Which top ten films were based on books?


Image: Pixabay


My son wants to go to the cinema this weekend with his pals.

He’s got to the age where he’s happy to pay to sit in a cold auditorium, his shoes sticking to the soft-drink-soaked carpet as he struggles to concentrate on a loosely-plotted, CGI laden, convoluted storyline over the sound of cola slurping, sweet-wrapper rustling and ringtones.

After years of sitting through countless animated features of widely varying quality, I’m quite happy for him to go to the cinema without me.

We did see the new Star Wars movie as a family the other week, the first few minutes of which were accompanied by periodic cussing from a drunk the staff had seen fit to allow in.

The man’s outburts were unsettling for several reasons: his language, which was bluer than the sky over the sun-soaked beaches of Malibu: the violence of execution, which was threatening and sporadic, meaning we’d have a few moments of unnerving, distracting peace waiting for the next explosion of filth (which, if it isn’t a thrash rock band name, should be): and finally, the fact that apart from the light from the screen, it was darker than a sewer in a power cut in there and the man was sitting close behind us.

So rather than wondering where Luke Skywalker had got to and why Chewbacca had aged better than Han Solo, I was left wondering if (a) the lunatic in the darkness was capable of physical violence as powerful as his verbal violence and if so (b) whether he had smuggled in a knife /machete / meat cleaver or any other such weaponry and was prone to the occasional blood-soaked rampage.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away

M***ER F***ER

is probably not the opening JJ Abrams had in mind.

Fortunately, after ten minutes or so of this, someone overcame their natural English reserve, and got up to complain that disurbingly screamed obscenities and beloved family sci-fi francises don’t mix and the gentleman in question was removed.*


There’s nothing as landmark-y being screened at the moment, but if the lad is off to soak up some multi-plex block buster nonsense, the other half and I were hoping to watch a film too – favourite being Leonardo DiCaprio being mauled by a bear and left for dead in The Revenant. Personally, I feel he deserves no less for Titanic – I have a long memory, people.

After seeing the book of the Leo vehicle in the supermarket today, and knowing that the boys will likely be watching Goosebumps, I wondered how many of the current top ten movie offerings at my local cinemas are based on books.

The answer was:

The Big Short : based on a non-fiction account of the econimic crisis by Michael Lewis.

The Revenant : Michael Punke’s  fictonalised account of a frontiersman’s fight for survival.

Thirteen Hours : Mitchell Zuckoff’s non-fiction account of the Battle of Benghazi.

Goosebumps : based on the kids’ horror fiction series by R.L.Stine

Room : based on the prize winning novel by Emme Donoghue.

The 5th Wave : based on the YA sci-fi novel by Rick Yancey.

6/10 – that’s a big chunk.

Now, this is the first time I’ve done this, so it could be that in a fortnight, they’ll be no book-inspired offerings. But I doubt it, for I’m sure we’ve all noticed the feed-through.

The Hunger Games, the Harry Potters, the Lord of the Rings movies – innumerable D.C and Marvel offerings – all have started out as paper and ended up celluloid, or code, or whatever format it is filmmakers use these days.

What can we aspiring authors learn from this?

Well, that filmmakers and movie studios don’t like to risk their bucks and reputations on untried ideas and would rather writers and publishers did it first. And that if you write a book that’s at least semi-successful you’re quite likely to get a film deal out of it.

I also wonder to what extent authors now write with cinema in mind.

Maybe they don’t do it consciously. But now we’ve had several generations who have grown up with TV and cinema filling some of the imaginative voids in their heads, is it possible NOT to imagine the framing of a scene, the score, the special effects?

Come on, writers. What do you think? 


*The person who got up and complained wasn’t me, of course. It’s possible I would have sat there for 2 hours 15 minutes, tutting loudly as the man’s screaming grew more frenzied, only grumbling to a staff member after said loony had laid about me with his blade of choice.

Confessions of a Superhero’s Mum


Just over eleven years ago I gave birth to Iron Man.

I didn’t realise it at the time of course. When the midwife handed him to me, she didn’t say ‘Congratulations. It’s a Superhero’. He didn’t have a mini Arc Reactor protruding from his tiny ribcage and he didn’t shoot laser beams from his chubby little fists whenever he was hungry or tired. That would be silly.

So, I here you cry ‒ and will you please stop doing that because it’s very distracting – if my son isn’t called Stark, and wasn’t left on the doorstep with a red and gold helmet tucked in his blanket and a note saying ‘Please look after this Avenger’, then how do I know he’s destined to  assume Tony’s mantle?

I’ll tell you.

What I should make clear from the start is that he’s an apprentice Iron Man, for when the present one chooses to hang up his hover boots and give up his second day job as mechanised saviour of the free world.

My first piece of evidence is the Arc Reactor tee-shirt my son wears, in preparation for having pieces of shrapnel embedded in his chest, needing the Reactor’s electromagnetic forces to stop the metal penetrating his heart (for those of you who haven’t a clue what I’m going on about, I refer you to the franchise.)

But this is not the only evidence I have that my boy will one day save the universe.

My second and main reason for this belief is the training films. Hours and hours of them, seemingly on repeat, a continuous loop of lasers, bomb blasts and nifty flying exercises, all snappily edited and usually accompanied by a pumping heavy metal sound track, like some testosterone-packed corporate video for weapons dealers.

And showing astounding dedication to his future career, it’s not just Iron Man he studies.

There are other training films which include: a muscle-bound blond guy with a stilted English accent wielding his ‘magic’ hammer (yeah, all right, he-man, we get the symbolism)*: a teenage newspaper photographer who fires stringy mucus from his hands and thinks he’s an arachnid (you really should see a specialist about that, Peter)**: a doctor who is really lovely – mostly – if a bit downbeat and introspective (‘You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry’? Yeah, well, you haven’t seen me when someone leaves the toilet seat up, sister)***.

There’s a ton of other egomaniacs being angsty and fighting other egomaniacs – many of them wear cloaks, which seems impractical in a battle situation.

Anyway, I try and be a supportive, liberal parent. I want to nurture, not crush my son’s fledgling ambitions, even if they don’t fit into my pre-conceived ideas of a sensible career path. After all, I did tell him if he worked really hard he could achieve anything ‒ though I confess I was thinking more along the lines of piano lessons rather than arms manufacturing. Anyway, not wishing to dampen his enthusiasm, I let him watch and re-watch his training videos – time and time and time again.

But quite honestly, I can’t face seeing another over-pumped caveman bash another one to smithereens before standing atop a mountain/ skyscraper/ the Golden Gate Bridge or other such iconic landmark, brooding over how sad and lonely it is to be an over-pumped caveman … so I read.

The volume from the TV blares (because, despite my protestations, it is apparently impossible to watch without the sound being loud enough to cause involuntary fracking along the Severn Estuary), but I wriggle into the cushions, push back the recliner, tuck up my toes and read.

At the moment it’s The Axeman’s Jazz by Ray Celestin (very good, if you’re wondering) but another day it’ll be whatever I’m reading at the time.

My flow’s sometimes interrupted as a city explodes or a baddy monologues, but generally, I can concentrate enough to be at least semi-lost in my book.

And all with the knowledge I’m playing my small part in the future saving of the world – probably.

Can and do you read while the TV’s on? Or do you need peace, quiet and chocolate biscuits to concentrate?

*Thor, of course.

**Your friendly, neighbourhood Spiderman.

***King of angst, David Banner – aka The Hulk