbled from its lofty perch into broken pieces, with the remainder of it eventually being sold to Paramount, which didn't really want it either in the end, and who themselves sold it off.

The thing which came across most powerfully to me in listening to this was how greedy and arrogant these three men are. Too much is never enough. Spielberg was earning hundreds of millions from the deals he made to direct movies such as Jurassic Park. In that particular case, he agreed to no money up front, but to take fifteen percent of the first dollar - and no, that's not just the fifteen cents! The first dollar is everything the movie earns up front before anyone else gets their hands on it, and Spielberg got fifteen cents from each and every one of those dollars: $300 million in all.

The thing is that we've heard of the successes of these legends, but no one dwells on their many failures, and there were lots of them at Dreamworks, This book does not shy away from that. From Katzenberg's inability to turn out a successful animation until the internally overlooked and neglected Shrek finally came to the screen - and took off big time. Spielberg's failures with multiple movies while having only a few successes, and his penchant for directing movies for any studio except Dreamworks are also examined.

I kind of liked Spielberg before I listened to this book. Now I don't. I had no feeling either way for the other two, but now consider them to be people I would not like if I met them (which is highly unlikely I am happy to report!). Katzenberg seems to come out of these tales with the least tarnish, although his finicky and meddling ways must have been annoying to anyone who worked under him, and while he did have flashes of brilliance in dictating how a movie should look and feel, his successes came few and far between several embarrassing disasters.

Overall I consider this book to be very informative, and full of trade information. It's especially useful if you're looking to get a feel for Hollywood with a view to maybe, somewhere down the line, writing a novel about it! I commend it for interesting and informative reporting.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Answer is Yes the Art and Making of The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Michael Singer

Rating: WARTY!

This was a large format hard cover print book purportedly about the making of Disney's 2010 film. I enjoyed the film, but I found the book to be boring. It was far less about the actual making of the movie than it was a tedious and fluffy puff-piece for the actors, idolizing the main cast which consisted of Nicolas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina, Teresa Palmer, Monica Bellucci, Omar Benson Miller, and Toby Kebbell.

I think the idea was to make a sequel to it, but it apparently didn't do well enough to go that far, which is sad because despite having some issues with it, I liked it overall. One of my main issues was that this movie is centered in a feud dating back to Merlin, with Cage's character Balthazar being the good guy and Molina's character Horvath being the bad guy. Let's forget for a movie that neither of those names has anything to do with Dark Ages Britain, and let's step right over the question as to why Horvath wants to destroy the entire planet. What's in it for him?! You kind of have to check your brain at the door for movies like this. Just enjoy the spectacle and hope it's not so bad that you wished you'd checked yourself at the door!

Because this is an American production, it cannot possibly take place in Britain - home of Merlin. Nope! It has to be brought to the USA, just like the treasures in National Treasure and its sequel - also Bruckheimer production starring Cage - had to end up in the USA. It's pretty pathetic that nowhere in the world is important enough to have its own history and events playing out. It's got be in the Homeland, doesn't it? How charmingly blinkered and provincial. Maybe when enough of these movies lose money, they producer will start to realize that hey, it's not the end of the world to stage a movie in another country - even one about the end of the world!

If you've never heard of a number of these actors listed above, it's because the writer outright lied about what sterling and up-and-coming stars-to-be they are. I'm not a huge fan of Cage - liking him in some pieces, not keen on him in others. The writer talked about what a huge range he has, but he's really Nic Cage in whatever movie he's in. I've never been a big fan of Jay Baruchel either, but he's ok. All he's really done since this is How to Train Your Dragon.

Alfred Molina is okay, but nothing fantastic. Who is Teresa Palmer again? Because this is the only move I've seen her in, and although she's made other movies since then, she's hardly become the breakout star the writer predicted. She plays a character named Becky Barnes! Is that like a female Bucky Barnes? Excluding her character entirely from the movie would have changed nothing significant in the story. It's no more appropriate to require a guy to be validated by a girl in a story than it is vice-versa. I really liked Monica Bellucci as Persephone in The Matrix trilogy, but other than that she's hardly shone in other outings. Alice Krige was in the movie briefly, and I like her, but her role here was so limited that it hardly did her any favors.

None of this prevented the author from singing lavish praises so I guess he had the right name for it. These actors listed in my opening paragraph are, according to the author, the foremost paragons of the acting world: the most generous; the most easy-going; the most hard-working; the most talented; etc., et-freaking-cetera. Barf. Is there any actor about whom these things are not routinely said in similar puff-pieces? Were I an actor I would be embarrassed by this crap and maybe these actors are, for all I know. Maybe none of them ever read this book.

The idolatry was about three-fifths of the book. Other than that, there were all-too-brief sections on various aspects of making the movie effects, but not really about making the movie, and that was it. If you like reading pieces which idolize and worship actors and tell you next-to-nothing about the process of making the movie, then this is certainly the book for you. It's not the book for me, and I dis-recommend it. In fact I'd go further than that and say I just dis it. You'll learn just as much from reading the wikipedia article about this movie.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Hollywood Daughter by Kate Alcott

Rating: WARTY!

This was another audiobook experiment. It sounded interesting from the blurb: a girl who idolizes Ingrid Bergman growing up in the era of McCarthyism, and from a cloying Catholic background, discovers, hey, guess what? No body is perfect!

Things start coming apart in her perfect life when her idiot parents decide she's subject to bad influences at her prestigious Hollywood school and hypocritically send her to a Catholic girl's school where she's going to be brainwashed that there's a loving, long-suffering god who quite cheerfully condemns people who piss him off to hellish suffering for all eternity. Yep.

Her father is a Hollywood publicist who happens to be in charge of Bergman's account, so when it comes to light that she's having an affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini, and later is having a child by him, the witch-hunt starts, aided and abetted by this same Catholic church which on the one had teaches people to love their neighbor and turn the other cheek, but on the other slaps people it dislikes in the face with a tirade of abuse, recrimination, and rejection. They still do this today. Hypocrites.

The truth is that this 'scandal' lasted only four years before Bergman was working for Hollywood studios again. Just four years after that she was presenting an academy award in Hollywood, so this 'end of the world' scenario in which Jessica - the first person narrator - is wallowing is a bit overdone.

Worse than that, it makes Jessica look like a moron that she is so slow to see consequences of actions and how things will play out, despite spending some considerable time with her new best friend at the Catholic school, who knows precisely how things will pan out and spends their friendship trying to educate Jessica, who never seems to learn to shed her blinkers.

I started out not being sure, then starting to like it, then going off it, then warming to it, then completely going off it at about the halfway point when it became clear that Jessica was an idiot and showed no sign of improvement. It's yet another first person fail, and worse than this, the story is framed as a flashback so the entire story is a flashback apart from current day (that is current day in the story) bookends. I do not like first person, and I do not like flashbacks, so this was a double fail for me, although Erin Spencer did a decent job reading it.

There were some serious writing issues for a seasoned author or a professional editor to let slip by. I read at one point that Jessica was perusing an "Article entitled..." No! There was no entitlement here. The article was titled not entitled! At another point she wrote: "verdant green lawn." Since 'verdant' means green grass, it's tautologous and a good author should know this. 'Verdant lawn' works, as does 'green lawn', but not both! The part of the story where Jessica is required to see Sister Theresa, the head of her school, is larded with heavy-handed foreshadowing. I expect better from an experienced writer.

Jessica wasn't really a likeable person. I read at one point: "he was a year younger and an inch shorter" which made her sound arrogant, elitist, and bigoted. How appalling is it that she should think like this? Too appalling for me. I didn't want to read any more about her, because I didn't care how her life turned out.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Panel to the Screen by Drew Morton

Rating: WORTHY!

"The majority of the sequence is represented by a blending what McCloud describes as moment to moment panels..." A blending of? (p29)
On page 92, n comparing the comic of 300 with the movie version, the text reads, "Below is a panel", but the panels in question are actually on that same page, above the text! There were several instances of images and text being out of sync to a greater or lesser extent.
"From a stylistic criteria" should read 'criterion' since the singular is required, or drop the indefinite article if a plural is intended. (p101)
Pictures appear on pps 102-104, but the text mentioning them appears p106! Slightly out of sync.
"We're not going to play be all the rules..." should be 'Play BY all the rules' (p141)

I had some mixed feelings about this, but overall came to consider it a worthy read because it held my interest and offered me an ocean of material that I found interesting. On the downside, I have to ask for whom this swell rolls, because it made for very academic and dense reading. I cannot imagine many comic book fans and movie-goers being interested in this as it stands, so perhaps it is aimed at academics.

The author is an assistant professor of mass communication at Texas A&M University–Texarkana. He's also the co-founder and co-editor of [in]Transition, a journal devoted to videographic criticism. Personally, I can testify that he's also very fond of the phrase "stylistic remediation," which he uses a bit too often including, in one place, employing it three times in the space of twenty-one words! He is also fond of employing 'entitled' when the technically more accurate 'titled' is required, but these are minor quibbles of mine. Language is a dynamic thing, and I feel as ineffectual as Cnut in holding back the changing tide in this era of texting and trash talking! Like Cnut, I know I'm doomed to failure!

That aside, the book was, with some effort here and there, readable and delivered on some interesting information and premises. While I'm not a big comic book fan, I am a big movie fan, including the spate of comic-to-movie translations we've seen over the last two decades, and notably in the blitz over the last few years successfully spearheaded by Marvel. I was interested in how they get brought to the screen, but please note that while this book does discuss some of that, the main focus is not on the mechanical process, but on the stylistic choices in translation from one medium to another, how they worked, what kind of effort was made to stay true to the comic or to depart from it, and where perhaps this may go in the future. It also looked at the reverse process - how some movies have translated into comic book form.

The book is solid and well-supported, with some twenty pages of end notes, a fifteen-page bibliography, and an index (missing from this advance review copy but intended for the published version). It was interesting to me to read a comment in the conclusion to the effect that comic books are, in some ways becoming a form of R&D for the movie companies, but as this author shows, it is in some ways a crap shoot as to whether something which appears to have done well in the comics will do well on the big screen. The comic book readers and the movie-going public, which having some (and perhaps increasing) cross-over elements, is not at all the same audience.

I found a curious fixation on DC comics. Others, including Marvel and smaller imprints such as Dark Horse, get a mention here and there, but the focus seems repeatedly to return to DC properties (particularly Batman) with very little discussion of the Marvel 'Universe' and the runaway success it has had of late. I have no idea why that should be. For me personally, I would have liked to have had this author discuss how Marvel has fared in translating its properties to the screen, in comparison with the approach DC has taken. There is also little discussion of TV properties, which have been growing dramatically recently, and which have a long history. These other media (including radio and video gaming) get mentions here and there, but really have little 'screen time" of their own.

I was however fascinated to read the material that was here, which is extensive and well-presented. The author knows this world intimately, and I learned a lot from his presentation. I recommend this for anyone who is seriously interested in the migration of one entertainment medium (particularly comic books) to another (particularly the big screen). I consider this a worthy read and I recommend it. I thank the University Press of Mississippi and the author for the opportunity to read an advance review copy!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Title: Ella Enchanted
Author: Gail Carson Levine who also illustrated the print book
Publisher: Listening library
Rating: WARTY!

This is another movie/book tie-in. You can read the movie review in the movie section of my blog. This audio book was read by Eden Riegel who does a completely amazing job. I don't know how old she was when she recorded this but Riegel sounds perfect for the main character who is, be warned, much younger throughout this novel than ever she was in the movie (barring the first few scenes). The voice is a little bit sugary or flowery, so it might put some people off, but I liked it.

This novel is quite different from the movie - or more accurately, they changed things a lot when they turned this novel into a movie, and they made a better job of it in my opinion. This is sad, because I really enjoyed the first disk, finding it amazingly entertaining, and feeling as though I would be giving this novel a worthy rating, but after that first disk it went down hill. Unlike the movie, the novel follows the original fairy tale quite closely in many regards, including the glass slipper finale (which probably wasn't actually glass, but fur in the original fairy tale).

The Ella in the novel is considerably younger than the one played by Anne Hathaway. The novel is also quite different from the movie in how it tells this story. Ella is friends with the young Prince Char (Charmont) from childhood - they are never 'rivals' or in contest as depicted in the movie. Ella also spends some considerable time in "Finishing School" - sent there by her father - before she finally decides she has to locate Lucinda.

She is cursed with obedience at an early age and realizes at a later age that her curse would also be a curse for Char if she were ever to marry him, allowing anyone to take advantage of him and his riches or even to assassinate him if they so chose, using her as a tool to do so. In the end, she finally finds the wherewithal to refuse to marry him in order to protect him, and thereby breaks the curse.

The problem with the story is that while it was immensely entertaining and inventive for the duration of first disk (of five), it became really tedious thereafter, with nothing of interest or of entertainment value occurring at all - not for me, anyway. That's why I can't give it a worthy rating. 20% entertainment doth not a novel make!