Week #1 Complete!

That’s a wrap on our first week of the writers’ room for this new sci-fi series and I do love the way thing are coming along.  We’ve completed our world building discussions and characters arcs and can now look forward to four weeks of spinning and breaking.  I’m curious to see how quickly things move from here. Read more

Which team in the SEC should I root for this season? YOU decide!

Well, the results of the Which NCAA Division 1-A Conference should I root for this season? poll are in and what a finish!  The Big Ten jumped out to an early, seemingly insurmountable lead, but the SEC came roaring back in the late-goings.  It was neck and neck with a mere 4 votes separating the winner from the first runner-up.   Read more

My Snow Monkeys commence their quest for back to back titles!

 

So, yesterday was the day.  Draft Day for our League of Accommodations fantasy football league.  My Snow Monkeys, last year’s champions, are looking to repeat. And, after the final pick was made last night and all was said and done I can can say with utmost confidence… I don’t know… Read more

December 26, 2017: Victory as sweet as a double chocolate mocha!

Feast your eyes!  Aint it glorious?  The Snow Monkeys are 2017 League of Accommodations fantasy football champions.  Final score…

In all fairness, it’s all thanks to Todd Gurley and the Carolina Panthers D truly stepped up for my Monkeys.

Ah, victory tastes as sweet as a double chocolate mocha!

So, I’m blazing through my final reads of the year in preparation for my annual Best Books of 2017 blog post.  This has been my best reading year since 2014 with a lot of great candidates, but I’m vacillating over how extensive I should make the list.  When all is said and done, I’ll have read a staggering 250 books on the year, 125 of them 2017 releases.  So, I’m thinking a top 25?  What do you think?

Since touching down in Montreal, Akemi and I have settled into a nice little routine. Every morning, we wake up at 6:00 a.m. with Suji who, unlike Lulu, is not a sleeper-inner, and then lie in bed, hoping against hope that she eventually drifts off and allows us a few more hours of snooze time (Spoiler alert!  She never does!). Then, after taking the dogs out, we hop in the car, laptops in tow, and head over to a quaint little coffee shop in Pointe-Claire Village (Victor Rose, a cafe so quaint that Akemi says it reminds her of something out of Ghibli movie) where we update our online lives over London Fogs (for her) and double chocolate mochas (for me!). Then, back to mom’s for lunch and whatever she has planned (Today, for instance, it’s a double-dose of visits with the relatives).  We usually culminate our evenings with dinner with my sister and Daisy, then it’s home for an early bedtime and two hours of reading.

Just between us, you know what I really hate?  New Year’s Eve.  Growing up, no event was more overrated than the ringing in of the New Year.  I hate champagne. And, as I’ve matured, my bedtime has gotten earlier and earlier.  Last year, I could barely keep my eyes open.  My attempts to observe UK Greenwich Mean Time, just for this single occasion, have been roundly dismissed.  This year, I’m going to try setting the house clocks ahead three hours, play a recording of 2016’s New Year’s Even Live and hope nobody notices.  Wish me luck!

December 17, 2017: My Snow Monkeys are headed to the league championship!

It’s not quite a final, but up 65+ points with only one player to play against, we can give my Snow Monkeys the W and stamp their ticket to the big dance.  Next week, it’s the championship game and my Snow Monkeys have opened as slight 3 point favorites.  And with a starting lineup like this, who’s gonna bet against them?

I have to give it up to next week’s opponent, Steve.  He hustled, made some bold moves, pulled of some terrific trades, then came on strong in the back half of the season.  He won’t win the championship but it doesn’t matter because he’s won the next best thing: my respect.

But not the championship.

Anyway, that was my day.  Also, I revised an outline and finished reading my 239th book of 2017.  And here I was, worried I wouldn’t be able to hit 250 by year’s end.

Okay, I’ve got three shopping days left before we’re Montreal-bound once again, this time with the dogs in tow (including Lulu who has been doing a fine imitation of a neutron star of late – a shockingly dense little package she is!).

Who dat?

November 28, 2017: My Snow Monkeys are playoff-bound!

Look who’s smiling now

I think we can all agree that, amidst all this talk about Hollywood and television production and the pitching of various projects, we often lose sight of what’s truly important: fantasy football.  Well, I’m pleased to report that following twelve hard-fought weeks in which I lost my #1 draft pick to season-ending injury, had to drop another four draft picks due to underperformance, picked up and dropped and instantly regretted when somebody else picked up Bills tight end Charles Clay, my Snow Monkeys secured their first playoff spot in ages.  With one more week to go in the regular season, we’re sitting in 5th place with a record of 7-5, the most points scored, and poised to really make a post-season splash.  I mean, look at this team –

Gurley, Kamara, Hyde and Peterson in the backfield.  Brees leading the likes of Hopkins, Funchess, Adams, Davis, and Shepard.  Doyle and (the oft-injured) Reed at the TE position.  And a fearsome Panthers D feasting on opposing offenses.  We’re unstoppable!

With the exception of weeks 1, 5, 7, 8, and 10.

Oh, in addition to managing my Snow Monkeys, I also caught two movies: Killing of a Sacred Deer and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.  The first boasts a terrific premise and is well-directed with some truly unnerving scenes, but is somewhat undone by a discordant score and awkward dialogue that, at first, lends to the film’s underlying uneasiness but, after all awhile, just gets annoying and borderline comical.  The movie ratchets up the suspense in increments, slowly but surely building towards a truly terrifying climax.  Still, to fully appreciate this one, you need to throw logic out the window.  It’s one of those movies that leaves you stunned – and then, upon further consideration, somewhat dubious.  A brilliant performance by Barry Keoghan.

Speaking of brilliant performances, Three Billboards is full of them.  Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell blow the doors off the Oscar bus. An incredibly compelling story with wonderful moments of humor – oh, and one unfortunate scene involving a coincidental overheard conversation.  Still, highly recommended.

For the rest of the week, it’s lunch, dinner, and in-between meetings.  Some sit-downs with a couple of authors.  The creative gear-up for next week’s writers’ room.  And a phoner with one of the Big Ten regarding a couple of proposed book-to-screen adaptations.  The plot thickens…

November 23, 2017: This ‘n That!

Quick, get in!  Next stop = Slumber Land!

Hey, if you’re thinking of making our dogs new outfits, Akemi offers up the following doggy measurements.  I think she does a fairly good job of capturing Suji’s trademark wide-eyed wonder, and Lulu’s general furtiveness.

Who feels like kaka for dinner?  Pardon me?  Happened across this sign for a new Japanese restaurant a little while ago.  Debatable name aside, not sure how a restaurant that has yet to open can claim to be the “No. 1 rated all-you-can-eat sushi in Toronto”.  Who voted?  Time-traveling nigiri-enthusiasts from the future?

I’m sure we can all agree that, next to politics and religion, there is no subject more controversial than marzipan.  Its mere mention will incite a tirade so impassioned from my former writing partner you’d think almond paste had somehow played a role in the tragic passing of a loved one.  I, on the other hand, love the stuff, so you can imagine my delight the other day when I happened upon a Danish Pastry House pop-up and discovered the above pictured delicacy – some unpronounceable North Germanic confection comprised of marzipan, chocolate, sliced almonds, and assorted umlauts.  Delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends.  May you be as generous as the Mark Sanchez-led Jets offense, and as thankful as the New England Patriots defense five years ago today.

December 4, 2016: Snow Monkeys on the brink! Suji settles in!

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It’s all over but the crying (as my dad used to say).  Despite a valiant effort, and an impressive win in their last week of regular season play, it looks like my Snow Monkeys will come up one game short in their bid to grab that last playoff spot. There were a lot of missed opportunities this year, one of the biggest being our 1 point loss (a single point!) early in the season.  Ah well.

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Suji, meanwhile, has settled in and was showing off some surprising team colors early this morning.  Apparently, she’s a HUGE Drew Brees fan.

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Because she’s a little unsteady on her hind quarters, slippy-sliding across the hardwood floor, we’ve outfitted her with grippy doggy boots to help her negotiate her new surroundings.

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Lulu has taken a particular interest in her, intrigued by the interesting-smelling newcomer.

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They’ve even been hanging around together.

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But Suji seems to prefer human company.  She’s a lap dog in the truest sense of the term.

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Today, we hit the park.  Here’s Suji, ready to take flight.

And she’s off!

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A quick trip to Homesense snagged us three new doggy beds and this stylish festive hat.

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Ah, that sense of wonder…

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She’s growing more comfortable in her new home.  This afternoon, she even padded up to the patio door and asked to go out to pee.  At least I think that’s what she was doing.

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Enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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Like most pugs, she enjoys lazing about.  But she’s also pretty spunky, jumping out of bed to greet us when we come home, and running the carpet from our apartment to the elevator like a dog half her age.  She also LOVES to sleep in, which is something we have in common.

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Lulu breaks in the new dog bed.

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Relaxed.

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Suji took a trip to Homesense, Lulu got to go to the dog park, and Bubba joined us for a visit to the pet shop.  After every light he crosses, he’ll sit down on the sidewalk and patiently await his “good walking” reward.

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14 and still going strong!

Well, back at it tomorrow for me.  Main unit is at “the warehouse” while 2nd unit shoots (and I do mean that literally) in The Raza underbelly.

November 29, 2015: Noooooooooo!

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Noooooooo!

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Nooooooooo!

SUMOTO, JAPAN - MARCH 17:  A 20-year-old Japanese macaque monkey named Monday scratches her eyes while suffering an allergy to pollen from the cedar tree at Awajishima Monkey Centre on March 17, 2013 in Sumoto, Japan. Many monkeys are suffering the effects of hay fever at this time of the year, with the typical symptoms being the same as with humans.  According to Awajishima Monkey center this year hay fever is higher than last year, the pollen season is from February to April.  (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
 (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images) 

Nooooooooooooo!

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My Snow Monkeys were trounced in week 12 fantasy football league play, blowing an opportunity to secure a first round bye in the upcoming playoffs.  Relegated to third place following this humiliating loss, my team must win next week AND hope This Ones For John loses in order to avoid a potential first round post-season match-up against either the red hot Tramp Stamps or the Ivon Bartok’s dominant Running Dead.

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Sad monkey.

On the bright side, tomorrow, official prep begins on Dark Matter’s second season.  On tap tomorrow – director Amanda Tapping leads the proceedings with:

9:45 – 10:00 : Episode 202 Props Meeting – Re: The Claw

10:00 : Set walk-thru

15:00 : Episode 201 – Concept Meeting

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September 15, 2015: Snow Monkeys surprise! Dark Matter season 2 takes shape!

 

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Yeaaaah!   The young NFL Fantasy Football season is off to a rollicking start with an atypical week 1 win for my Snow Monkeys.    The highlights included stellar performances by WR1 DeAndre Hopkins, RB1 Jeremy Hill, the top-ranked Panthers D, and QB Andrew Luck who may have played below expectations but still managed to rack up a respectable 22 points in a winning cause.

With a 1-0 record and the #1 waiver wire pick (Come to poppa, James Jones!) the fearsome Snow Monkeys appear primed to make a championship run!  Check out the gory details…

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So, how did YOUR fantasy teams do in week 1?

In what you’ll no doubt consider comparatively less exciting news, I also found time – between researching free agent players and considering my week 2 lineup – to convene with the rest of the writers to continue our discussions on Dark Matter’s second season.  Familiar names (Titch, Alexander Rook, The General, Jace Corso) were being bandied about alongside some unfamiliar though no-doubt-destined-to-be-just-as-memorable names (Nyx, Arax, Devon, Reynaud, Chief Inspector Kierken).

The directors’ schedule will start to solidify in the coming weeks with, again, some names familiar and unfamiliar (and familiar for other familiar shows ;)).

 Conference call tomorrow to discuss that 16-point season 1 post-mortem after which it’s smooooooooooooth sailing!

July 7, 2015: Recommended reads! Dark Matter happenings! Ruby Rose! UK Ratings! Dark Horse Comics!

One more day to San Diego Comic Con!  I’m packing light so I can come back heavy.

If you’re in the SDCC neighborhood, come see us: Jodelle Ferland, Melissa O’Neil, Roger Cross, Anthony Lemke, and Executive Producer’s Jay Firestone and Vanessa Piazza for autograph signings at the Dark Horse Comics booth (2615) on Thursday at 5 p.m. and again on Friday at 3 p.m., and our Dark Matter panel on Thursday night (7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., Room 6BCF.  Secret will be spilled; no prisoners will be taken!

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If you’re a fan of science fiction and aren’t reading Alastair Reynolds – WHY THE HECK NOT?!!  He is one of a handful of contemporary SF authors who should be required reading.  His books are narratively rich, wondrously engaging hard scifi epics possessed of astounding scope and creative depth.  Sound familiar?  Yes, if you love the works of Iain M. Banks (his Culture books in particular), then you’ll love Alastair Reyolds – and vice versa.

Slow Bullets, his latest release, tells the tale of Scur, a conscripted soldier who, left for dead following a vicious post-armistice ambush, awakens on a prisoner transport vessel.  Something has happened to ship, an accident that has claimed the lives of many in their stasis chambers, but released many more, allies and enemies, who must broker an uneasy truce if they are to survive and find out exactly what happened to them.

At a modest 192 pages, Slow Bullets is a great introduction to Reynolds’ masterful storytelling, and the perfect gateway book for those looking to discover their new favorite SF author.

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Speaking of gateway books, I described Frostborn, the first instalment in author Lou Anders’ Throne & Bones series, as a terrific introduction to the fantasy genre for young readers – or older readers looking to raise future Tokien enthusiasts. The second book, Nightborn, does a great job of building on what has come before, expanding the world and its characters in a bold, dynamic adventure. Familiar faces, Karn the gamer and Thianna the giantess, are joined by (or “run afoul of” to be more precise) two new additions to the series, dark elves Tanthal and Deestra (aspiring elite agent of the Underhand!).  A deeper world, increasingly more complex characters, and a twisty-turny quest for the Horn of Osius make for a highly enjoyable, fast-paced read.

Speaking of books, my very favorite children’s book series is about to be getting the small screen treatment compliments of Netflix.  A Series of Unfortunate Events is a devilishly dark and wickedly humorous series focusing on the treks and travails of the Baudelaire children, three hard-luck but incredibly resourceful orphans.

Here’s hoping this version will allow us to forget the hugely disappointing big screen adaptation hated by fans of the book series and considered non-objectionable by those who didn’t know any better.

No word on a release date.

While you’re here, may I direct your attention to a few Dark Matter-related links:

A first look at Ruby Rose as the android, Wendy, in Dark Matter Episode 7:

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Pretty badass looking, no?

http://www.ew.com/article/2015/07/06/ruby-rose-dark-matter-photo

U.K. scifi fans love us!

http://www.tvwise.co.uk/2015/07/syfy-uks-dark-matter-grows-by-5-in-week-2/

“Pulling off a rare feat, the space opera series actually grew its audience in its second week, drawing a consolidated audience of 393K viewers. All told, Dark Matter posted gains of around 17K viewers or just under 5% on the series premiere’s 376K viewers.

The (albeit marginal) ratings growth is significant, as it makes Dark Matter the first new series launch on Syfy UK in the past year to actually grow its audience from the premiere.”

Big things happening on the Dark Horse Comics front, publishers of the Dark Matter comic:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/ucp-dark-horse-ink-tv-807049

“In a deal a year in the making, comic book powerhouse Dark Horse (The Mask, Hellboy) is getting into the television business with Universal Cable Productions.”

Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular Das.  Happy Birthday, Birthday Gal!

May 29, 2015: Two weeks to the Dark Matter world premiere! A Jelly update!

This blog's resident television critic: Akemi.
This blog’s resident television critic: Akemi.

“If this series not popular, I really can’t believe.”

– Akemi last night after watching the producer’s cut of episode #113, our season finale.

Her words echo the sentiments of my writing partner who said pretty much the same thing, in less economical fashion, after viewing prod cuts of our first two episodes:

“So, having seen the first two eps in close to finished form, I’m left thinking this: If this show doesn’t succeed, then I don’t know what people want. This is as good as television sci-fi gets. Seriously, if we don’t get a second season, then I should just retire and you should go to the Sorbonne and eventually open a restaurant.”

Well, I’m cautiously optimistic because, when it comes right down to it…

Me: I hope the show does well.

Akemi: Me too.  The dogs have to eat.

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Wow!  The gang at MenLifestyle offer up this handy guide to Dark Matter complete with series overview, character descriptions, and cast bios:

http://www.menlifestyle.sg/nbcuniversal-announce-dark-matter-will-premiere-syfy-14-june-starhub-ch-517/

Get ready Brazil.  Dark Matter is coming your way…

Win tickets to the Dark Matter June 12th premiere screening in Amsterdam:

http://www.insidegamer.nl/artikel/117091/prijsvraag-win-kaarten-voor-de-premiere-van-dark-matter

Premiering June 15th in France:

http://www.frenchgeekmovement.fr/dark-matter-un-nouveau-space-opera-sur-syfy/

Jelly - cold in the morning, so Akemi bundles her up.
Jelly – cold in the morning, so Akemi bundles her up.

And, finally, thanks to everyone who inquired after or offered well-wishes for Jelly.  She’s been very low energy these past couple of days.  At this points, it’s in the hands of the vets and, hopefully, their ability to locate the treatment she needs.

Jelly - a notoriously messy eater, so Akemi got her a little something.
Jelly – a notoriously messy eater, so Akemi got her a little something.

Jelly, of course, thanks each and every one of you for your concern.

April 5, 2015: The Four Days of Tabor Calchek continues! My Easter feast!

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In many ways, I envy the crew’s handler, Tabor, and his ability to get in a good day’s work – without ever having to change out of his pyjamas.  It’s one of the perks of a freelance career, especially one that affords a comfy home office and the convenience of interstellar communications.

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Happy Easter!  Sadly, I couldn’t join my family in Montreal for our annual feast due to my tight production schedule.  Happily, I was able to do the next best thing: join someone else’s family for a feast.

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And that someone was Dark Matter Consulting Producer Ivon Bartok who kindly invited Akemi and me to a tasty banquet with his mother, sister, several guests, and sticky toffee pudding!  Sarah Bartok, Ivon’s sister, was visiting from Montreal where she is the co-host of the city’s most popular radio show (read all about her here: http://www.thebeat925.ca/an/sarah-bartok-1060.html).  She was kind enough to bring me back a jar of Au Pied de Cochon Tomato Jam!  A taste of home.

My other home.

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We kicked things off with two tourtieres (meat pies), one from local Toronto gourmet shop Pusatieri’s, the other from one of my all-time favorite restaurants Au Pied de Cochon.  The former was good but the latter was outstanding.

Then, it was on to the main course: perfectly cooked roast lamb chops, mashed and baked potatoes, candied sweet potatoes,  roasted parsnips, and brussel sprouts.

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And, for dessert: individual sticky toffee puddings, a flourless chocolate cake, and a lemon pie so tart I think I may have sprained a salivary gland eating it.  All delicious.

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Many thanks to my new adopted family, the Bartoks: mom, brother Ivon, and sister Sarah.  I’m moving in this weekend!

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Stay tuned!  You’ll finally get a sneak peek at Dark Matter this week when SyFy releases our very first teaser trailer.    #BecauseWe’reDangerous

October 3, 2014: Best and Worst Book to Film Adaptations!

Whenever I visit Granville Island to pick up some matcha from that little tea shop, I always ask the woman who serves me: “What are you reading?”.  We discuss and I always complete my purchase by recommending a book.  On my most recent trip, she had just finished reading (and throughly enjoying) one of my recommendations, Karen Joy Fowler‘s We Are Completely Beside Ourselves.   Pleased, I offered her another one: “This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.”  And then, offer her furrow-browed reaction: “They just made a movie based on the book – but don’t go see it.  Read the book instead!”

“Too late,”she told me, and the look on her face told me that her dissatisfaction with the film ensured she would never pick up the book.  I liken it to suffering food poisoning at an otherwise great restaurant.  After that bad experience, there’s no way you’ll be able to go back and fully enjoy yourself.  Just the smell of cumin or the taste of curry or the sight to Timothy Olyphant is enough to send you running for the exit.

Which is why I have – well, I want to say “mixed feelings”, but they’re not really mixed at all, so let’s go with – “homogenous feelings” about the announced big screen adaptation of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.  I don’t care who write the script or directs or stars, the movie will NOT be as good as the book.  The best that can be hoped for is something different, a film no better or worse than the source material that, nevertheless, stands on its distinct own as an enjoyable product.

It happens, but rarely.  Most book-based movies range from disappointing to atrocious.  As I gave it some thoughts, numerous bad examples came to mind.  And a few singular good ones.

Here are my Top 5 Best and Worst Book to Film adaptations:

THE WORST

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5. I AM LEGEND

The movie, based on the short novel by Richard Matheson, tries to go it’s own creative way – and fails miserably.  A film that will be remembered for only one thing: killing off the dog.

14. THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN

Okay, look, ANY film based on the works of writer Alan Moore are going to pale in comparison to the original.  The best you can hope for is “good but not close enough” (Watchmen) to atrocious (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).  Hey, I don’t recall Tom Sawyer in the graphic novel.  Oh, right.  He was added to appeal to an American audience (“Hey!  Tom Sawyer’s in this movie!  Let’s go see it!”said no one ever).  So disastrous that not only did Alan Moore disown it, but so did it’s star, Sean Connery.

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3. WORLD WAR Z

It’s the book’s fractured narrative that allows us a sweeping understanding of the global pandemic on both the public and personal level – and the attempt to capture it proves to be the movie’s undoing.

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2. HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE

My favorite book in the series was the worst film in the series – as far I know given that I stopped watching after this one.

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 1. A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

My favorite children’s book series of all time.  The movie gets nowhere close to capturing its clever narrative and darkly humorous tone.

(Honorable mentions: Daredevil, The Fantastic Four [any version]).

THE BEST

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5. THE SHINING

I know that author Stephen King was never a fan of the big screen adaptation, but I thought this was one of those rare instances where the  movie almost exists as a separate entity, a different version of the same story that is just as good as the original.

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4. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE

Like The Shining, this is a case of a film that charts its own stylistic path, creating a visual counterpart that pays its respect to the book but is still very much its own animal.

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3. THE PRINCESS BRIDE

I actually fell in love with the movie before discovering – and falling in love with – the book.  It helps that both were written by the same hugely talented writer, William Goldman.

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2. MISERY

Loved the book and loved the movie.  This is one of those rarest of instances where the book and film actually co-exist in the same creative world.  Whenever I watch the movie, the experience is complimented by elements I recall from the novel.  On the other hand, whenever I read the book, Kathy Bates is always Annie.

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1. BLADE RUNNER

I’m sorry, Philip K. Dick fans, but this is one of those rarest of all instances where the movie is actually better than the book.

(Honorable mentions: Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, the 1973 & 1974 Three Musketeers and Four Musketeers, The Godfather)

Just in time for the opening of GONE GIRL…based on the excellent novel of the same name.