Book Vs. Movie: The Eiger Sanction

eiger sanction by trevanianA few months back, my father-in-law, an avid reader who I often trade books with, passed me two novels by a guy calling himself Trevanian (real name Rodney William Whitaker) titled The Eiger Sanction and The Loo Sanction. While I wasn’t familiar with the author’s name (either of them), I did recognize the title from perusing the list of Clint Eastwood movies on Netflix and IMDb. Since my last two Ambitious Reading Lists turned out to be busts and I was looking for something else to read, I picked it up and gave it a shot. After finishing the book last weekend and then watching the film not long after, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do another Book Vs. Movie post!

The Eiger Sanction, which was first published in 1972 follows the exploits of Jonathan Hemlock, a man who teaches art history by day, lives in an old, converted church with his illegal art collection by night and also “sanctions” (read: assassinates) people for an organization called CII when he needs some cash. A rough and tumble kid from the street who grew up without much of a moral code (read: sociopath), Hemlock made the easy transition into killing people for money. This book opens with another CII agent getting iced and Hemlock tasked with taking out the killer and his accomplice. Hemlock doesn’t want to do two jobs, so he takes the first one and assumes the second will go to someone else.

While on the way home from killing the actual trigger man, Hemlock meets a stewardess named Jemima who he takes home only to realize the next day that she was working for CII and stole the money he earned for the sanction. With his money gone, bills to pay and illegal paintings to buy, he’s desperate enough to meet with CII head Dragon once again and take a job that involves killing one of three men trying to climb a mountain called the Eiger. As it happens, Hemlock used to be quite a mountain man in his day and failed to traverse this mountain twice before. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Hemlock agrees to go on the mission, trains with his old climbing buddy Ben, who also happens to be the ground man for the Eiger climb and then heads to the location where he and the other climbers do their best to conquer the hill.

I had a great time reading this 350 page novel. It’s got a lot of espionage-like elements that reminded me of James Bond, but with a completely different character in the lead role. Instead of a charismatic ladies man, we’re dealing with a sociopath who kills in order to buy paintings, holds friendship as the highest form of social contract and only has sex for the release, not the pleasure. At the same time, it’s pretty fascinating to read about the Eiger, its history and the challenges Hemlock and his crew have on the mountain which wind up trumping the actual mission he’s on.

To get into SPOILER territory a bit, the plan is for Hemlock to find out from CII who his actual target is before having to climb the mountain. That doesn’t happen, so they all go up and the idea of killing someone falls to the wayside as the poo hits the fan and they must rely on themselves and each other to stay alive and get down after a storm hits making ascent impossible. In the process, one guy dies from a concussion mixed with the elements and the other two haphazardly fall off the mountain trying to get Hemlock to safety. This last was pretty out-of-nowhere and seemed a bit contrived as a way to keep Hemlock alive and kill off the potential targets which fulfills his mission. Later after Dragon credits him for killing all three possible sanction targets, Hemlock — SUPER SPOILER — figures out that his friend Ben was the other guy on the initial murder mission. What I liked about this reveal is that, when you look back at the book, there’s enough hints that you could have picked up on to figure out (though I did not), specifically when he ralphs after something intense happens on the mountain which reflects what happened on his ill fated mission.

Packed with enough twists, turns, intriguing characters and fun facts, The Eiger Sanction kept me reading at a pretty quick pace to the point where I was anxious to finish the book one night when I probably should have gone to bed earlier. It gets a big thumb’s up from me and I look forward to getting around to The Loo Sanction to find out what that one’s about. I’m going to jump in blind like I did with this one and hope for another great ride.
the eiger sanction poster

While reading the book, I tried casting Clint Eastwood as Hemlock in my head and it was a tough fit. Much as I love Eastwood as an actor, I had trouble seeing him as not only an art lover and professor but also a mountain climber teetering on the edge of sanity. Sure, that last part wasn’t so hard to put on the actor, but the combination didn’t match up with my vision of the actor.

And that was pretty much the case with the 1975  film version that Eastwood directed. He’s more of the brawling tough guy looking for justice and easily handled many of Hemlock’s one-liners, but he didn’t quite embody the character I had in my head. Since the time between my reading and watching the two versions was so close, I can’t quite judge whether Eastwood essentially created a different version of the character from the book and if that was successful. I just kept thinking of the differences between the two formats. On a similar note, while I love George Kennedy as Ben, I think they should have gone younger for both parts considering how intense the climb is supposed to be.

The comparisons between book and movie made up the majority of my thoughts while viewing the film. Certain bits of information are disseminated in earlier portions of the film, characters are cut out and elements are rearranged, none of which are bad in and of themselves. In fact, I thought cutting down the number of meetings between Hemlock and Dragon made a lot of sense. On the other hand, they changed a lot of the history between characters and what was going on with the CII missions to the point that I felt overly confused. The book itself wasn’t exactly mind-bendingly complicated, but it seemed like the movie version shook up the details along with the timing that information was revealed and just threw the results in the script.

The biggest problem with the film, though, is that the biggest point of the book’s finale, the mountain climb, doesn’t come off as epic as it should. Just like in Cliffhanger, it’s amazing to see humans climb a mountain. That footage will make me nervous any day of the week and looked fantastic as did the entire thing. But, in the book the climb is prefaced by telling us how dangerous it is even if the mountain isn’t overly tall. It then gets crazy as an insane storm rolls in. I understand that that would be difficult to film back then, but it all just seemed kind of fluffy to me. On a similar note, Hemlock doesn’t seem to spend nearly as much time with his team as he should have. We probably could have cut down on the beautiful, but not overly pertinent scenes of him flirting with and eventually bedding a woman named George while training with Ben.

On the other hand, the film does do a better job of keeping the target-related paranoia at a higher level on the mountain than the book. There are two scenes that hint at one of the fellow climbers as being a bad guy, but then they focus on actually surviving.

MORE SPOILERS. The movie version continues its kind of flat presentation by having Ben reveal to Jonathan that he’s the real target on the train ride back from almost dying. In the book he’s in the hospital and figures it out for himself, but in this case it’s kind of a casual conversation that ends without much fanfare or animosity which does make me think that the film features a different version of the Hemlock character that I’m just not as interested in because I’ve seen versions of that guy in this role played by that actor plenty of times before.

The whole time I read the book, I thought it would translate really well to the big screen. Unfortunately, I don’t think Eastwood’s version was the best film based on this source material. Maybe in a few years I’ll give it another look and see if it works on its own, but as an interpretation of Trevanian’s novel, not so much. If you’ve seen the movie without reading the book, drop me a comment and let me know how you liked it. I think I’m still too close to the source material, but maybe my problems were shared by others.

Audiobook Review: Jaws by Peter Benchley, Read by Erik Steele (1974)

jawes audiobookAlfred Hitchcock once said that you shouldn’t make a movie out of a good book. That’s what he supposedly did with The Birds and that worked out pretty well, right? Well, apparently Steven Spielberg did the same thing with Peter Benchley’s Jaws. The book, much like the movie, finds a resort town terrorized by a great white shark. Sheriff Brody, shark scientist Matt Hooper and grizzled fisherman Quint are the only three people willing to go out and put a stop to all this.

I spent most of the day listening to this book while doing work and watching our daughter and have to say, I was pretty bored. Things start off interesting, with Brody trying to figure out how to handle this unusual problem. While, in general, I think the movie is all around better than the book, I will say that the complexities of keeping the beaches open are more deeply explored in the book and make more sense than “the mayor’s a jerk.”

Speaking of the mayor, he’s a far more detailed character in the book, but I’m not sure if that’s such a great thing. The overall problem with the book is that it spends far too much time away from the shark. As you may or may not know, there’s an entire subplot the finds Brody’s wife having an affair with Hooper, whose older brother she dated in high school. There’s a whole dinner party scene and then one where they go to dinner. All of this took about an hour in audiobook form. AN HOUR! Even worse? It didn’t really have much to do with the story other than to make us feel a little better when SPOILER Hooper dies in his shark cage (something Spielberg was supposedly going to keep in the film version, but changed for a bit of a happier ending). At the end of the day, when you’re writing a book about sharks, write about sharks.

I know I shouldn’t be comparing the book to the film as much as I am, but it’s nearly impossible because I’m so familiar with the movie and it’s one of the best films ever made. Still, there are some interesting meta elements that I noticed while listening to the book. First and foremost, the movie kicked off huge interest in sharks that we’re still experiencing today. In a roundabout way, that makes the shark action in the book much easier to picture. In fact, with the ending, I was basically watching a slightly edited version of the film in my head while it was going on.

I don’t think Jaws is necessarily a bad book — it sold like gangbusters when it came out in 1974 — but I do think it’s a less focused version of this story than Spielberg’s. In fact, had the affair subplot been excised or shortened, I would have liked it a lot more. I even enjoyed some of the characters who aren’t in the movie like Hendricks and Meadows, though completely understand why the nicer version of Hooper in the film was able to carry a lot of their weight. At the end of the day, if you’re interested in both the book and the movie, I’d read the book first and then watch the movie, which is the exact opposite thing I would suggest if you’re interested in The Shining.

Finally, I absolutely loved Brody’s line, “I’ll never be as old as I feel today.” I feel like that at least three times a week.

Halloween Scene: The Shining (1980) & Room 237 (2012)

The Shining movie PosterHave you ever had a movie in your life that has built up such legendary status that you almost don’t want to watch it? Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was like that for me, but not always. Back in high school I tried watching it a few times, but kept hitting roadblocks. One time, a bunch of us were watching it in a friend’s basement where we were sleeping over. I think we got to the bathtub scene when a friend started freaking out and demanded we turn it off. I begrudgingly obliged and it wound up being the kind of movie that got swept away.

As I mentioned when reviewing Stephen King’s book, I picked up a DVD copy of the movie last year, but still hadn’t gotten around to watching it until today and you know what? I kind of didn’t like it. Continue reading Halloween Scene: The Shining (1980) & Room 237 (2012)

Digging Double Oh Seven: Casino Royale (2006) & Quantum Of Solace (2008)

After watching Skyfall, I wanted to look back and see what I had to say about Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace. As it turns out, I wrote my reviews back in March of 2011 and never posted them for some reason. I gave the posts a read-through and made a few changes, but I kept it “of its time,” which means I foolishly thought I’d be watching Skyfall in the theaters instead of on Blu-ray a year after it came out. Silly Past TJ!

As I mentioned when I kicked off these Digging Double Oh Seven posts with a review of the novel version of Casino Royale, I didn’t have very fond memories of the 2006 film version because it never seemed to end with scene after scene in the 144 minute movie’s last act that kept seeming like it should be the final one. Bond is saved by a mysterious killer? Good stopping point. Bond’s in love? Good stopping point. Of course, I didn’t know when I first saw the movie that SPOILER the girl he fell for would turn out to be a bad guy and that was as important to the story as the game of Texas Hold Em or the testicular trauma he endures.

All that is a pretty long way around of saying that I really liked Casino Royale the second time around and, in fact, there was only one bit that bugged me, but I’ll get to that. There’s that awesome black and white scene in the beginning where Bond earns his Double Oh status, which I understood a lot more having read the book. Then there’s the sick animated opening credits followed by a bonkers parkour chase scene between Bond and a bomber through an old construction site. Unlike most of the other Bond movies, this one is a lot more physical with Bond being exactly as much of a badass as I’ve always wanted him to be and that counts for a lot. Plus, the action itself feels real. It reminded me of a Thai martial arts flick where everything looks painful and real. A lot of people compare these two new Bond movies to the Bourne flicks which I’m sure is fair. I’m not as familiar with those movies, but one thing I do remember is that the fight scenes are very jump cutty whereas it seems like the camera doesn’t move from Bond very much when he’s throwing down. I love, love, LOVE the part where he’s chasing the bomber and just bursts through a wall.

Story-wise the movie follows along with the book pretty well, adding plenty of new stuff. One of the newer aspects to the franchise is that this film acts as a bit of a reboot. I’m torn on this. On one hand, I’m sad to know that the Bond series I’ve come to know and love is no more. That version of Bond ended with Pierce Brosnon. On the other hand, it makes sense to reboot things and set Bond in a more modern world because dude would be pretty damn old by this point. So, I guess I’m okay with it. Speaking of changes, I also really dug Daniel Craig as Bond. I’m not one to get bent out of shape because he’s blonde. Who cares? He embodies the intensity and physicality of the character to a T. The only problem I have with this new version (no fault of Craig’s) is that he isn’t the suave, lover of fine things that our hero is when he’s first introduced in the book. We can see him grow into that a bit (as well as the theme song and some of the catchphrases, which were nice touches) but I really appreciate that aspect of the character from the books and the pre-Dalton flicks.

This time around, I knew what to expect with the story, so it wasn’t so jarring for me. Even though it’s the longest Bond movie in the series, it didn’t feel like that this time and I’m happy to say that this is one of the few movies my opinion has been switched on. I feel so mature!

Everything I had read or heard about Quantum Of Solace said that it was important to watch Casino Royale right before. Man, were they right. The missus and I watched the movies back-to-back the other night and it was super helpful. Quantum isn’t just the next adventure of James Bond like all of the other flicks in the franchise, it’s a direct continuation of the story. Casino ends with Bond trying to figure out who was pulling his lady’s strings which leads to a manhunt this time around. I’ll just get this out of the way right now: I really liked this movie too.

Craig’s equally as awesome as Bond, even getting a little sophisticated, but still retaining some of his “blunt weaponess” as M called him in the previous movie. The flick has great action set pieces from a sick chase to a run through a burning building. All great, all around. I was also impressed with how very traditional the main villain’s plan was as far as Bond movies go. This guy redirected all the water in Bolivia so that he could then sell it back to the new regime. That’s vintage Bond.

Another aspect of the movie that I appreciate is that it actually does one better than the novel series in my opinion. With the books, Casino Royale ends very much like the movie does (with Bond betrayed and trying to figure out who is after him) which leads him into Live And Let Die. The promise at the end of the book version of Casino states that Bond is driven to find the members of that organization, but by Live he’s hunting down thieves in America and beautiful islands. Quantum takes the premise and really runs with it. I’m not 100% clear on how everything played out (we were working on baby stuff while watching the flick) but I appreciate that the filmmakers actually went after it and got Bond his revenge. Now he can move on. Actually, now that I think about it, it actually makes more sense for a young inexperienced Bond to fall for a woman as opposed to the more experienced version in the book. Well played. I hope Sam Mendes gets his cast together soon because now I’m itching to see a Bond on the big screen again for the first time since Die Another Day (I missed the most recent pair, shamefully).

ARL3: I, Robot The Illustrated Screenplay By Harlan Ellison & Mark Zug

i robot harlan ellison isaac asimov I can’t believe it’s been two and a half years since I read Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot for the first time. After finishing that book and doing some reading, I came to understand that renowned sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison wrote a screenplay that took the pieces of Asimov’s anthology and put them together with more of a through story, but it never got made. Reading a few more lines or paragraphs lead me to the realization that the script was made into a book with concept artwork by Mark Zug. After that I added I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay to my Amazon wish list and was lucky enough to get it for Christmas or my birthday, but it wound up taking quite a while for me to get around to it. I’m glad I added it to my third Ambitious Reading List because it got me to focus on this book that wound up being both a great story in and of itself, and a good introduction to Ellison (an author whose work I’m almost wholly unfamiliar with) and showed me how intricate and precise a screenplay can be.

Right away, I’ve got to say that this is not the easiest book to read. It’s in screenplay format which might be confusing if you’ve never read anything along those lines, but it’s also an incredibly dense screenplay packed with all kinds of jargon, some of which even I didn’t understand and I took a screenwriting class in college (though am in no way an expert). Also, since this is a futuristic story packed with all kinds of technology, you’re dealing with a lot of descriptions for ideas that might be hard to grasp at first. I found myself re-reading some  of the descriptions several times to get a good idea of what was going on. In those cases it helps to have Zug’s full color art in the center of the book and some of his sketches throughout the regular text.

Ellison’s tale revolves around Bratenahl, a reporter who finds himself driven by the idea of interviewing Dr. Susan Calvin, a robopsychologist whose work helped usher in the robot revolution that advanced humanity throughout the cosmos. At first he’s just covering a funeral and encounters the mysterious woman who most people would describe as cold and ultra-scientific, but he sees something else there. Encouraged by his editor to keep digging, Bratenahl winds up becoming obsessed with his quarry and her hidden story. That drive leads him to various locations all over the galaxy — teleportation is common place — which brings him in contact with people who tell him tales of Calvin, those stories are all found in Asimov’s book. The screenplay incorporates “Robbie,” “Runaround,” “Liar!” and “Evidence” as well as elements from the other tales.

I’m glad that I took a few years between reading the source material and digging into this adaptation because it was still able to surprise me. As I got into the first flashback sequence, some of the synapses in my memory started firing and I could remember little bits and pieces of what was possibly coming, but not everything altogether. I also kept remembering elements from the other stories and wondering if they would pop up, which added another layer of mystery and wonder to the proceedings.

arl3

Screenwriting is a form of writing that I’ve always been interested in and a format that I thought I knew pretty well before seeing how freaking amazing Ellison is at it. I’ve read things like Kevin Smith’s scripts as well as Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Christopher McQuarrie’s original The Usual Suspects screenplays and while those use the format to convey the story, the way that Ellison so completely understands the form and how to move the camera is just mind-blowing. So if you’re interested in seeing how well executed a screenplay can be while also getting in on a piece of sci-fi goodness that really needs to get made — I picture it as an animated movie, someone start a Kickstarter! — give I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay a look.

As far as the ARL3 goes, I’ve got to admit, I was struggling there for a while. Even with branching out to read Al Capp and The Totally Sweet 90s, it’s taken me a pathetic seven months to get through three books and realize that Elmore Leonard’s Riding The Rap just isn’t for me (at least right now). I’ve even started working on my next pile which has a few more books that I’m really interested in reading, but finishing the I, Robot screenplay has inspired me to stick with this one and see how things go. I’ve already moved on to Hunger Games which I’m about 60 pages deep into. It’s a pretty quick and easy read so hopefully I can keep that momentum going.

Casting Internets

My ridiculously talented friends over at Marvel.com made this awesome video starring Howard The Duck demanding Lucasfilm celebrate the film’s anniversary. As a longtime fan of the movie, I wholeheartedly agree.

Speaking of Marvel and Howard, Marvel.com ran this interview with the movie’s star Lea Thompson and it was pretty interesting. I dig her for sticking up for Howard…and also for Caroline in the City. Another ridiculously talented friend took there rad photos of the Expendables MiniMates out in the wild for the Art Asylum blog. I absolutely must get my hands on these figures.

I really, really, really want The Perks Of Being A Wallflower movie to be good. Please be good. I’m not sure what to think of this trailer I saw on THR though. Gotta read the book again.

I don’t live in the city, but I do hear a lot of the news living fairly close. The most recent infuriating bit of nonsense to come out of there is Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to limit the size of soda people can buy. Seriously? This is the biggest problem in the city at the moment? It’s not the government’s job to keep people skinny, so cut it out commie. This Economist piece paints it in a different view: the mayor doesn’t think poor people can handle making the decision to drink less soda on their own and need the government’s help. Bleh.

The Detroit News talked to Colbie Smulders, Joss Whedon and Sam Jackson about her role in The Avengers. Interesting stuff, especially what she did to train for the film on her own.

Jared Harris talked to THR about last week’s episode of Mad Men. I only read a few sites about the show, but have there been any “Down Memory Lane” posts? There should be.

Jeez, Anthony Bourdain is not slowing down. In addition to getting a book turned into a movie and moving from Travel Channel to CNN, he’ll also be judging a food competition show on ABC. Dude’s gonna be busy. (via Eater)

I love reading about cocktails, so this Esquire piece about the cocktails of summer definitely had me interested. I’m particularly excited to try that Scotch Whiskey Punch. That’s on my summer to-try list. There’s a new James Bond book called James Bond Unmasked with new interviews with all six Bonds. It will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine.

I am a gigantic fan of Fox’s New Girl, especially the ultra douche, but really a nice guy on the inside character of Schmidt played by Max Greenfield. As such, I enjoyed this LA Times interview with him.

I got a big kick out of watching The Totally Rad Show’s Alex Albrecht interviewing Snoop Dogg about the new Tekken for G4. Finally, this MC Escher Lego Star Wars diorama seen on io9 is just too damn cool.

Kevin Smith Trade Post: Green Hornet Volume One & Two

Kevin Smith Green Hornet: Sins Of The Father Volume One (Dynamite)
Written by Kevin Smith & Phil Hester, drawn by Jonathan Lau
Collects Green Hornet #1-5

Here’s the deal with Kevin Smith’s Green Hornet. Years ago, he wrote a screenplay for a new Green Hornet film. To my knowledge, as soon as the Seth Rogen film went into production, deals were made to adapt Smith’s screenplay into a comic book for Dynamite, who also created a few other Hornet books around this time and spun even more out from this. From what I’ve heard on Smith’s podcasts (can’t remember which one), Phil Hester broke things down and would then send the scripts to Smith who would look them over and make some changes. I believe he’s doing the same type of thing with Six Million Dollar Man, also at Dynamite.

I’ve been curious about the results of this somewhat unique collaboration, especially after finally watching the Rogen film and liking it. It’s interesting that the story is somewhat similar with original Hornet Britt Reid’s son taking over for his dad after living a life of leisure with a new, younger Kato. In this case, the new Kato is the daughter of the original Kato who is himself still around. In this world, Green Hornet and Kato  basically cleaned up Century City and retired. That’s a pretty interesting concept, especially when you mentally compare this concept to another familiar one about a rich dude and his pal running around fighting crime that Smith has also written in comic book form.

It’s your basic “becoming a hero to live up to your father” story and there really aren’t that many twists and turns as the story progresses even with that interesting “we beat crime” starting point. The bad guy, who goes by Black Hornet, also turns out to be an angry young man with father issues. There was absolutely not attempt to mask the villain’s identity as we’re only introduced to one character who even could be the bad guy.

Kevin Smith Green Hornet: Wearing O’ The Green Volume Two (Dynamite)
Written by Kevin Smith & Phil Hester, drawn by Jonathan Lau
Collects Green Hornet #6-10

I think I liked the second volume better because it’s got more action and the story moves along at a better clip, so you don’t really notice that you’re reading a story you’ve read before. There’s also a really fun elements where the bad guy ties Kato and the Hornet to the giant type writer on top of Reid’s newspaper building. I love a good death trap and I felt like this one was earned as you see the typewriter throughout the entire thing and then the gun gets fired towards the end. Good stuff.

While reading this story, I kept thinking of how this would have worked as a movie and, I’ll admit, it’s one I would have liked to see. But, it clearly does something that a film couldn’t: keep Bruce Lee as a character. Lee played Kato in the TV series before becoming the biggest action star in the world and then suddenly passing away. Obviously, this would have been difficult to work into the film and I even wonder if this was a changed element from the original script in changing it to a comic. So, yes, it’s a script turned into a movie, but it’s a comic book story that could not happen in the same way on screen. It’s not the actual Bruce Lee of course, but it’s a drawing of Lee as Kato in the beginning and then him as an older guy in the later issues. You could have replaced him with a different actor in flashback scenes of course, but I still like it because it’s Lee in a strange way.

Which brings me to another complaint I had about the book: the dialog. There were actually two aspects of the words that got on my nerves a bit. First off, a TON of Bruce Lee’s dialog from Enter The Dragon was lifted wholesale and dropped in this book. I get that you’re making the connection between Kato and the legendary figure Lee became thanks to his philosophy — and maybe it’s because I literally watched ETD two days before reading the book — but it just came off kind of weak to me. The other aspect of the dialog that bugged me a bit was how Smithian it is. I know this is something that a lot of people dislike about Smith’s writing, many times the characters sound exactly like Smith talks. Seeing as how I’m a big fan of his and listen to several of his podcasts, I’ve become probably overly familiar with the way he speaks. Every time young Reid adds “bitch” at the end of a sentence, it just sounds like Smith talking to me. I get that he’s a socialite and probably speaks flippantly, but I really had a hard time divorcing the writer’s voice from that of the character, which took me out of the story.

I kind of hate to come off so negative with this review, but I like to frame it in my mind by thinking that this is basically a huge budget action flick that does not concern itself with the reality of actor availability or budget. With that in mind, I enjoy it as a fun romp, the kind of thing you’d stop and watch while flipping channels on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t think that’s enough to keep these two books in my collection, but I am glad I picked them up on the cheap at the hotel ballroom comic convention near my house last weekend. Reading this also makes me want to check out the original TV series and the Matt Wagner Year One series. I forgot from watching the Rogen film that the concept is actually different from Batman because the Hornet poses as a mobster himself muscling out the other guys for territory. That’s a rad idea and I’d be curious to see how other people handle this. The fact that one is from the same people who did Batman and stars Bruce Lee and the other is written by the guy who wrote the amazing Mage series’, also helps.

Bad Ass Double Feature: Mr. Majestyk (1974) & Magnum Force (1973)

When I discovered Mr. Majestyk existed, it kind of blew my mind. I read the Elmore Leonard book of the same name years ago and am always down to check out his film adaptations. Then, it turned out that the film starred the amazingly awesome Charles Bronson. Boom. Done. Get me that movie.

Unlike About A Boy — which I finished reading and then watched the film version of within a few weeks — it had been a pretty substantial amount of time between reading the book and seeing the movie. The plot of the book did start coming back to me as I watched the film, which makes sense because Leonard also wrote the screenplay. Basically, Bronson plays Mr. Majestyk a watermelon farmer who uses migrant workers to tend his fields. Some petty gangster tries to muscle in his own workers and Majestyk kicks his ass. That guy presses charges and Majestyk gets locked up with a big time mobster. While being transported somewhere the mobster’s boys try to bust them out, but Majestyk and the mobster are handcuffed and Majestyk drives them away and they hide out. After a somewhat complicated first act, it becomes a simple revenge plot with the obsessed mobster going after Bronson and his farm. They even shoot watermelons.

On one hand, the story is kind of fun and interesting, but on the other, this is essentially like every other Charles Bronson movie ever made. Jerks mess with the old guy thinking he can’t defend himself, then he exacts his revenge. The details pad out the story and either raise or lower the creepiness factor (there’s pretty much none here, but it’s high in something like Deathwish 2). So, yes, I liked this movie very much. If you like movies where dudes take justice into their own hands, then you’ll dig it too.

After checking out Majestyk, which I got through traditional Netflix, I then watched Enter The Dragon from my own collection and then capped off my badass 70s marathon with the second (and longest) Dirty Harry movie Magnum Force. In this one, it appears as though a cop is killing bad guys the system lets slip through the cracks. SPOILER, it turns out that it’s actually a quartet of young motorcycle cops, two of which were played by Tim Matheson and Robert Urich.

The idea in this flick is that Clint Eastwood wanted to make it clear that Harry isn’t actually a vigilante, but does have problems with the system. These guys completely ignore the law and take matters into their own hands. It’s an interesting idea to tackle and holds up when you think about the first film, where he bends the rules, but doesn’t completely break them (all).

Anyway, I’m a Dirty Harry fan, so I dug this movie. Eastwood absolutely kills in pretty much everything I’ve seen him do in the 70s. This one’s a little longer than it needs to be, but like I said, I had a good time. I’m curious to go back and watch all of the Dirty Harry movies (I’ve got the first four in my collection missing only the last one) and see how they hold up. I’m sure my nostalgia for the property will bolster any negative aspects I notice, but them’s the breaks when watching something you started to dig when you were a kid. My dad showed me these movies when I was younger and we’d rent them or watch them on TV together fairly often.

Book Vs. Movie: About A Boy

I knew about the film version of About A Boy from 2002 well before I realized it was a book by Nick Hornby. I wasn’t particularly interested because I was in college, didn’t really like Hugh Grant and probably had no interest in a strange drama between a grown man and a young boy.

But, since I just read the book, I felt it was as good a time as any to check the film version out and see how it stacks up. I kind of wish I had seen the movie first. I had already pictured Hugh Grant as Will the older guy who looks at life in as emotionless a way as possible being thrown into an incredibly emotional situation with emotional people because he was on the cover of the version I read, but more so because of what was changed from page to screen. I understand that certain scenes need to be done away with, plots need to be simplified and some scenes need to be crammed together, but the end of this flick took a kind of turn out of left field that I wasn’t expecting. Worse for me was that it turned it into your standard romantic comedy and I just do not like that.

But, before that, I thought it was spot on. The casting seemed great with Grant nailing his part and the boy doing a pretty good job as Marcus, though I don’t think he perfectly captured the weirdness of the character in the book. On the other hand, I think actually seeing someone as weird as the book version on screen might have actually been a little off putting. He’s kind of like a kid version of Temperance Brennan from Bones, but that’s not a good look for a kid in a flick. I also thought the casting of Toni Collette as Fiona and Rachel Weisz as Rachel was spot on perfect, though the costuming department went a little overboard with Fiona’s wardrobe in my opinion. Not a lot of subtlety there.

I was definitely a little disappointed with Ellie’s truncated role in the film, though. It’s so rushed and handled in such a silly manner that I almost wish that part wasn’t even in the film, especially with the ridiculous way the film went in the end (I’ll get there). Instead of being both the person who makes Marcus feel a little bit more normal (or more accurately accepted and less hated) and also the person who shows him that certain personality traits, while seemingly great, don’t always work in the real world, Ellie just looks angry and gets other people to like Marcus by default. I know that’s a nicer way to go with the story (other kids seem to respect him just because he hangs with her, she’s no longer the dangerous freak of the book which is a little disappointing).

But here’s the real problem with the film: they completely botch the ending. Instead of Marcus and Ellie going on a disastrous train ride the results in everyone’s parents and Will in the same room arguing about things, Marcus decides that singing in the school’s talent show will make his mom feel better. That’s such a foolish, childish notion and completely disregards the hard truths of adulthood and the real world that the Marcus of the book learned throughout his journey. Book Marcus would have laughed at the idea of singing in a talent show doing anything for his mum, but this one who has learned nothing from Will apparently about flying below the radar decides to get up on stage and sing “Killing Me Softly.”

For his part, Will’s journey is essentially the same in the book as in the film, but instead of the amazing conversation where he tells Rachel he was lying to her to keep her interested in which she admits she would have stopped talking to him had he not let her infer that he had a son and moving on from there, they break up and he winds up winning her back by showing up at the talent show and playing guitar for Marcus while he bombs on stage during “Killing Me Softly.” It just felt so tacked on and weird and too much like another British film I love, Love, Actually.

It’s interesting because the film version of High Fidelity has an added-on ending element in the form of Rob finding and producing the band, but that all still fits in with the themes and elements already inherent in the story. I feel like the changes made to make About A Boy into a movie undercut some of those from the book and that’s disappointing because I liked the novel so darn much and I’d like to think that audiences could have handled a more honest story.

Digging Double Oh Seven: Live And Let Die By Ian Fleming (1954)

In James Bond’s second ever adventure, after his first in Casino Royale, author Ian Fleming sent him on a mission to find out how a black gangster dubbed Mr. Big with operations in Harlem, Florida and Jamaica had gotten his hands on actual pirate treasure and how it may or may not be aiding the Soviets. Bond gets sent to New York City where he and Felix Leiter team up to check out Mr. Big’s neighborhood which just so happened to be in Harlem. The not so dynamic duo get captured thanks to a trick table that actually sinks into the floor where Bond gets to meet Big and his supposedly future-seeing girl Solitaire for the first time. Bond gets away, but causes some trouble so he’s scheduled to head south via train the next day when a certain someone from Big’s camp calls him up and asks for his help. There’s some train adventures and then we’re in Florida where some bad stuff happens to Leiter and then Jamaica where Bond trains before doing a SCUBA routine to Mr. Big’s island where the treasure is hidden.

The book picks up a few months after the events of Casino Royale, so I was a little surprised that Bond was so quick to let Solitaire into his life, giving her his train information and getting genuinely upset when she got captured in Florida. Didn’t this dude learn anything from that broad in the previous book who turned out to be a secret agent? Well, as it turned out, his instincts were right this time around, but I really did expect her flip to turn out to be part of Big’s plan (he is a man who had a gun built into a desk to shoot people he’s interrogating afterall).

I thought Mr. Big was a very interesting villain for Bond to go up against. Like Bond, he’s been trained in the art of war and subterfuge (though by the Soviets), but instead of working for someone else, Big has taken his skills and built an empire based on the fear of superstitious folks. Now, I question how much people in Harlem would have really worried about Voodoo, but I really don’t know. It sounds a little flimsy, but I’m not history student. Anyway, hiding gold coins in the tanks of rare fish that were being legally exported from Jamaica to Florida and then distributed through the country is a pretty smart plan. I like how he’s gotten to the point as a criminal mastermind where he has no real worries so he releases enemies just to see what happens because he doesn’t think Bond’s a real threat. It’s not until his empire is falling apart thanks to Bond’s actions that he really starts to worry. That’s when he gets sloppy and Bond’s plan works.

Once again, I was surprised with how intense some of the scenes in the book were. The amount of people getting eaten by sharks and barracudas is pretty crazy. Fleming doesn’t necessarily zoom in on the gory details, but his writing still clearly paints a picture of what’s going on and my mind has no problem taking over the rest and making me cringe sometimes. Worse than that, though is the description of Tee Hee Johnson (who doesn’t sport a claw hand like he does in the movie version) breaking Bond’s finger. He has a rough time of it this time around, that guy.

Speaking of the movie, it was interesting having just watched this movie version, but also being a fan of the Bond films because there’s one big scene in this book that wound up in another movie, so I wound up visualizing a few things as the appeared in the actual movie adaptation (which doesn’t hold very true to the book for whatever it’s worth) and then the fish warehouse shoot out which was used in License To Kill.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, though it felt like it might have gotten a little muddled for me. At the end of Casino Royale, Bond vowed to go after members of SMERSH, the Soviet spy killers, which Mr. Big was supposedly in cahoots, but that wound up not being a very important part of the story. I remember Bond asking Solitaire at one point about Russians, but it didn’t seem to go much further than that. I guess after having your friend half eaten by a shark and the girl you wanted to bonk kidnapped, it became personal on a different level, but it’s also possible I just missed something. Sorry for getting this up a day late, by the way, last night I decided to dedicate my time to finishing the story instead of trying to cram in another movie before midnight. I wound up falling asleep before finishing, but just by a few days. Up next is From Russia With Love.