Book vs Movie: The Running Man – What’s The Difference?

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Given the impending authoritarian regimes and mega-media corporations forming, CineFix decided that this month’s What’s the Difference? would look at our near future. Reality TV will soon bring us The Running Man.

Back when I first saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man the title sequence credited the source material as being written by Richard Bachman. One of the people with me, turned to us all with one of those know-it-all looks and said, “That’s really Stephen King.” So as we watched Arnie take down hulking professional killers with his trademark killer puns, we wondered if he was correct. Spoiler: he was.

Decades later I finally got around to reading and enjoying the novel. The movie and the novel were starkly different in so many ways. For starters, no half-starved, poverty stricken Running Man contestant is going to look like Arnie. But many of the themes are the same, if explored in differing ways.

This made The Running Man more than just a standard action film. By exploring the themes of totalitarianism, class subjugation, and media control while Arnie slices a guy in half with a chainsaw, we got a movie that was subversive and satirical. While not on the same level of social commentary as King’s novel, it does stand as an example of how you can do a loose adaptation of source material as an action movie but retain the exploration of themes.

And watch a guy with no pants get electrocuted when the fire sprinklers are set off. Way better than reading the description of Ben Richards’ entrails getting caught on plane seats.

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Book vs Movie: Stephen King’s It – What’s the Difference?

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With the release of the new movie adaptation of Stephen King’s It, unsurprisingly this month’s What’s the Difference? from CineFix is covering the book vs the 1990 mini-series.

The It mini-series come out on video – yes VHS, yes I am old – when I was just at the start of my teenage years. The adolescent characters facing the genuinely scary Pennywise was too much for me. Tim Curry’s portrayal of the demonic clown left me sleepless for a week. It is the only movie to have ever had this much of an impact on me.

I mean Pennywise is already a scary clown. But he turns into a giant nope. In Australia we’re wary of tiny nopes. A giant nope is a ticket to nightmares.

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So guess what book I refuse to read and which recent adaptation I won’t be watching.*

Although, apparently the new movie is genuinely good:

*Yeah, I know, I probably wouldn’t find it scary now. I probably will eventually read the novel and watch the new movie. Maybe.

Book vs Movie: Shawshank Redemption – What’s the Difference?

Nothing quite like comparing one of the best movies of all time with its source material. This month CineFix do with What’s the Difference? on The Shawshank Redemption.

It’s odd that I have read Stephen King’s The Body but haven’t read Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, given that they shared space in the same collection. But then I don’t often read novellas and short stories, as I prefer novels. I often think that shorter stories make for easier movie adaptations as the filmmakers don’t have to trim material the same way. Of course there are two problems with that thinking:

  1. It assumes that filmmakers actually read the source material (see here, here, herehere….)
  2. It assumes that filmmakers aren’t quite content to stretch source material out to fill as much cinema time as possible, no matter how bad an idea that is. *cough* The Hobbit *cough*

I recently saw a listicle that suggested Shawshank was one of the movies you should have in your collection. That is clearly wrong. If you can’t turn on the TV and catch it on rerun then your TV is broken or you have found Die Hard on instead. Why own it? Which brings me to possibly the only real gripe there is to be had with Shawshank, and that is its over-popularity. Exactly how many times can it play on TV before people start becoming annoyed? At what point does the audience start to groan at what was once a great movie? Can great art remain timeless if you beat everyone over the head with it? I fear the answers.

Book review: Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #2)Finders Keepers by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enter a world where people obsess over books that aren’t Harry Potter. Of course it is a fictional world.

Peter Saubers’ family is having a tough time of it. The GFC has hit hard, his dad was hit hard with a car, and the arky-barkies might tear the family apart. Then he stumbles upon a literal treasure chest: stolen money and notebooks from the late John Rothstein – a reclusive author in the mould of JD Salinger. Of course, the man who killed for those notebooks, Morris Bellamy, has a wee fixation on Rothstein and his character Jimmy Gold, so not even a life sentence will stop him coming for Peter Saubers and his treasure.

I’ll be honest, I was going to give up on this book. If it hadn’t been written by Stephen King I probably would have. This is the second novel in the Bill Hodges trilogy, and Bill doesn’t show up until a third to half-way through the novel. That is part of what makes this novel frustrating. It takes a long time to set things up and get the plot moving, with that first third or more acting as back story that you’re not quite sure has a point to it.

But the final third of the novel redeems this ignoble start in a taut and suspenseful manner. Definitely not one of King’s better works, but if you can get past the waffly back story, this is an okay read.

View all my reviews

What are some great books that will teach me to be a creative writer?

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I love creative writing and I’m good at university dissertations, but when I try to write a story, I struggle and the writing is often awkward. Yet I love doing it. What pratical guides or reading list would you recommend for people who wish to masted the art of writing and creative writing?

Creative writing is as much about practice as it is about any advice you can read in a book. Part of that practice is writing, part of it is editing your own work, and part of it is reading to see how others construct their prose.

Essentially, if you already know the mechanics of how to write, then the part that is missing is the hours and hours of practice and analysis of that practice.

That said, there are plenty of manuals on style and grammar that would be helpful. E.g. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is regarded as a classic of writing.

I personally think Stephen King’s On Writing is a must read for any author.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

What I think of Dean Koontz

I was watching Odd Thomas, the adaptation of Dean Koontz’s novel starring Anton Yelchin, on Netflix and realised I haven’t read a Koontz novel in years. The last one I remember reading was Night Chills, which I read as a child. Probably the closest I’ve come to reading a Koontz novel lately is watching the movie Phantoms.

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Odd Thomas was an enjoyable movie, a bit cheesy, but entertaining none-the-less. Same could be said of Phantoms. Even though I read Night Chills over 25 years ago, I can still vividly remember a lot of it because of the interesting take on mind control and what it could be used for. So it seems odd that after having had no bad experiences with Koontz’s novels (and movie adaptations) that I wouldn’t have read more of his work. I mean, he didn’t become the sixth highest paid author by accident. And how many other novels do I remember reading that long ago?

Could it be that “no bad experiences” doesn’t exactly act as a glowing recommendation? Is it just that I’ve written him off as an inferior Stephen King clone? Or is it that whenever I think of Dean Koontz I think of this scene from The Family Guy?

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Of course, Koontz isn’t the only author whose career I seem to have glossed over. It is easy to miss an author. With so many great books by so many great authors, the issue becomes one of hours per lifetime. I’ve long held that a lifetime of reading doesn’t amount to many novels read. Don’t believe me? Allow me to mathetise you:

  • Let’s use two averages 50 books per year and 100 books per year.
  • Assume average reading lifespan is between age 10 and 80 = 70 years.
  • Assume you only read any one novel once.
  • Assume that you aren’t tragically hit by a car and can’t read.
  • Thus, in a reading lifetime you can read between 3,500 and 7,000 books.
  • There were over 300,000 books published in the USA last year. Over 8,000 in my home country of Australia.

So we do have to be picky about what we read. You can’t just waste time slogging through a book you aren’t enjoying: that’s valuable reading life you’re wasting! Not to mention your poor brain being haunted by the experience. Glossing over authors who could possibly be entertaining me greatly in service of finishing that award winning novel literature professors deemed important, is madness. Dying knowing that you had read all of the Harry Potter books would be far more satisfying that dying from sheer boredom in the middle of War and Peace.

Reviews and recommendations obviously become very important here. Being picky about what you read has to come from good advice. That’s why I post reviews of books I’ve enjoyed. Hopefully I’ll help others find something to read that won’t make them regret paying money for. Movie adaptations are part of this recommendation process. Despite the movies always being worse than the book (except when they aren’t) you do get an impression of the book and whether it would be worth reading. I mean, nothing like taking 15 hours of entertainment and squeezing it into 2 hours to help avoid bad books. Odd Thomas recommended its source material enough to make me question my entire accidental Koontz avoidance. I Am Number Four made me erroneously assume you couldn’t write a worse book. The Bourne Identity made me question if they knew it was meant to be based on a book.

Maybe I should read Odd Thomas, or one of the other hundred odd novels Koontz has written. Maybe I should see if the author who managed to write something that lingers in my memory decades later is able to leave that sort of impression again. Maybe I should see how faithful the movie adaptation was and how suited Anton Yelchin was to the role. 

Or I could continue to avoid reading Koontz’s books. You know, whatever.