Beastly: A Book/Movie Comparison

Today, I thought I’d talk about one of my favorite modern day fairy tales. Alex Flinn’s Beastly, which had a movie made of it in 2011. And, well, let’s meet Beauty and the Beast!

In the book, we have Kyle Kingsbury. Gorgeous son of a famous NYC news anchor. Sure, his dad never talks to him, but he shuts up and deals with it. He knows he’s hot stuff, and looks down on everyone else. Doesn’t even notice a lot of people. One day, he pisses off a witch named Kendra, who transforms him into an all-out beast. Hair covering his whole body, no lips, big teeth, claws. A legit beast, he can’t go anywhere without people freaking out, and trying to kill him.

Disney's Beast

Yeah, that’s about right.

Playing opposite him, Linda Owens (Lindy for short). A plain redhead and literature enthusiast, at a private school on scholarship. Works part time to make sure the rent gets paid, because her dad’s an addict. Wears t-shirts and jeans all the time, her hair in a braid. Kyle himself describes her as a nobody.

The movie gives us Kyle Kingston. Running for the president of the high school Green Committee because he’s gorgeous and he knows it. That’s his whole campaign, with no beating around the bushes. One day pisses off a witch named Kendra (played by Mary-Kate Olsen), and she. . . gives him tattoos. And scars. And makes him bald. He is hideous.

Alex Pettyfer in Beastly makeup

Wait, what?

He falls for Lindy Taylor (played by the gorgeous Vanessa Hudgens). A scholarship student who knows how to look cute. Her hair is always perfect, and she cares about the environment, too, because she becomes the Green Committee’s treasurer. She loves Jujy Fruits and coffee from a little coffee shop in the city. She gives to the homeless. While walking down the street with her headphones on, she starts singing out loud. Isn’t she cute? And Kyle sees it, too. When a picture is taken with him and the gorgeous, cute Lindy, he can’t help but stare at her. And she even has a cell phone! Wow, she’s so poor!

Wait a second. . . .

Wait a second. . . .

So, Kyle is shut away in a house in Brooklyn (book). Or an apartment outside the city (movie). He spends time sulking, with only the maid and the blind tutor his father hired as company. He eventually agrees to let the tutor, Will, teach him, builds a greenhouse, starts calling himself Adrian, and grows roses (book). He stalks Lindy, going by the name Hunter (movie).

Due to circumstances made possible by Lindy’s addict father (in the book, he breaks into the house, in the movie, Kyle sees him kill someone), Adrian/Hunter gets Lindy to live with him, through blackmail. She’s angry, at first, but then they start talking face-to-face. So he invites her to take Will’s lessons with him. (Except in the movie, he only starts studying because she’s there. And then he builds a greenhouse and plants roses because she likes roses. Not because he does.)

Without going blow-by-blow for the rest of the differing plots, I’d like to say the movie is shallow. After all, it’s Hollywood. Nobody can be too ugly, right? Unfashionable doesn’t exist in a teen romance! And classic literature? Who’s into that stuff? A cute nerd would be into contemporary poetry, coffee, Jujy Fruits, music and saving the planet! Plus, the climax lost all of its muchness. Quite frankly, it’s disgusting, and ruined one of my favorite books.

This isn’t to say I have a problem with the actors. I thought they all did well, particularly Mary-Kate Olsen as Kendra and Neil Patrick Harris as Will. But the plot itself? It doesn’t get what Beastly is really about.

In short, when choosing between the two, go with the book. It’s much more rewarding.

Advertisements

Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep CoverAs a college-aged chick who hasn’t started school and quit her job at the call center she was working at, I don’t have much money to play around with. Which is why I was grateful when a dear friend bought me no book other than the new Stephen King novel I had been salivating over, Doctor Sleep. It’s the sequel to The Shining, focusing on Danny Torrance as an adult. And it is wonderful. The fabulous Mr. King has done it again. It took a lot of willpower just to put it down for a few hours.

The book opens not long after the incidents at the Overlook, and we find Danny is still being haunted by some of its citizens. Dick Hallorann to the rescue, telling Danny one day he would be teaching someone, himself.

Grown-up Dan Torrance is not a pretty picture. A drunk who’s run his life into the ground, can’t hold a job for long, and is constantly drifting from town to town. Why drink? It shuts up the shining. But eventually it got to the point where I could stop whining in sympathetic misery, because he got to a town where he was employed by a former alcoholic himself, who became his sponsor, and got him into AA.

The villains, the True Knot, are basically Shining Vampires (not sparkly ones, because this is Stephen King we’re talking about, and we would never muck his image with such filth). They trek around the country, finding children who shine, and torturing them to death so they can suck up their essence (they call it steam)–their vitae (Amnesia: The Dark Descent called it that). It makes them younger, so they can live forever.

Abra Stone, the girl destined to be Dan’s student, is the shiningest shining kid who ever shone. She telepathically contacted him when she was a baby, at which age she also knew about 9/11 before it happened. So, of course, the True Knot wants her. And she and Dan have to stop them (play dramatic chords).

Not very many writers I’ve seen can go back to a standalone novel after a few years and churn out a sequel without ruining everything. But King did it well. As a fan of the first book, which I read in middle school, I don’t think it disappoints, keeping up all the delightful chills. It hurt to see Danny (or Dan, now that he’s All Grown Up) had become an alcoholic, but it was good to see him not following in Jack’s footsteps.

Also, there are plenty of references to the original. Those little things tend to make me happy. Little quotes repeated in that way King has that puts me in absolute awe of his style.

Basically, if you’re a fan of The Shining (here meaning the book), Doctor Sleep is a fantastic must-read.

The Face and Why It’s More Favorite than All of the Other Reindeer

I adore books in general. Particularly Dean Koontz books.

Cover of "The Face: A Novel"

The cover, in all its awesome glory.

One of them, in particular, will always stick out in my mind, though. That’s right. Unlike many bookworms, I have one absolute favorite book. It’s called The Face. One of Dean Koontz’s less-known titles, it seems. And it’s sad, because it’s better. It’s best.

Why?

Because, in a world where people are pressured to spend all their money on expensive cars, houses, plastic surgery, cosmetics, designer clothes and hairdressers, it’s something for us normal people out there. For those of us who’ve ever wanted to be rich and famous, it’s a slap-in-the-face look at the reality of it.

Once upon a distant, less enlightened time, my dream was to be a movie star. Rich and famous and beautiful. In fact, that wish was what drew me to The Face, due to the first sentence of the summary on the back: “He’s Hollywood’s biggest star.” Images instantly filled my young, impressionable mind of glamour and glory, beauty and glitz. Adventure. All the things the rich people have, of course.

Well, not so much. That sentence refers to Channing Manheim, the gorgeous bachelor action star who’s an American household name. He’s capable of stirring emotions like no other. He lives in a huge mansion named Palazzo Rospo in Beverly Hills. He has a huge garage full of expensive cars, a gigantic library, four floors worth of priceless antiques, a swimming pool, a rose garden, a room full of train sets, a cavernous wine cellar, and a fantastic staff. He spends his time away from home making multimillion dollar movies and hanging around some of the most beautiful people in the world. That’s the life, right?

Well, meet Manheim’s son. Ten-year-old Aelfric. A small, skinny kid with messy hair and severe asthma born to Manheim’s supermodel ex-wife, Freddie Nielander. Fric sees his parents so often that he refers to them in his own mind as Nominal Mom and Ghost Dad. It’s through Fric that we see the real Channing Manheim.

Of course the guy isn’t perfect, even if he’s a Hollywood god. Everyone has problems. He was probably bullied as a kid, right?

Well, the library is only there to wow visitors. To make people think they have something in common with him. The cars are never driven. The trains would sit and gather dust, if not for the attention of the staff and Fric’s own interest in them. When the man himself is in residence, there are often wild parties, and always a new girlfriend.

And Fric leads a charmed life, of course. He gets everything he ever wanted. Why, his father sent him out with an interior decorator and fifty thousand dollars to refurnish his suite of rooms. Movie companies send him all the newest children’s movies. He has a private tutor and gets to roam the huge house, doing whatever he wants. He even has his own home phone line.

And we can’t forget about Christmas. Fric gets everything he asks for. Even if he were to ask for a Porsche. But never any surprise in the matter. He has to write a Dear Santa format list every year and give it to the housekeeper. Daddy’s orders. If it’s any shorter than the list from last year he has to add things to it, and he gets exactly what he asked for. No surprises. Ever. Oh, sure, the gifts are wrapped all nice and pretty, but where’s the fun when you know what’s in each one of them?

To put it together, here we have the portrait of a man who, to paraphrase Mr. Koontz, believes nobody else has anything more to them than a half-page of back story, and who is benignly certain the universe and him regard each other with equal amounts of fascination.

But, though he’s the title character (it’s a title the media has bestowed upon him), Manheim isn’t the protagonist. In fact, he never even makes an appearance.

No, the protagonist is his chief of security, ex-cop Ethan Truman, who quit the police force after his wife died of cancer. The book is about Ethan trying to figure out who’s threatening his employer, and simultaneously figure out the mystery of an old friend’s death.

This book is a masterpiece, in short. Something beautiful to make me laugh and cry—sometimes at the same time. The villain is quirky and almost likable at times. All the characters feel incredibly real. It’s creepy, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking and it’s wonderful. So do yourself a favor and go check it out, because I said so.

World? What World?

Losing oneself in a story is an amazing, and very addictive thing. If anything exists besides the book, movie, game, etc, it hasn’t totally sucked you in.

The problem is when you reach the last page. The last scene. When the book finally closes, and you realize how much time has past and that you aren’t a part of that world you were just reading about. Reality has to take over again. But your mind is still there, in that fantasy world, with those characters. Still lingering in their tragedies and triumphs. Left reeling and wanting to cry because you weren’t ready for it to end.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is me right now. This is me too often. Totally engrossed in a book or TV show to the exclusion of everything else. It’s torture. If it’s a book, I have to go back through several times and read over some of my favorite passages. And I don’t want to give it up, which gets me in heaps of trouble with the local library.

But “how do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on when in your heart, you begin to understand—there is no going back?”

And that is why I must avoid the most addictive things, because I will be sucked into a dark pit of despair.

For the Love of Character!

Just finished an amazing book: Warchild by Karin Lowachee—a science fiction novel. Most genre fiction of my admittedly limited experience focuses on the world. They wow you with ships and space travel, magic and unicorns, princesses and dragons and orcs and ogres and weird new aliens and different planets, Earth as it will be or once was, and so on. The characters themselves are bland—just like a thousand other characters out there. You know little about them besides their names and generally what they look like, and you forget about them as soon as the book’s over.

BORING.

I can’t muddle my way through books like that, which is why I’ve had to stay away from the fantasy/sci-fi sections of the book store lately. But I’m always on the lookout for something to restore my faith in genre fiction. Warchild has been one of those. It’s not perfect, but I’d say the main character is just as strong and interesting and dynamic as the main character in some hoity toity literary novel.

(Note: It’s not a gay romance novel. Goodreads users have listed it as LGBT and m/m romance. It’s not, though the other books in the series might head that way. The main character in this one’s asexual.)

O, genre fiction! O, refuge of my childhood! Where did the character development go? What happened to personal challenges being overcome? Heck, what happened to the people, and why am I surrounded by cardboard cutouts? It’s all about flashy toys, now.  Or, if the characters are passably human, how It Got Worse and Darker and Edgier.

And that’s why I stick to the fiction and literature shelves. But still, I keep hoping. Searching the vast stacks of books at every bookstore and library far and wide, just hoping I’ll find something special that will restore my faith in genre fiction.