Sources tell me that the newest adaptation of Pride and Prejudice opens in theatres tomorrow. As P&P is one of my favourite novels, this would be exciting news... except that I'm a parent, which means I HAVE NO LIFE AND WILL NEVER GO OUT, MUCH LESS SEE AN ENTIRE FEATURE-LENGTH FILM, EVER AGAIN.
Ahem. Let me begin again.
Book-to-movie transitions get a tough rap. I know I sure wouldn't want to be the person responsible for taking some book nerd's beloved classic and making it into a film. Can you imagine the geek carnage if Peter Jackson had fucked up The Lord of the Rings? Can you IMAGINE? My own initial expectations (low) of the first LotR movie, and my own reaction (shocked) when it ended up being really, really good (unless you're Glark, in which case we must pity him for he is surely dead inside) are an indicator of one thing: when it comes to movie adaptations, most of us pretty much expect them to suck. For every Lord of the Rings, there are a hundred The Cat in the Hats waiting to make our jaws drop in amazement (not the good kind).
But forget about all that for now. Let's stop and take a moment to celebrate those rare occasions when those greedy Hollywood bastards didn't royally screw up.
This is another of my favourite books, and I am one tough bitch to please when my favourite books are movie-fied. And this tough bitch was pleased. Those Merchant-Ivory dudes know their way around a period movie, but really what makes this movie work is that it feels surprisingly contemporary. I've always thought that Howard's End is a timeless story, and in the wrong hands it could have been misinterpreted and made into a stuffy period piece. (Also, Emma Thompson is my secret celebrity girlfriend. Well, one of them.)
Now, I haven't actually read the book, but if I want my man to keep giving me the sugar, I have to include Jaws on this list, since it's one of his favourite movies. So here it is. For the record, it's pretty scary. I think this Spielberg fellow is going to go places.
This is one of the horror novels I used to torture myself with when I was a kid. On the up side, it made growing up without a dad a lot more palatable. Who needs one of those croquet-mallet-wielding psychos prowling around the house causing trouble? Not me! Jack Nicholson is so perfectly perfect in this role, the scene in which -- already visibly losing it -- he sits Danny on his lap for some dad-and-son time makes me want to yell at the screen, "Jesus Christ, kid! Get the hell off his lap!" And Shelley Duvall turns in an awesome performance as Nicholson's on-screen wife, who is so subtly annoying you can kind of sympathize with him for going a little bananas.
Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
I'm talking about the first adaptation, starring Gene Wilder, not the new Johnny Depp version (see my comments above re: not having a life and never seeing a new release again). As in The Shining, big performances and big personalities are what make this movie work. Wilder rules every scene as the high-energy yet weirdly menacing Willy Wonka. And while I usually cringe at child actors, even they -- especially the kid who plays Veruca Salt -- turn in some solid work.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
I know a lot of people hate this book, and by extension the movie, but I have to tell you I find both pretty entertaining. Come on. An ether-fuelled romp through '70s-era Vegas? What's not to love? My biggest problem with this book/movie is that I wasn't there. I thought Johnny Depp did a good job as Hunter S. Thompson, and I thought Benicio del Toro did a brilliant job of fleshing out the attorney, a character I found vague and sketchy in the book. As book-to-movie adaptations go, this one is pretty faithful, even down to the fact that the movie gets bogged down at the midway point, just like the book.
Hey, I've already admitted to liking Fear and Loathing. I may as well make a clean breast of it. I love this movie. And I'm a huge Jane Austen nut. Amy Heckerling's screenplay is genius. As adaptations of Emma go, this is the best I've seen. (Gwyneth Paltrow's passable -- yet strangely forgettable -- take on the role was just kind of meh.) Alicia Silverstone has a lot of explaining to do for her subsequent career choices, but she can still cruise a few more miles on the cred she earned playing privileged Beverly Hills princess Cher.