Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “movie adaptations”

Second Servings on Hunger Games

I am wrapping up my Hunger Games marathon and I am now anticipating November 20th when Mockingjay Part Two will arrive in theaters. I wonder what the shipment code will be under: Bread and Dead–a play on Panem meaning “bread” from Roman Coliseum days, and it’s no spoiler than there is going to be some heavy warfare going on in the Capitol.

I don’t feel as invested in the Divergent or Maze Runner series, which are both pretty good for dystopian reads. Yet, I fell for Katniss (like so many others). It’s partly due to having read the book before it was discovered. Way back when, I came across a tip from one of my book blogs to check out Hunger Games. Going out of town on a loooong car trip, I listed to HG as an audio book. Just me and Katniss on that long stretch of highway. I even sat in my car to finish out the story. This girl from the Seam, with her simple complexities rang something within me, the need to survive, yet have a strong sense of compassion. A tough cookie with a creamy center.

Brian Unkeless: “So, anyone read this book called The Hunger Games?”

Another back in the day, whilst at a writing conference, I popped into a session about film adaptations. I’m always up for film-from-novel magic. This turned out to be extra special. A rep from Lionsgate (at that time, a smallish company) stood by a cardboard cut out announcing their next movie: Hunger Games. When he asked if anyone had read it, I embarrassed myself and waved my hand like he was asking if anyone wanted the keys to a new Camaro. “Great book. I just read it.” Everyone else in the room looked at me oddly, because 1) My reaction was a bit too enthusiastic 2) isn’t that a YA? Who reads YA?

Apparently, Lionsgate had done well enough with their gamble with bringing Lord of the Rings to the screen (basic understatement), that they had a few bucks to invest. Their Magic 8 Ball must be working overtime. After the session about what it takes to bring a book to the screen, I stayed after and further embarrassed myself and told this up and coming producer that it would be smart to get a reading campaign going as a tie in to the book. I think he was either amused and impressed by my passion. It was hard to tell because he wore black sunglasses (he did apologize to us–something about an eye dilation thing–he didn’t purposely want to appear Hollywood cool).

Since then, I’ve been attached to Katniss and her entourage, and have whipped up interest in my family, dragged them off to the theater and tried not to be obnoxious filling them in on plot tidbits. I think part of this is because JLaw IS Katniss. And Josh IS Peeta and Liam IS Gale. In fact, the cast is perfectly cast. It’s so rare to have a film line up so well in transference.

So now, as I reread the series. Back to back. No having to wait for the next book. I overlay JLaw and the entourage into the pages. I am involved. Ridiculous that I am brought down by a YA series, a college-degree toting English teacher, who is a grandma, to boot. BUT–I know I am not the only one. I remember AARP running an article about how older folk were sneaking Hunger Games reads as if the books were clandestine literary contraband.

How about you? Are you revving up for Part Two? Are you rereading the series in anticipation?

Ready for a Teaser?

Katniss preparing to rain down her wrath on Snow’s reign of terror image:

Shakespeare Goes to the Movies

David Garrick in Hamlet, I, 4

David Garrick in Hamlet, I, 4  Is he as surprised the Bard inspired moving and shaking found in film?(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shakespeare would no doubt be uber-wealthy from selling screen rights had he lived so long to see all his plays adapted to the screen.  In fact, I wonder how many students realize that all those adaptations have a primary source in the form of stage?  Shakespeare was indeed a playwright and not a screenwriter, yet it is difficult to realize that fact with so many adaptations running around in the cinemas. It’s fairly safe to say that a Shakespeare-driven plot comes out at least once during the year.

With that all out of the way, you can imagine my delight when I came across a website devoted to all the film versions of Shakespeare. It groups them by play and 176 pages you get the idea how much influence old Billy the Bard on Hollywood.  The Hamlet section only is nearly 20 pages!

Oh yeah–this is another Library of Congress find. Have I gushed enough about how the Library of Congress so absolutely rocks?

This treasury of Shakespeare is not just films.  It includes the serious to the silly. Having just finished our AP rundown of Hamlet and Co, I found some select entries for our favorite Prince of Denmark:

HAMLET (Icon Productions/Warner Bros., 1990). Dir Franco Zeffirelli. Wrt Christopher De Vore,
Zeffirelli. With Mel Gibson (Hamlet), Glenn Close (Gertrude), Alan Bates (Claudius), Paul Scofield (The Ghost), Ian Holm (Polonius), Helena Bonham-Carter (Ophelia).
1 videodisc of 1 (laser), ca. 135 min, sd, color, 12 in. LC Purchase Collection. DAA 3087.

HAMLET–CLAUDIUS (ACTOR, A Center for Theatre, Education, and Research, University of California, Santa Barbara/Barr Films, 1991). Series: Shakespeare Explorations with Patrick Stewart. Artistic Director: Patrick Stewart. Technical Director/Editor: Ray Tracy.
1 videocassette of 1 (VHS), 25 min, sd, color, 1/2 in. Copyright Collection. VAD 3701.
Produced for educational use (college level). Patrick Stewart discusses and acts selected parts of the play portraying the character of King Claudius. (VHS)

TALES FROM THE CRYPT. TOP BILLING (Tales From the Crypt Holdings/HBO, 6/26/1991). Dir Todd Holland. Wrt Myles Berkowitz. With Jon Lovitz, Bruce Boxleitner, John Astin, Louise Fletcher, Kimmy Robertson.
1 videocassette of 1, 28 min, sd, color, 3/4 in. Copyright Collection. VBI 9816.
Episode from the 3rd season of the horror anthology series based on the comic books published by
William Gaines in the 1950’s. A failed actor (Lovitz), who cannot get work because he doesn’t have “the look,” answers a casting call for Hamlet only to find himself chosen for the part of Yorick’s skull in a staging of the play by inmates of an insane asylum. (DVD – on Tales from the Crypt–The Complete Third Season)

GREEN EGGS AND HAMLET (Rock’s Eye Productions, 1995). Dir Mike O’Neal. Wrt O’Neal, Chris
Springfield. With Allen Corcorran (Hamlet), Ronald H. Cohen (The King), Richard “Humus” Doherty (The Queen), Josh “Coppertone” Powlesson (Laertes), Robert A. Knop, Jr. (Polonius), Siobhán F. Jess (Ophelia), David Seal (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern), Richard James Mason Horatio).
1 videocassette of 1 (VHS), ca. 77 min, sd, color, 1/2 in. Copyright Collection. VAE 6461.

Got a hankering for a Titus or a Midsummer Night’s Dream?  Check it out Shakespeare on Film

English: banner Shakespeare

Shakespeare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pass the Marple Syrup

Cover of "A Murder Is Announced (Winterbr...

Cover via Amazon

Although I do enjoy a mystery now and then I must ,with some embarrassment, confess I hadn’t read an Agatha Christie until most recently. Shocking, I know.  After all, Dame Christie is the Queen of Mystery.  That reason why I hadn’t read any of her books was my contentment to experience the film adaptations.

That is until I watched A Murder Is Announced.  

This particular series stars Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple, and while I have no real complaint with her portrayal, I do have concerns over other liberties. For one, Miss Marple is well-known for her ditzy little old lady approach to solving crimes, which makes the juxtaposition all the more interesting, for who would think this sweet spinster who continually knits has a mind sharp enough to see past the obvious and solve what the detectives can’t?


When something is seasoned right, don’t add more spice.  Or in this case, let’s pass on making the Miss Marple sweeter for modern audiences.  For instance, Miss Marple is classified primarily as a cozy mystery, meaning the murders are more mystery than gory. Also, Miss Marple plots tend to be conservative, not straying too far in social issues. Then there is the main personality of  Miss Marple who is known for her prudent, if not prudish manner and values.   With all that said, it is perplexing why the McEwan series takes viewers on such a darker path than Christie ever did.  This series includes topics not overtly addressed in the books: incest, homosexuality, racism, feminism, religion.  The addition of these spicier elements does not improve the plot, and actually detracts from it.  There is also the suggestion Miss Marple had an affair with a married man in her younger days. All these extras did not entice me to continue with the series; it actually quelled my interest in continuing.  It’s as if the producers felt a good solid mystery wouldn’t be enough for modern audiences.


At this point you might be wondering how I know about what Christie had or didn’t have in her books if I hadn’t read them.  Easy–I consulted an expert.  ET, my local librarian and mystery aficionado, assured me Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple series did not focus on those previously mentioned topics, and she’s read them twice.  After watching A Murder Is Announced I read it for myself. Already knowing the identity of the murderer rather spoiled the read, but I was actually reading for comparison.   They should have stuck to the original plot.

While I might read more of Agatha Christie I will have to be careful not to read those which I’ve watched.  Nothing spoils a good whodunnit more than knowing whodiddit. Then there is the fact I very much prefer Hercules Poirot, especially David Suchet’s studied performance of the Belgium detective. The little grey cells find his plots decidedly delicious and there are extra sweeteners in Suchet’s series.

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


From Embers to Sparks–from movies to books

Image Detail I love kid movies, well, most of them.  I enjoy being able to whisk off to a land of fantasy where good triumphs over evil without the awkward uncomfortable scenes of gratitutious violence and sex.  I like to practice safe plot.  I am a squeamish movie watcher. It’s true, I will admit it.  Real life is tension-filled, and so after a tough day at work when I settle down to escape into a movie, I don’t want to experience even more tension–hence, I kick back with a good ol’ kids flick now and then.  This is how I came upon The City of Ember.

The movie definitely wasn’t going for an Oscar ride, yet I embraced its quirkiness, and celebrated its ingenuity.  Plus, it had Bill Murray as a villainous mayor.  Good stuff.  Liking the movie piqued my interest in reading it as a book.  Of course the book is better than its movie counterpart; however, the movie had a visual quality than surpassed the book in many ways.

What I really embraced was that this is  author Jeanne DuPrau’s first novel.  Writing a book, having it published by a major publisher, and then getting a movie made from it.  Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about, folks.  My little hope-to-get-my-book-published-goal goes pitter pat with hopefulness at this kind of success story.

Curious as to what happened to the folks from Ember, I returned to the library for the sequel, The People of Sparks.  I had to wait for the book!  Hold requests equal popularity, and increased the anticipation factor, especially considering the sequel came out in 2004.

The sequel takes up right after The City of Ember.  While the first book shows its strength in originality, the sequel proves up the ability to take an old theme, xenophobia, or the old “us vs them” idea, and puts a different spin on it.  DuPrau presents an allegory, in a way, with her sequel.  The idea of how history can repeat itself if we aren’t careful is woven throughout her story.  This theme is prevalent in the following passage: pages 75-76 Image Detail

“You don’t know about the Four Wars?”

“No. War–what’s that?

“A war is when one bunch of people fights with another bunch, when both of them want the same thing.  Like for instance if there’s some good land, and two groups of people want to live there.”

“Why can’t they both live there?”

“They don’t want to live there together,”  he said, as if this were a stupid question.  “Also, you could have a war because of revenge.  Say one group of people does something bad to another group, like steal their chickens.  Then the first group does something bad back in revenge.  That could start a war.  The two groups would try to kill each other, and the ones who killed the most would win.”

“They’d kill each other over chickens?”

War, in all its complications, is brought down to the question of killing over chickens.  Isn’t it amazing how kid lit can teach lessons that all adults could benefit from?


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