The Movie Tipper Suggests that Sometimes
You are Better Off Just Reading the Damn Book.
A Bunch of Book to Movie Treatments and One Brilliant Film
Movies in this Post:
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Atlas Shrugged: Part iii, Who Is John Galt
This Is Where I Leave You | The Maze Runner
from the novel by Lawrence Block
Movie Tipper Rating: A+
Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.
- Raymond Chandler The Simple Art of Murder (1950)
Be warned (be glad) A Walk Among the Tombstones in no way an extension of Liam Neeson’s Taken franchise. Based on a novel by top drawer crime novelist Lawrence Block this is another brooding, atmospheric and ultimately completely satisfying animal altogether. Block’s towering achievement, the Matthew Scudder character, is mercifully spared the unnerving soul evisceration and transplant that was visited on Lee Child’s Jack Reacher character. Under Scott Frank’s direction Neeson hews very close to the spirit of Block’s creation. Naturally, I like watching Neeson giving some miscreants the thrashing that they deserve as much as the next filmgoer, but this … this is another thing.
The Movie Tipper suggests that you SEE THIS MOVIE.
Rated: R strong violence, disturbing images, language, and brief nudity
Metacritic Score: 57 (ridiculous)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 66% (way too low, a crime!)
from the work of Ayn Rand
Movie Tipper Rating: C
Atlas Shrugged is not an easy book to translate to film, and the need for three installments just to cover the narrative is certainly a tip-off that writers, directors and three entirely different casts of actors playing the same parts had their work cut out for them. Really I don’t envy them this herculean task. Then add to that that for this last installment they had to struggle to put it on screen for less than one third of the budget of even the most conventional Hollywood production, and things start to get a bit strained. Like so strained that they are resorting to stock footage and voice over ... a lot. The end result is a serene sameness interspersed with slideshow like exposition and no glimmer of an auteurist style at all; though in fairness to all concerned the technical aspects of the film are completely serviceable and maybe even amazing when you consider the micro-budget that they had to work with.
Those aren’t the only problems. Rand troweled pages and pages of her Objectivist philosophy in between the plot point bricks of her novel that in a film get reduced to plodding non sequiturs like “It’s amazing what can be accomplished without red tape!” Also, the sexy soap component so essential to any Ayn Rand plot suffers in the person of Kristoffer Polaha. He is just not the stuff that dreams are made of. Don’t even think of comparing him to the casually virile, classically handsome genuine movie star Gary Cooper in the 1948 film of Rand’s real masterpiece The Fountainhead. He’s just not handsome or charismatic enough. Not to mention that showing Galt in an actual crucifixion pose was bit over the top, even in a film struggling this hard to make its point. Still, Laura Regan as Dagny Taggart demonstrates that there is a lot more to her than she was able to show on Mad Men with some feisty hair flipping and striding around; even if they did rob her of almost all of her good speeches from the book and replace them with dialogue that might actually have been lifted from a rejected script for some TV show. There are some other odd casting choices too; when Rob Morrow briefly appears it is disconcertingly as though his Dr Fleischman character were still harboring a grudge against Big Government for shipping him to Alaska.
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The basic narrative of personal freedom defiant in the face of government overreach is still there. In Rand’s book it was framed by a story of railroads, steel and valuable metals; all trappings that have lost their sovereignty and thus their metaphoric power now. Actually the familiar seeming narrative of corrupt, collectivist, self-destructive and dysfunctional government seems more in keeping with the dystopian YA stories that have flooded the cineplexes recently. Maybe demonstrating with period detail how the real-life rise of these forces took shape in the early part of the last century would have been pretty cool and maybe attracted some young minds to the ideas being set forth. The insistence on setting the action in something that looks a bit like the present day or near future instead of making a period drama suited to the actual story was I think a grave error; even if it was obviously for budgetary reasons. Still, I think they did an ok job. As a capitalism of the individual vs the reductive forces of big government agitprop film it works, but the production demerits are so evident that beyond the initiated this movie will struggle to spread its message.
The Movie Tipper suggests that you just Read the Book. If you are interested in Ayn Rand and her ideas you are just gonna have to do the heavy lifting yourself.
Metacritic Score:11 (I’d call that a tad rough)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 0% (I wouldn’t call this fair really)
from the novel by Jonathan Tropper
Movie Tipper Rating: C
The Movie Tipper suggests that you just Read the Book. OK he’s not Tolstoy, he’s not even Wally Lamb, still on paper (or Kindle screen) a lot of this guff holds up pretty well.
Metacritic Score: 44 (oy!)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43% (I’d call that a tad harsh)
from James Dashner's Book
Movie Tipper Rating: D
It has a few bright spots, a very few. The design of the thing is neat and tingly, and it has some fun scares. Both Dylan O'Brien and Will Poulter are being nicely set up to have real movie careers, so that’s nice. and … well, that’s about it actually. Then there’s the ending. I suppose that it’s supposed to be setting you up for the next installments of the trilogy (and recent box office numbers pretty much assure that there will be one), but what a thud and a dud.
The Movie Tipper suggests that you Read the Book if you are 12 years old and you feel that you must, and that if you are that age or shepherding around someone who is that you could do worse than See the Movie. I’m not sure how, but you could.
Rated: super-violent PG-13
Metacritic Score: 56
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 63% (I’d call this generous)