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?
Forget that the latest adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's sweeping romance novel comes from the man who brought us the slick-but-stuffy Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. Every frame of director Joe Wright's Anna Karenina is a wonder to behold overflowing with visual spectacle and roaring performances. Keira Knightley Jude Law Aaron Taylor-Johnson and the rest of the cast fit perfectly in the high drama epic but it's really Wright's playground. Following Hanna an artful spin on the action movie Wright returns to the period drama but injects it with dazzling daring choices. A book like Anna Karenina could once fit in reality but its larger-than-life legacy precedes it. Wright acknowledges that from frame one approaching the film like a grand ballet or opera where grand gestures broad emotions and overt theatrics are commonplace. That vision clicks transforming Anna Karenina into an exhilarating moviegoing experience.
The storyline of Anna Karenina isn't far off from a daytime soap: It's 1874 and Anna (Knightley) is floating through existence as the wife of influential government player Karenin (Law). But when her brother Oblonsky (Matthew Macfadyen) summons her to Moscow to save his marriage Anna's entire world is shaken up. She meets Vronsky (Taylor-Johnson) a cavalry hunk who finds himself smitten with the taken lady. She's in the same boat: The two strike up a flirtatious relationship that evolves into one of sexual passion. A scandalous affair would incite trouble in the preset day but in the 19th century it's the ultimate crime. Quickly Anna's life comes crumbling down.
The intertwining melodrama of Anna Karenina earned the novel its classic status but Wright uses the material as a launching pad for imagination rather than a tome to translate to screen. Many of the scenes are staged in a theater creating an instant awareness of the production. Sets shift and are reconstructed into new rooms; actors costume change in the span of single shots; action sequences like a thrilling horse race are conducted on stage with special effects you might see on Broadway. Wright works this sort of stylization in the other direction too; a character could walk an empty stage open a door and suddenly be on a snow-covered hill. Anna Karenina isn't the first film to use the effect but in Wright's hands it's exhilarating.
The movie is Wright's third collaboration with Knightley and easily their most successful. Knightley never struggles to stay on the same page as the heightened material whether she's nailing a dance sequence or breaking down in a flood of tears. Casting an ensemble around Knightley is no easy task but Taylor-Johnson gives his best work yet as the debonair love interest and Macfadyen steals the show with moments of physical comedy.
We have expectations of the texture and structure of period romances. Anna Karenina defies them. Masterpiece Theater it is not.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
Today in Oscar bait: Jeremy Irvine and Helena Bonham Carter are in talks to join Mike Newell's adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations as Pip and Miss Havisham, respectively. Rowan Joffe (The American) is adapting the screenplay, a story of an orphan who becomes a young gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor.
Many consider Great Expectations to be one of Dickens' best works, so unsurprisingly, this won't be its first adaptation. Back in 1948, David Lean directed an Oscar-winning black and white version. Followed by that was a contemporary remake, set in NYC and pretty poorly done (IMO) by Alfonso Cuaron. Then in 1999, Julian Jarrold made a Masterpiece Theatre version.
If you've made it this far without googling Jeremy Irvine's name, here's the scoop: he's a fresh face who makes his big screen debut later this year with Steven Spielberg's War Horse, which releases December 28. Apparently, Spielberg picked the young actor out of obscurity for that role, so he must be a pretty talented kid. That or his uncle is Harrison Ford or something.