Book vs. Movie: The Girl On The Train

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I’d like to say that I went into this with a fresh unbiased perception, but the idea to even read the book and watch the movie was because of what I’d heard about them. While I’d only heard good things about the book, the movie was often criticized. It’s pretty common for readers to dislike and slam movie adaptations. In some cases the criticism is well deserved but many times it’s simply because of deviations from the source material. There’s also the simple truth that it’s pretty much impossible to encompass a novel into a feature length film.

In this case I think the biggest problem is that the story isn’t as exciting or interesting if you already know the ending. The book was suspenseful because it centered around a murder mystery. Personally, I loved the book. It’s a little bit of a slow start but once I got started I finished it in a matter of days. It was structured perfectly to build up to the climax. The changing point of view and back and forth through the timeline helped build the suspense.  The reader is kept in anticipation, while slowly unraveling the chain of events that led to Megan’s murder. It’s told at an excellent pace, revealing just enough to keep you interested while still leading to unexpected twists.

As for the movie, after reading the book the whole mystery aspect is lost making it harder to capture my attention and the suspense of the story. However, I do think the movie could have been better. It didn’t really maximize on the suspense aspect of the story. In the opening scene we already know most of the details of Rachel’s past. In the movie the story seems to go too fast. I also think the structure of the story didn’t translate well on the screen. The nonlinear structure and changes in point of view worked well in the book, it lent to the mystery, dropping clues here and there. In the movie it just didn’t have the same effect. I think one of the biggest problems came at the climax of the story. In the movie it was very abrupt and I didn’t see as much of the foreshadowing we got in the book. I suspect if hadn’t read the book first I might have enjoyed the movie a bit more. Attempting to put my bias aside, I still have to say that the movie could have been better.

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Dark Tower Movie Review

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The Dark Tower movie has taken a lot of criticism, even before the movie came out. Many fans didn’t understand or want to accept that the movie would not be an adaptation of the books. In fact, the movie is rather an extension of the story, similar to the comic books. They build upon and extend the world and characters created in the book series. While the comics have taken us back into Roland’s past, the movie is moving it forward. I can admit the movie could have been better, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the worst reviews would have you think. Many of those bad reviews are too heavily comparing it to the books. It seems many expected it to be an epic fantasy but instead it was more action oriented. Shedding those expectations and taking for what it was, it was pretty good.  It wasn’t great but there were some things I really liked about it.

We’ll start with casting, Idris Alba was a great choice for the gunslinger. He’s not what fans pictured physically but he totally embodies the persona of the gunslinger. He easily gives off the stone faced, tough-as-nails seriousness of Roland. He also has his moments of very deadpan humor. While he’s the hero of the story, you’re still not sure whether he’s really a good guy. Then there’s Matthew McConaughey’s sleazy Man In Black/Walter. It works for the character, he’s evil in a very nonchalant way. He casually kills people as if dismissing them by telling them to stop breathing. He also appears to enjoy taunting Roland. I loved when he projected himself to Roland in the gunshop. I was happy to see the infamous Black 13 and the other Wizards Rainbow pieces appear in the movie. It was one of several references to the book that only fans would catch or know the significance.

There was also the horn in Roland’s bag, visible in a few different scenes. A indicator that this must be Roland’s next go round after the series ended. The books left off with him starting the journey to the Tower, this time with the horn he’d previously left behind. There was also the repeating of the number 19. I like the way they depicted the abandoned portal/doorway terminal when they were in Midworld. The portholes were nice, a cool way to depict the science fiction technology. The Dixie Pig was much different than the book, but it was pretty awesome. Instead of just a restaurant with the tunnels underneath, it’s was like a gauntlet spiraling down to the tunnels. It makes it look more dangerous and grittier. I was glad to see Sayre make an appearance in the movie. I’d have liked to know who some of the other bad guys doing Walter’s bidding were supposed to be. The effect on some of the lowmen/can-toi was pretty cool; the slit in the neck, extra space around the eyes and the sagging cheeks on some was sick looking. They also include hints at larger aspects from the book if you paid attention. Lastly, I’m sure you’ve already read about the nods to Kings other work.

There were also some significant changes to the story. We saw more of Jake’s parents, especially his mother who was almost nonexistent in the books. I like Katheryn Winnick, she’s great in the small screen time she has. I though it was interesting that switched up some of the details of his home life before crossing worlds. It worked okay and was totally plausible in the Dark Tower world. in the realm of possibilities for the Dark Tower’s logic. They also twisted the story of Walter’s attack on the Tower. In the book the psychics attack the beams, in a process that’s enjoyable and pleasurable, while living on an idealistic campus. In the movie, they live in the shadow of a dark ominous building where kids are strapped into a machine to directly attack the Tower with their psychic power. A process that appears tortuous. It makes the story a whole lot darker.

As I said this was more of an action movie than anything else. It was short and the pace was incredibly rushed. There wasn’t much character development and it rushed through events without much story. We meet Roland and Jake, get a few flashes of their past, but never get enough to really care about them. We know Roland lost a battle and Walter killed his father. But, what happened? When was this battle, where, for what exactly? Did Walter command an army or did he kill them all himself? What about his world, what happened to it? He delivers the famous line, the world has moved on, but nothing else. Same for Jake, we are left with so many questions. They show us the news clipping about his father’s death, but never followup. An additional thirty minutes or so to flesh out their stories and see them bond could have made a dramatic difference. I think a great way would have been to include a scene of them by the fire one night telling each other just how they ended up where they are. It’s a familiar scene from the books, especially when character’s stories first intersect. That’s the other thing the movie is missing, the Dark Tower series is one huge story told in a lot of smaller stories. The theme of stories within stories comes up throughout the series. Most often characters share their story while sitting by the fire at night. It would have easily given viewers more story and included a common element from the books.

Overall, I didn’t think it was a terrible movie. I wasn’t expecting it to live up to the books. I went in with an open mind and wanted to judge it as a stand alone movie. It was entertaining and I was happy to see how they included references to the larger story. I could see it was close to being a really good movie but just lacked enough story. I’m sure most fans will not be happy and those unfamiliar with the series won’t care about the characters. But it’s got some pretty good action scenes and was fun to watch.

 

 

 

The Tower’s Coming

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I’m pretty excited about The Dark Tower movie. I realize it’s not an adaptation of the books, that would pretty much be impossible. Unlike most people I’m saving my criticism until after I see the movie. But judging from the trailer, released this past week, it looks pretty good. It’s been over a decade since the final book of the series was published and more years than I’d rather say since I read the first book. Needless to say my memory of the story was a little fuzzy. So I thought it’d be fun to reread the entire series before seeing the movie.  In addition, I was basically a kid when I first read it. (Seriously, I started reading adult books at an early age, and Stephen King’s were among the first.) I thought it would be a different experience reading it as an adult, and also back to back. While the first three were already published when I started and the fourth came out about a year later, I still had to endure the tortuously long wait for the last three.

I wasn’t much surprised by the first book. While I may have forgotten details, I knew most of the basic plot. The biggest difference this time around was the “Hey Jude” reference. I only had a vague idea of the song when I was a kid. This time around I could not get it out of my head. Moving on to the later books, I was surprised by how much of the story I didn’t remember. I really can’t believe how much of the books I forgot, like the cliffhanger with Blaine, the entire Susan Delgado story line, main character deaths, and the actual ending to the entire series.

While my memory of reading it the first time was fuzzy I do think reading it all back to back was a very different experience. For one I really was so immersed in the world of the books I had moments where I caught myself thinking in Mid-World speak. I was also able to catch a lot more of the minor connections. I likely didn’t catch the references to other stories he wrote because I hadn’t actually read them yet. But the time between books in the series kept me from catching connections within the story. I’m sure there’s lots of things I missed the first time around. Some were minor and I’m already having trouble remembering them. One that stayed with me was the changes in the way time moved in Mid-World. I realized the changes reflect the character Stephen King’s progress writing. The first few books were written over a span of many years, that’s when time in Mid-World had slowed down. Later in the series time speeds up. Those books were all published much closer together and the journal entries of King’s character discusses the freakish speed of his writing pace for at least one of these later novels.

The last thing that struck me in a different way was King inserting himself into the story. When I first read it, I thought it was very strange and kind of narcissistic. But also it seemed almost like he just ran out of other ideas. I realized now that it really couldn’t have gone any other way. In fact, I started thinking that it was set up from the beginning to go that way. I felt like through out the books there were hints that the characters and worlds were a creation of someone’s mind. For example, Eddie Dean’s Co-Op city being in Brooklyn. (Another detail I didn’t catch as a kid, this time around I kept thinking that couldn’t be right.) The books specifically point out he’s not actually their creator or Gan itself, simply writing the story he hears in the song. But it is possible that because he writes them they exist, a power similar to Patrick’s, instead of drawing things into existence he writes them.

I’d love to hear what you other Stephen King and Dark Tower fans think. Comment to let me know if you’re looking forward to the movie, when you last read the books or any other thoughts you have.

 

 

Paranormal Activity

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After all the hype around this movie I figured it might be worth it to give it a chance. As I watched the movie a majority of the time I was actually quite bored. If it had been real I would have thought that it was kind of interesting and maybe worth watching. But knowing that it’s not real, it was just boring and not that great a movie.

The only reason this movie has only gotten the amount of attention it has because of all the mystery behind it. The fact that the trailer shows only two seconds of actual movie footage just goes to show that there isn’t really anything in the movie worth watching. I will admit it was suspensful and had one or two jump worthy moments, but they couldn’t save this disappointing movie.