Seth MacFarlane: writer, director, producer, Oscars host, and now, novelist. The Family Guy creator announced that he has written a novel based on the screenplay for his upcoming film, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and will release it in March, two months before the film hits theaters in May. The book will tell the story of Albert Stark, a sheep farmer who spends most of his time attempting to avoid the overwhelming dangers that fill the wild west in order to survive, until his girlfriend leaves him, and "Albert decides to fight back—even though he can’t shoot, ride, or throw a punch. Fortunately, he teams up with a beautiful gunslinger who’s tough enough for the both of them. Unfortunately, she’s married to the biggest, meanest, most jealous badass on the frontier. Turns out Albert has just discovered a million and one ways to die in the West."
Turning the film into a novel is an unusual choice, since MacFarlane's comedic style tends to rely on rapid-fire jokes and visual gags that may be difficult for him to translate from the screen into print. Since he wrote the novelization himself, it's very likely that those jokes will have made it into the book, but the story will need to have a little bit of depth or character development in order to work properly as a novel. However, turning the film into a novel could be a good sign, as it can be taken as an indication that the film has a lot more to it than just an endless stream of jokes. There's been no indication thus far that MacFarlane has added material for the novel, which means we all might need to get excited about A Million Ways to Die in the West.
But as weird as it might seem to read a novel from the same guy who wrote Family Guy or Ted, A Million Ways to Die in the West is not the strangest or most surprising film novelization out there. We've rounded up 12 of the weirdest ones, and ranked them in order of insanity. Looks like MacFarlane has a lot to live up to with this project.
12. Pretty In Pink If you've ever watched the classic 1986 film and wished that Andie had chosen her dorky, loyal best friend Duckie over rich kid Blaine at the end, we may have the perfect solution for you. The novelization of the film sticks with the original ending, and allows Duckie to live the dream of every awkward, poorly-dressed high school guy and win the girl of his dreams away from the obnoxious kid with good hair and a nice car. The downside, though, is that unlike the screenplay, it isn't written by John Hughes, which means it likely lacks some of the wit and heart that characterizes his film. But that's a small price to pay to watch the nerd emerge victorious.
11. Kazaam Remember when Shaquille O'Neal decided to try his hand at acting in the late 1990s, and the world was gifted with Kazaam? Well, it should come as no surprise to you, then, that movie executives realized that school children all across the country would buy anything with O'Neal's face on it, and churned out a novelization of the film in order to sell it at book fairs. Unlike most film novelizations, there are no significant changes or additions to the book, probably because there is very little that can be done to that script in order to make it worth reading, but that didn't stop it from flying off the shelves of every elementary school library around.
10. Great Expectations Long before he stranded Sandra Bullock in space, Alfonso Cuaron directed an adaptation of Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. Then, someone adapted that adaptation into a novel that is even more "loosely" based on the Dickens classic. Although both the film and the novel make a lot of interesting and strange changes in order to modernize the story, the most inexplicable decision comes from author Deborah Chiel, who changed the name of the protagonist to Johnny from Fin (itself a change from the original name, Pip.) Dickens likely turned over in his grave when this hit bookshelves.
9. Crossroads The 2002 film Crossroads was notable not for its script, acting or cinematography but simply for the fact that it was the acting debut of pop princess Britney Spears. Which makes it even more surprising that someone would turn the film into a novel, as it then loses the one thing that made it worth talking about. Sure, Spears' face is on the cover, but the only reason to see the film was to watch her attempt to transition into a film career, and then sing along every time one of her songs played on the soundtrack. The book even takes away the joy that comes with watching Dan Akyroyd act in a Britney Spears film. It's all plot and no fun.
8. The Cabin in the Woods Co-written by Joss Whedon, this 2012 film was designed as a way to "revitalize the slasher film," and featured a surprise twist that thrilled fans and critics alike. But in case you're uncomfortable with too much gore, or you just never got to catch the film in theaters, there's a novelization of the film available so that you can still talk about the film without having to watch people get decapitated. It's the best of both worlds!
7. Mortal Kombat If there's one thing that old-school video games lacked, it's a strong sense of plot and character development. Jeff Rovin has remedied that by turning the video game Mortal Kombat into a novel, although he cut out most of the fighting in favor of backstory and long explanations of how the character came to be the super-powered fighting machines that they are. Which is cool if you're a hard-core fan, but let's be real, here: the only reason anyone was interested in Mortal Kombat was the fighting. Without that, what's the point?
6. John Carter John Carter is the story of a Civil War captain who gets transported to Mars after he dies, and leads a Martian army to save the princess. With it's mix of sci-fi and action, it makes sense that movie executives would want to turn the film into a novel; what doesn't make sense, though, is why they would choose to publish it alongside A Princess of Mars, the original Edgar Rice Burroughs story that it is based on, especially when the film famously failed to live up to its source material. You would think that the last thing they would want to do is draw attention to the ways the stories differed.
5. Paradise AlleyThis is a novelization of a film that was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, adapted by Stallone himself, which makes it worthy of this list. You can actually own a book authored by the guy who played Rocky Balboa. What a time to be alive.
4. Spaceballs For some reason, Mel Brooks seem to think that his film Spaceballs would make an excellent children's book - which is not a thought that anyone who has ever seen Spaceballs shares. However, Brooks ignored everyone else, and the novelization was published, and sold to students in elementary schools across the country through Scholastic Book catalogs and school book fairs. Of course, they made sure to edit the content down to a more child-friendly nature, but anyone who's buying a Sapceballs book is probably not a child.
3. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls Everything that makes Ace Ventura work as a film is everything that makes it fail as a novel. The humor relies so heavily on Jim Carrey's physicality and line delivery, that without the visual element, all that's left are descriptions of the weird gags that take place in the film, which isn't fun or funny for anybody who reads these.
2. The Cat in the Hat No, we didn't make a mistake. Someone actually thought it was a good idea to turn the Mike Myers film into a novel, despite the fact that there is a book that already exists that is better written and more fun to read than the movie itself. When it comes to a showdown between the original Cat in the Hat and any kind of pale imitation, Dr. Suess will always walk away the winner. There's a reason it's become a classic, and it has nothing to do with Myers.
1. Howard the Duck Nobody who has ever watched Howard the Duck has wished that the story lasted longer. Nobody. But the strangest thing about this novelization isn't the fact that it exists in the first place, but the fact that it is widely regarded to be better than its source material, and even adds extra layers of depth and humor to the characters and story that appears onscreen. That's right: Howard the Duck has hidden layers. Who'd have known?
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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You're thrilled that will be a movie adaptation of your favorite book. You can't wait to see if what you imagined as you turned the pages translates onto the big screen. Then as you're viewing the film, your joy turns first to horror then to utter disgust as you realize that the entire book has been butchered worse than someone stuck in a room with Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees. You leave the theater with steam coming out of your ears.
Translating a book into a movie is tough, yes, because no one visualizes things the same way. That doesn't let Hollywood off the hook. since these following movies were ones where the creative decisions were truly terrible.
The Scarlet Letter
This movie took a classic novel and pretty much spat all over it. Demi Moore turns in a dull performance and not even the great Gary Oldman could save it. They took a situation that was supposed to be about the shame of adulturous sex and made it even more tawdry.What made matters worse was the fact that they changed the ending to a happier one. Moore even defended the movie by saying that not many people had read the book (I think every English teacher in the nation tore up the newspaper when they read that quote). Nathaniel Hawthorne was probably spinning fast enough in his grave to power Manhattan for 10,000 years.
Bonfire of the Vanities
If you want to look up the term 'surefire hit', this movie should have been in there. It had Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis. Admittedly, it was before they became TOM HANKS and BRUCE WILLIS, but they should have had the charisma to pull off this adaptation of the satirical Tom Wolfe novel. The problem was, they went with a comedy instead of making it a dramedy. Melanie Griffith was wasted, too. There were no Masters of The Universe here.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Nicolas Cage can act in a drama. Watch Leaving Las Vegas. He can do it. This was not a good drama for him. He especially can't convincingly play an Italian. There was no real chemistry between Penelope Cruz and Cage. It also deviated a lot from the book and the movie just seemed to set the stage for Cage to start taking weirder and weirder roles (with a couple of National Treasures sandwiched in between).
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Johnny Depp version)
I like how the Gene Wilder version did with the childhood classic book. Wilder played Willy Wonka as a whimsical sort who enjoyed confounding the people who entered his domain. Depp, an actor who has really embraced eccentric roles of late, made a high-strung pale ghoul who probably was nightmare fuel for every kid that saw the movie in the theater. It just changed the whole overall tone from the book and was a bad choice. I wonder if Depp's own children were like, "Um... Dad?" when they saw this.
The Great Gatsby (both versions)
I read "The Great Gatsby" a long time ago, but I had a fixed image of Jay Gatsby. It sure as heck wasn't Robert Redford, who played the titular character in the '70s version and I never saw Leo DiCaprio. For some reason, I also didn't have the music of Jay-Z blaring in my mind when I read the book either. The modern version actually did fairly well in the theater, but I didn't see it as a good adaptation, since it was too glittery.
Any live-action Dr. Seuss movie
I don't think Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, had Jim Carrey and Mike Myers (the SNL actor, not the homicidal slasher I mentioned in the introductory paragraph) in mind when he wrote "The Grinch Whole Stole Christmas" and "The Cat In The Hat" respectively. He might have had issues casting someone who thought high comedy was talking with his butt cheeks and another who devised a character who was morbidly obese and would scream things like, "GET..IN...MY...BELLY!!!!" I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.
The dumbest decision in this movie was to remove the presence of the Greek Gods. You know, the ones that were a huge impetus behind the scenes for many of the events that took place during this epic? I think Zeus would have at least thrown a thunderbolt in the direction of Brad Pitt for making Achilles such a whiny, pouty prettyboy baby. There was such a big chance to make an epic movie and the creators punted on it; Such a shame.
I like Jack Black. I do. I loved School of Rock and found his turn in Tropic Thunder to be hilarious. When I saw that he was going to be doing a version of this classic tale, with several key points changed, my first, second and third instincts were, "Uh... no". Sure enough, it relied on kiddie humor and failed to carry anything from its original source.
Running With Scissors
This was a movie that I was actually looking forward to seeing, since I'm a big fan of Augusten Burroughs. Sadly, the movie took mental illness and had its characters act like cartoon characters. Alec Baldwin, Annette Bening and Joseph Fiennes all had their talent wasted in this movie. It was from a memoir too, which just made it worse. I found it a good opportunity vastly squandered.
I don't care that the Asimov estate approved of this movie, one that took only a couple of names from the book and made it a COMPLETELY different film. I think Isaac, if he were still alive, would have taken one look at the script and sneered at the writers, "You're kidding, right?" I don't think he pictured Will Smith sliding down a huge tower screaming at a sentient computer.
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1980s television was unique. The comedies were brighter and campier, the dramas were more succinct and black-and-white. So, a television series that worked in that decade might not have the same effect on audiences today. But experimentation is where genius is born. And as far as genres go: crime-drama is timeless. So, taking these matters into account, NBC is vying for a remake of the undercover cop series Wiseguy (1987-1990), starring Ken Wahl, Jim Byrnes and Jonathan Banks.
Wahl, who has not acted since 1996, when he starred in the TV movie version of this series, played undercover police officer Vinnie Terranova—this could get confusing if they run the show on Mondays. In the original series, Vinnie disguises himself as a prisoner in a New Jersey penitentiary with the mission of taking down the local organized crime syndicates from the inside. The new series, however, will put a different spin on things.
In the remake, the main character will actually play a disgraced cop who, while in jail, takes on the undercover work in exchange for a reduced sentence. No word on whether or not characters like "Lifeguard" Burroughs, or "Harry the Hunch" will be revived directly, or who will be attached to the cast. But if Banks, now a soaring eagle on Breaking Bad, has any plans to revisit old material, I think we're in for some glorious television.
On the one hand it’s a comedy. We meet Sarah Huttinger (Jennifer Aniston) a thirtysomething knee deep in a pre-midlife crisis with a way too patient fiancé (Mark Ruffalo) and a nowhere job. Her anxiety is only exacerbated when she visits her picture perfect family in Pasadena CA a place she’s never felt like she belonged especially after her mother died. But then it gets weirder when Sarah finds out her family was the inspiration for The Graduate. It seems Sarah’s grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) was the Mrs. Robinson and that her mother ran off with the same guy briefly right before she got married to Sarah’s dad. Sarah becomes obsessed with finding this “other” guy Beau Burroughs (Kevin Costner) believing he might be the key. He’s a key all right--to a night of drunken lust. But none of this is going to solve Sarah’s problems now is it? She’s got to find her own answers in her heart. Excuse me while I go throw up. Maybe Jennifer Aniston should just write this year off. Not only did she lose a husband to another woman she also hasn’t made very smart choices in her career. Derailed completely missed the track and now this comedy is no better suited to her talents. Aniston is much better playing sweet and quirky rather than messy and neurotic and honestly shines brighter when co-starring with strong comedic talents such as Ben Stiller (Along Came Polly) or Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty). (That’s why we’re holding our breath for her next film The Break Up with [real-life boyfriend?] Vince Vaughn.) Shirley MacLaine making a habit out of being the best thing in an otherwise dull movie (In Her Shoes anyone?) is a hoot as grandma. Costner doesn’t look anything like Dustin Hoffman thank goodness but has zero chemistry with Aniston. And who knows what the hell Ruffalo is doing wasting his talents doing this romantic comedy crap. Just say no Mark. As a director Rob Reiner hasn’t had much luck lately either. This is the first movie he’s directed since 2003’s Alex & Emma--and we all remember what a success that was. To be fair Reiner apparently took over the reins from screenwriter Ted Griffin (Matchstick Men) who was making his feature film debut ten days into production and changed things quite a bit. That’s not surprising because Rumor quite simply lacks direction. It wants desperately to be a comedy with a hint of relationship drama but somehow misses the mark on both. Now the idea of a Graduate update is somewhat intriguing. Reminds me of Robert Altman’s The Player in which The Graduate’s original screenwriter Buck Henry pitches a sequel of sorts to a studio development exec. It’s meant to be a joke of course but somewhere in the spoof there might’ve been a sliver of mad brilliance. Too bad Rumor ruins it.