5 Films That Are Better Than the Books They Are Based On

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Every time Hollywood studios turn popular books into films, most fans of the books will always coin the term “The book is better”. I’m quite sure fans of The Hobbit and Jack Reacher books are already saying that. Most of the time they’re right, as an avid reader myself, I used that term many times after I saw a film based on a book that I read and liked. I believe some books just aren’t meant for the big screen, for example Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was an excellent novel but the film version was average at best. I think the story just fit better in the written form and just didn’t transfer well onto the big screen. Then there are Stephen King’s epic The Dark Tower books which Ron Howard is still trying to get off the ground. I’m a huge fan of the books but I just don’t know if it will translate well into films.

Once in a while though, Hollywood actually made films that ended up being better than its original source. Below are the films I thought were better than the book version.

 

5. The Hunt For Red October

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This film was based on Tom Clancy’s popular book was one of the biggest hits of 1990. I have to confess that I saw the film version first before reading the novel, but usually I ended up loving the book more. But for this one I firmly believe the film version is superior. To me the book has too much going on with introduction to so many characters while the film only focuses on the hunt for the submarine, Red October. Also, with the excellent performances by Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, Scott Glenn, Sam Neil and James Earl Jones and a tight direction by John McTiernan, it’s a great thriller.

4. Misery

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Stephen King was one of my favorite writers growing up, I think I’ve read most of his novels, even the bad ones. So when it was announced that the film version of Misery was coming out, I decided to read the book before seeing the film. I thought it’s an excellent novel but I had second thought about seeing the film version. If you read the book then you know how gruesome it was. To my surprise when I finally saw the film, most of the gruesome stuff was never shown and I think that made the film much better than the book. Kathy Bates was perfectly cast as the crazy Annie and James Caan was excellent as the helpless Paul Sheldon. Rob Reiner decided to turn it into a psychological thriller instead of horror worked perfectly in my opinion. Yes he showed us the infamous leg smashing scene but in the book, Annie chopped off one of Paul’s legs with an axe, so yeah I did not want to see that on the screen.

3. Children of Men

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Based on P.D. James’ 1992 novel The Children of Men, director Alfonso Cuarón did a wonderful job of capturing what James wrote on the pages and also injected his own interpretation to the story. The book start out kind of slow but once the plot kicked in, it’s very similar to the film version. Of course the film cut out a few things from the book, for example in the book, all young people was viewed as celebrities because of their youth and that old people were forced into committing suicide. I was hoping to see that get a mention in the film. But the main reason I thought the film version was better is because it didn’t have a clichéd Hollywood ending, while the book’s ending has this sort of high noon standoff shootout that I didn’t think fit the story whatsoever. I’m glad Cuaron changed it and made it into sort of open to interpretation as to what’s going to happen to that society.

2. No Country for Old Men

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I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy and I’ve never thought that anyone could ever turn one of his books into a great film, let alone made it better than his written words. But that’s what happened here. The Coen Brothers’ film version is to me a near masterpiece, they were able to translate McCarthy’s beautiful written words into an almost flawless motion picture. The casting of Tommy Lee Jones as the old man who can’t seem to grasp the ever-changing violence in modern day society is pitch perfect. Then of course the performance by Javier Bardem as the unstoppable killer Anton Chigurh was pretty incredible. I can watch that scene where he picked on the clerk at a gas station over and over again. I went back and read the book again after seeing the film and I still believe the film’s better.

1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? a.k.a Blade Runner

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I’ve read a lot of Phillip K. Dick’s work and this book may have been his most straightforward story. In the film, Ridley Scott was able to expand some of the concepts in Dick’s book and made them even better in my opinion. I think one of the main reasons why I prefer the film version is because the book has too much religious theme for my liking. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; just that I’m not a religious person. Also, in the book the Replicants or robots that Deckard was hunting for didn’t have a personality, while in the film they acted and talked like humans. But the main reason why I prefer the film is because I believe it has a deeper meaning than the book. What I got out of the film was that we as human takes life for granted while these Replicants would do anything, including murder, to live longer. The tears in rain speech Roy gave to Deckard near the end sums up nicely of why he saved Deckard’s life, a beautiful scene.

[rtm note: Check out my related Blade Runner musings… What Does It Mean to Be Humans?
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– Post by Ted S.
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So those are some films I thought were better than their original source, do you have other films you’d like to add to the list? 

Random Question: What movies you wish would get a theatrical re-release?

Hello everyone! Welcome to another collaborative post with my lovely friend Paula G! This time we each came up with five movies we wish we could see on the big screen (either a repeat viewing or for the first time).

Seems like almost every other week nowadays we hear news of previously-released films being shown again on the big screen for one reason or another. Of course Hollywood is all feverish now with the 3D hype so every darn thing is getting the 3D treatment that serves no purpose whatsoever! There’ve been reports that Star Wars, Titanic and The Lion King are all being converted to 3D for a re-release in the near future… apparently both George Lucas and James Cameron are running out of hundred-dollar bills to swim in.

Now, I do think some films are meant to be seen in its big screen glory and obviously there are many we missed out on, either because they’re out before we were born or we simply didn’t get a chance to see ’em during their theatrical run. I’m fine with digital remastering, just save the unnecessary 3D please, thank you very much!

So without further ado, here are our picks starting with …

Paula’s List:

1. Lawrence of Arabia  (1962)
I just saw David Lean’s Bridge On The River Kwai on a big screen here and I noticed a lot of things I’d missed when watching it on TV, so it’s only logical to choose Lawrence of Arabia, with its desert panoramas and perfect compositions. It’s stunning on a small screen and probably only more so when seen at its proper size.

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2. Black Narcissus (1947)
One of my favorite films ever, by my favorite directing duo Powell & Pressburger. The radiant colors and intricate settings would look even better larger, and the denouement would be even more tragic. Possibly some of the visual effects might be more noticeably artificial but Jack Cardiff’s cinematography would thrive.


3. Atonement (2007)
Psst…confession time…I’ve never seen all of Atonement. You know the drill…All together now…”It’s in the queue” But I have seen the 5-minute marvel that is the Dunkirk tracking shot and it deeply affects me. I’ve been known to cry. Not seeing this at a proper cinema is one of my biggest movie-viewing regrets.


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4. Valhalla Rising (2009)
OK, so, this film doesn’t have much dialogue. It’s about a one-eyed Viking who ends up on a ship headed for the New World. It’s paced slowly. There’s some nasty violence (though there’s way less than you’d think from watching the trailer) and some really weird stuff goes down. BUT Mads Mikkelsen plays the one-eyed Viking, and it is beautifully shot. It has gorgeous scenic vistas, both glowingly warm and gloomy cold. Between the visuals and the sound, it’s almost sensory overload on a small screen. I can only imagine what effect all of this would have on a big screen.


5. Children of Men (2006)
I have never seen this one on any screen. It may well resemble my nightmares too closely for me to ever see it. But what I have seen of it, including this 10-minute tracking shot below is disturbing and incredible. It was nominated for the Editing and Cinematography Academy Awards and it seems like it should have won.


Ruth’s List:

1. Ben-Hur  (1959)
It’s no secret that I love and greatly admire this film. The chariots scene alone is worth the price of admission, but there are lots to marvel in one of the best Hollywood epic ever. I don’t mind that it’s 3.5 hours long, I’ve seen this film multiple times and there’s not a single seen not worth watching.

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2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Cowboys & Aliens is out tomorrow, and seeing him wearing that Cowboy hat somehow reminds me of his iconic Fedora as Indiana Jones. I was only a toddler when this movie came out so I didn’t see it until perhaps a decade later with my two twin brothers. We all absolutely loved it, and upon several viewing later, it never lost its appeal. Oh how wonderful it’d be to see Indy’s classic adventures on the big screen.

3. The Rocketeer (1991)
Ok, I’m feeling nostalgic again… especially after seeing the Captain America. I actually saw this on the big screen and I remember discussing it in detail with one of my brothers on the way home. Director Joe Johnston certainly knows how to create a stylish yet authentic retro vibe in his movies, the 1930s Hollywood era he created was awesome, complete with Terry O’Quinn as Howard Hughes (way more fitting than Leo was in The Aviator) and Timothy Dalton as an Errol Flynn-like movie star Neville Sinclair. They did show it at El Capitan theater with the cast & crew for their 20th Anniversary celebration last April (per HeroComplex), oh how I wish I could’ve been there!


4. Superman: The Movie (1978)
Christopher Reeve was my first ever movie crush, I think some of your already known that. I was only 4-5 years old when I saw it playing at a local cinema next door back in my home country. It was pure magic and I remember renting Superman I and II so many times from the video store that my uncle finally bought me a copy. This Lois Lane chopper scene with that iconic John Williams score never ever fails to move me. Yes, I did believe a man could fly… in fact, I still do 🙂


5. L.A. Confidential (1997)
I guess I have a penchant for a retro vibe in movies and this noir thriller not only looks good but it’s got one of the best script and ensemble cast ever! It was nominated for 9 Oscars and won 2 (one of them for Best Adapted Screenplay) and I think both Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe each deserved a nod for their performance. It’s such a juicy, multi-layered story full of twists and witty dialog aplenty that would be such a treat to see in a dark theater. I shall dedicate a proper post for this film, perhaps in a couple of months to coincide with its anniversary date of release.



Well, now your turn folks. What movie(s) do YOU wish would get a theatrical re-release? Better yet, share your own top five!

Chat-Worthy Actor: Clive Owen

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This past Monday, IMDb homepage featured Clive on its actor spotlight section. As he ranks pretty high up there in my favorite actors list, I thought I’d put him on the spotlight here, too. The dashing Brit is one of those actors who despite a few lousy flicks (i.e. the preposterous Shoot ‘Em Up and the dull Duplicity), still comes out practically unscathed. IMDb’s description of him is quite fitting: Whether performing Shakespeare, driving a speeding BMW, or holding his own against mega-stars, Clive Owen has established himself as one of the most versatile actors in theater, television, and film.

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Looking at his filmography, he’s got some great movies under his belt. Children of Men is destined to be a classic sci-fi drama, which remains my favorite role from the tall Brit. I also enjoyed his performance in Inside Man, King Arthur, Beyond Borders, Gosford Park, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The International. I even enjoyed his brief appearance in the first Bourne film, Bourne Identity. Though his attempt at comedy in Greenfingers didn’t fare as well as his action/dramatic ones. His latest movie The Boys Are Back shows his tender side as a single parent raising two young boys (check out my review). He also played a dad alongside Catherine Keener in the David Schwimmer-directed indie Trust.

The first time I saw Clive might’ve been in those BMW short films The Hire, which I thought is a pretty shrewd marketing campaign that truly flaunt those coveted German automobiles. This series of eight short films (which you can watch on youtube) was released online back in 2001, featuring popular filmmakers such as John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Wong Kar-Wai, etc., and starring Clive as the “Driver.” Sure Jason Statham is cool in The Transporter, but Clive adds a dose of sophistication and class to his ‘cool factor.’ Despite his nonchalant demeanor, he projects a certain brand of pathos with his soulful eyes that I find incredibly attractive.

All that always brings me to this theory: Clive would make a terrific James Bond. Whenever I watched him in action flicks (and there are quite a lot of ’em) or even the way he talks with that deep, raspy voice (always a plus!), I kept thinking how Clive would’ve fit that 007 role like a glove. He not only looks the part (tall, dark and British), he somehow epitomizes what I think the text book super spy ‘model’ is supposed to be. Ok, I know, I know, it’s really a moot point now as the actor himself don’t even want the job. He did do a parody of Bond in The Pink Panther though, which I thought is pretty amusing. On his IMDb trivia, he’s quoted as saying: “Bond was the best thing that never happened to me. I was never in the running but the more I said so, the more people thought I had it in the bag. What’s so funny about it all is my career in Britain was in really bad shape at the time, but my agents pretty much built me a new one in America by playing up all the Bond stories. All I had to do was keep on telling people I was never going to be Bond. I’d like to think I made it on talent, but it’s really just dumb luck. If I hadn’t worn that tux in Croupier, I’d still be begging for the parts Robson Green turned down on cop shows.”

Oh well, at least we have those BMW films to watch Clive looking very Bond-like and wish I could take a ride with him in those ultimate driving machines… well, then again maybe not. Just take a peek at this one called Star and you’ll know what I mean. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring his own ex-missus Madonna, I bet he’d get a kick out of this one even more now.

Now, this action-packed one called Ticker with Don Cheadle and Ray Liotta is also worth checking out, it’s easily my favorite one of the series:


Updated 10/3:

I hope to see Clive in leading roles again as he’s more versatile than Hollywood gives him credit for. Now that I’ve seen a bit more of his work, I can say that I like him in dramatic roles as much as his more action-packed roles. So here are my top five favorite Clive Owen roles so far:

  • Theo Faron – Children of Men
  • Mac – Shadow Dancer
  • Louis Salinger – The International
  • Sir Walter Raleigh – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
  • Joe Warr – The Boys Are Back

Are you a fan of Clive? What’s your favorite Clive Owen movie(s)?