Category Archives: Books to movies

From Book to TV: Witches of Eastwick

EW_paulgrossYou may have heard that ABC is airing a new show in Fall called Eastwick, about 3 women in a small New England town who discover that they have strange new powers. There’s also a hot new addition to the local populace in the form of Paul Gross. But in case you didn’t know, or didn’t realize, this new show is based on the book The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike.witchesofeastwick

I haven’t read the book, or seen the 1987 movie that was also based on it.  But I’m probably going to watch the show, if only because I love Paul Gross – even if he’s playing bad boy Darryl Can Horne, instead of a mountie… Let’s see how well this novel translates to the year 2009.

-Dea

Books & TV: ABC Does Terry Goodkind’s Fantasy Series

Legend of the Seeker and The Sword of Truth

Legend of the Seeker and The Sword of Truth

If you haven’t heard, Terry Goodkind’s popular fantasy series, The Sword of Truth, has been adapted for TV by Disney/ABC, and renamed The Legend of the Seeker (not to be confused with The Seeker, the sad and pale adaptation of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising).

The show, and the books, are about the Seeker, a man named Richard Cypher, who learns that he’s prophesied to fight the evil bad who is terrorizing a neighboring country.  For years, a magical barrier has kept the two countries apart, protecting Richard, until a young woman, a Confessor with magic truth saying powers, breaks through to acquaint Richard with his destiny.

I had a chance to check it out, and it’s a pretty gorgeous production.  I’m not sure where they filmed it, but it definitely doesn’t look like Vancouver (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  The costuming, the casting, and the realistic and eye-catching effects make for a very pretty hour of television.  However, it’s pretty clear that those areas are where the money went… not leaving much for key things like “good acting,” or “believable dialog.” I haven’t actually read the books, but I’ve been informed by my roommate that the TV show is not very true to the book’s characterization, and while the frequent plot discrepancy makes sense, it seems that the characters may have been watered down a bit for popular consumption. It’s not going to bother everyone, but if you’re like my roommate, you will be frothing with rage by the end of the first episode (although I should point out that she was still eager to watch episode 2.)

The show is in syndication, and not on a specific network, so I can’t tell you when it will be on TV.  However, the main website for the series has a tool where you can enter your zip code and get your local time and channel.

If you’ve been missing Xena, you’ll definitely want to check this out.

-Dea

Got Merlin? A review and some recommendations

The BBC has done a lot for me. It’s brought me Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster, a new Doctor Who, and my favorite adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

And now it’s given me a new version of the King Arthur legends that I just might be able to get behind with their new mini-series Merlin. I’m not generally a big King Arthur fan – back in the day, Chretien de Troyes mucked it all up (IMHO) by turning the whole thing into a giant adulterous soap opera by adding Sir Lancelot and his “courtly love” for Guinevere. But the BBC version looks like it’s doing it’s own take, with very little likeness to any version you may have seen before – and I’m not complaining.

A young Merlin shows up in Camelot, only to discover that King Uther (Arthur’s father) has outlawed magic – oops. Nevertheless, he is apprenticed to the castle healer, who is also keeping his magic carefully on the down-low, and tries to live an unobtrusive, magic-less life. For about ten minutes, anyway, until he’s provoked by a bully (who turns out to be Arthur), and realized that without magic, he can’t even stand up for himself. And then it gets REALLY fun, when it turns out his destiny is to protect Arthur, even though he’s somewhat less than fond of him. Other perks, aside from a young, spunky Merlin, and anti-hero Arthur, are Torchwood’s Gwen, Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy) as King Uther, and a multi-ethnic cast. On the other hand, the costuming is a bit strange, and I can’t decide what era they’re trying to set it in. Although I’ve heard it’s meant to be set in a sort of pre-history Wales, it looks more like post-Roman contact England.

But, sadly, this series isn’t coming to the U.S. till 2009, from what I hear. So in the meantime, if you want to get caught up on your Arthur, here’s a list of some other adaptations to check out from our library:

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Swordfights and Talking Critters: A Dual Review of Prince Caspian and Spiderwick

Now that they’re both coming out on DVD, I’ve decided to talk about two of the more recent film adaptations of beloved children’s books, The Spiderwick Chronicles and Prince Caspian. Both movies have a lot in common. Both deal with tightly knit families who enter a strange world and have adventures together. Both deal with with the requisite fantasy talking critters. And finally, both portray adults as creatures almost stranger and harder to comprehend (and markedly less awesome) than the talking critters. So it’s only fair, if we’re comparing the movies, to focus on those significant commonalities.

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The Dark Is Rising vs. The Seeker

The Seeker, which came out in 2007, is loosely based on the book The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. And when I say loosely, I mean, someone maybe read this book when they were a kid, and decided to write a screenplay based on what they remembered of the plot, which was very, very little. And then they decided to take what few critical plot elements they remembered and do really strange things with them involving twin souls, watering down both Arthurian legend and English folklore, inserting a ridiculous and underdeveloped subplot about Will’s father writing a physics paper about Light and Dark that somehow connects to the weird twins issue, and, as though all of that wasn’t enough, extrapolating a teen crush who uses romance for evil based on her selfish desire to look young forever.

So, yes, this movie is less based on and more inspired by the broken spirit of the book The Dark is Rising.

Despite all that, movie does have several things going for it, especially if you try to think of it as unrelated at all to the Susan Cooper books. The movie has Christopher Eccleston as a bad guy; some gorgeous direction that involves lots of dripping water and ominous flying crows; time travel, which is always fun, and, wait, did I mention Christopher Eccleston?

The book, however, oh, the book. The book is a story close to my heart, and it’s a fantastic one, which makes a bad movie version hurt all the more. The Dark is Rising is the second in Susan Cooper’s series of five books featuring Will Stanton, the Drew Children, and Bran Davies, who discover their own magical destinies, travel through time, fight the Dark, and save the world.

The Dark is Rising is primarily Will’s story, in the days just after his eleventh birthday, and follows his discovery of his place as an Old One. He begins his search for the Circle of Signs to ward off the Dark, guided by Merriman (who we met in the first book of the series, Over Sea, Under Stone, where he acted the part of enigmatic, grandfather-like figure to the Drews.) This book has epic snowstorms, prophecy fulfillment, magical books, magical instruments, spooky (magical) masks, and tells a captivating story about how one boy’s seemingly ordinary life is revealed to be part of a larger, mystical, very old story that’s been going on underneath everything he knows.

You can read The Dark is Rising before Over Sea, Under Stone if you want to know about Will first and aren’t immediately drawn to the Drew children, but it’s important to know who they are before you get to Greenwitch, the third book, so you might as well read everything in order. And I do recommend you read them, because The Dark is Rising totally and absolutely wins in a battle with its movie counterpart. I’d suggest you watch The Seeker only if you’re feeling Christopher Eccleston-withdrawal after finishing the first series of the new Doctor Who, or if you are strange and you enjoy watching book into movie disasters.

-Andrea

All About Vampires: Sookie Stackhouse moves to HBO

I’ll confess. I’m a Buffy fan. Back in the day (back… pretty far), I read a Buffy novel (this was pre-Buffy movie promotional stuff, not the post TV series novelizations) and after that, I never really looked back. But once Buffy and Angel were gone, and primetime no longer delivered weekly doses of nosferatu, I had to go back to print to get my fix. And the books, they didn’t disappoint.

And maybe the universe is trying to make it up to me, because my dedication paid off, and one of the earlier series I read by Tanya Huff was turned into a show for Lifetime, called Blood Ties.

Sadly, it was canceled after a year, much like Moonlight. But you can still check out episodes online, and I encourage you to do so. The writing is pretty good, the cast is super hot, especially Christina Cox, who pretty much nails Vicki’s tough/vulnerable attitude, and the show’s concept is classic. Vicki is an (unwillingly) retired cop, who becomes a PI, and ends up having to consult with vampire/comic book writer Henry when she stumbles onto a case with deaths she can’t really explain. Mix in her ex-partner, Mike Celluci, and you have the golden love triangle plus supernatural mystery combo.

But sadly, the series is no more. However, there’s news on the horizon that’s doing a pretty good job of cheering me up.

Because HBO is picking up the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris and turning it into a series called True Blood. And Alan Ball, who you might remember from Six Feet Under, is heading the project. And if that is not enough for you, and you are a greedy person, full of greed – you’re in luck, because they’re getting the fabulous Anna Paquin to star.

If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s about a normal, everyday (except for the part where she’s a mind reader) waitress who lives in a world one step removed from ours, where vampires have “come out of the coffin,” and become not-to-well integrated parts of society. The novel series has suspense, romance, and humor, and I have every expectation that it’s going to really shine on HBO this Fall.

Guys, I’m not going to say this ever again, but put down those books and turn on your TV, cause this series is going to be funny, hot, fabulously scripted and gorgeously cast.

-Dea