ARRIVAL OF WANG (2011) Film Review

ARRIVAL OF WANG (2011) – Film Four screening

Directors/Writers: Antonio Manetti, Marco Manetti

Cast: Ennio Fantastichini, Francesca Cuttica, Juliet Esey Joseph

This is a nifty little low-budget sci-fi horror from Italy which makes very good use of limited locations and small cast to entertaining effect. A Translator is called to a job at an unknown location and is then faced with a particularly strange job. She must translate for a shady Government organisation who are holding an Alien referred to as ‘Wang’. Strangely the alien speaks Mandarin having learnt it because it is the most spoken language on Earth.

The premise is intriguing and draws you in and I was gripped throughout. The effects were alright given the low budget and the film shows that a decent concept can overcome financial limitations. As with many small budget films we are restricted to one main location; an interrogation room where the Government agent grills the Alien through the translator. The film takes on political subtext by questioning the torture of suspected Government threats or ‘terrorists’ as the alien Wang is seen as foe rather than friend.

While it gets a bit irritating with the back and forth translation and subtitles combined I enjoyed the movie very much; managing to create suspense throughout. Even though some people may find the Alien effects a bit silly and laughable it’s worth sticking with to the end.

HELL IS. . . (2013) a short film

HELL IS. . .

Tagline: Welcome to the Neighbourhood

Pitch: Criminal Joe Kidd is on the run after a job. But the couple living upstairs are driving him to despair. Joe’s dilemma is to continue to lay low or “deal” with neighbours from hell. Something has to give!

Description: Drawing inspiration from Sartre’s famous quote “Hell is Other People” the film shows one man’s mental disintegration at the hands of inconsiderate and selfish neighbours. Joe is trapped by his own past and present and it’s only a matter of time before he snaps.

HELL IS… is a dark comedy drawing on influences such as Roman Polanski and Stanley Kubrik plus the mythical story of Sisyphus. It is Fix Films’ 7th short film.

Actors: Philip Wolff and Jojo Georgiou

Directed, Edited and Produced by Gary O’Brien

Written and Produced by Paul Laight

Composer: Russell Leak

RESPECT MY AUTHORITAH – My favourite 17 SOUTH PARK episodes ever!

I always had doubts about being a parent and wondered if anything good would come of it, how…ever, in early 2013 something finally did. Indeed, I must say a massive thanks to my near-teen son Rhys for reintroducing me to the comedy genius of SOUTH PARK.  I used to think SOUTH PARK was an uncultured TV show, populated by foul mouthed, crudely animated and squeaky voiced characters spouting an incessant stream of poo, pee and dick jokes.  The latter is of course true but SOUTH PARK is also one of the most subversive, intelligent and satirical shows that’s ever been on telly. In fact, it is the greatest TV comedy show of all time.

A bit of a lofty claim given the great many classic comedies that have been on the goggle box since that Scottish bloke Logie Baird stuck a tube into a thingy and said, “This invention will one day kill Rod Hull!”  Indeed, for sheer consistency and quality of ideas, jokes, plots, characters, satire, sociological and political incorrectness, SOUTH PARK deserves so much praise. It doesn’t just push the boundaries but absorbs them anally before taking a massive hilarious boundary crap into your brain.

Being an obsessive I have, since early 2013, watched nearly every episode of SOUTH PARK at least twice.  And with the seventeenth season almost upon us in the UK I give you my favourite – at time of writing – seventeen episodes. Please raise your glasses to Trey Parker and Matt Stone – the Gods of SOUTH PARK – because I, “Respect your  authoritah!”

**Btw – this list was more difficult to make than Sophie’s choice in the film Sophie’s Choice (1981). So I am definitely wrong with some of these. Listed in Season order.**


DEATH is probably the best episode of the first season but I love this one because Robert Smith from The Cure is in it.  This is one of those crazy episodes which combines a fantastical plot concerning the Triangle of Zinfar while plundering modern culture with references to Godzilla movies, a passionate hatred for Barbara Streisand and film critic Leonard Maltin all combined to create a hilarious monster mash-up. Streisand was picked upon because she criticized Denver and whether she was right or wrong the writers really go to town on her personality, tortuous singing and vain pursuit of agelessness and power; a truly great monster in a show which is full of great monsters.

CHICKEN LOVER – (Season 2)

This, I think, is the first episode where Cartman utters his classic catchphrase, “Respect my authoritah!”  The plot revolves around imbecilic cop Officer Barbrady being discovered as “illegitimate” – i.e. he can’t read. Barbrady must learn to read and solve the mystery of the sicko going round raping the South Park chickens.  The reason this episode rocks is because the boys are made deputies by Barbrady and what ensues is a baton-wielding Cartman dishing out violence to anybody who commits even the most minor of misdemeanours.  The scene where Cartman smashes Kenny’s parents while Kenny laughs his parka off is particularly hilarious. Although, it’s more Stan and Kyle’s investigative skills which capture the Chicken-fucker even though Cartman’s police brutality assists his demise.

CAT ORGY – (Season 3)

South Park not only packs filth, gratuitous violence and satire into the show but also has ingenuity in the structure of its silly stories. A great example of this is the cross-structured ‘Meteor Shower Trilogy’ incorporating this episode, ‘Two Guys Naked in a Bathtub’ and ‘Jewbilee’. I love ‘Cat Orgy’ because it is packed with brilliant gags throughout notably Shelley the babysitter’s many turd puns – e.g. Turdman of Alcatraz – in reference to Cartman. Indeed, Cartman very much meets his match in borderline psycho Shelley and their battle of wills powers the mirth and plot.  I also love the fact that Cartman is shown to have terrible taste in popular culture such as his love of ‘Wild Wild West’ and this becomes a running gag throughout future seasons.  Mr Kitty on heat simply adds to the hilarity, especially Cartman’s rage at the pet when he utters with incandescent rage, “Shut up, Mr Kitty!!”

THE SUCCUBUS – (Season 3)

Chef (Isaac Hayes) was a great character who provided consistent laughs and funky inappropriate songs during his tenure in South Park. As such he became a surrogate father to the children and it is much to their dismay when he decides to marry.  The episode also throws in Cartman’s battle with his Teutonic optometrist who refers to him as “Piggy”; Chef’s bewitching fiancé Veronica who has romanced him with the love theme from ‘The Poseidon Adventure’; and most hilariously Chef’s parents who regale the kids with bizarre, yet amusing, stories of the Loch Ness Monster’s attempts to cash hustle them for – “about tree fiddy”. Naturally, all these elements are woven together skilfully enough to return things to the status quo with the children ultimately defeating Chef’s demonic intended.


The show has never been shy of breaking taboos and to feature, not one but two, prominent disabled characters in Timmy Burch and Jimmy Valmer is challenging on the writers’ part. Challenging because it doesn’t patronize the disabled but makes them positive characters with desires and emotions.  The plot of ‘Helen Keller – The Musical’ has Timmy playing Helen Keller (he’s the only one who knows the words) in a rather splendid children’s stage version of The Miracle Worker.  Usually Timmy’s vocabulary is limited to just his name but here it’s extended when he forms a bond with ‘performing’ pet turkey Gobbles.  Timmy’s relationship with the lame turkey is actually very touching as Timmy fights for Gobbles’ place in the play despite efforts to kill him off.  Aside from being chockfull of gags the episode is ingenious in the way it both presents the disabled in a positive and humour inducing light while sending up precious theatrical types at the same time.


I love this episode because it contains sci-fi film references to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘The Terminator’ AND satirizes the drawn-out Bush-Gore American election farce of 2000.  It is both silly and serious balancing two very distinct plot strands with some fantastic gags to glue it altogether.  In one strand a cyborg called Bill Cosby is sent back to destroy Cartman’s Skynetesque school folder and in the other the kindergarteners find it impossible to decide on a Class President.  By the end the monstrous hybridized Cartman is pitted against the equally monstrous celebrity Rosie O’Donnell.  Celebrities often take a hit in South Park and quite right too especially the ones who think they are important just because they act and sing songs. I really hate those guys!


Eric Cartman is venal, vile, selfish, corpulent, controversial, racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-Semitic, petty, childish, vain, arrogant, money-grabbing, spoilt, deranged, and devious – name a negative word and he is IT!  He is, however, the greatest comedy character ever created. And probably a genius too. Because when Cartman sets out on some task or scheme be it: Hallway Monitor, News Anchor, Theatre Director, Dead Foetus Salesmen, Christian Rock Band artist etc. he is invariably brilliant and professional at it.  Of course, his plans generally end up with him getting his comeuppance, but, in ‘Scott Tenorman Must Die’ he enacts a Shakespearean revenge so brutal on the eponymous older boy it literally takes the breath away. All throughout Tenorman gets the better of Eric but the ending is something else. This was the first episode which used a singular plot and while Cartman’s revenge is heinous and above reproach you cannot hide how ingenious it is.


I’m a sucker for these “futuristic” type plots and this episode is wonderful.  Following a thunderstorm Stan is confronted by a future version of himself. The Future Stan is a train-wreck of a human being having succumbed to alcohol and drugs. This forces Stan to commit to a drug-free life.  Eventually, Stan (and Butters) realise they have been victims of an ill-judged attempt by their parents to warn them about the dangers of substance abuse by using actors. What I love is that, as in many other episodes, the parents are shown to be cowardly and dishonest when it comes to actually speaking to their kids about social issues; even when Stan finds out the truth and pretends to cut his own hand off, idiot father Randy, cuts the actor playing Future Stan’s hand off rather than tell the truth.  Cartman’s “Parental Revenge Centre” which involves smearing poo on walls merely adds to the hilarity and the final payoff involving Future Cartman is just dandy.

CASA BONITA – (Season 7)

It all starts when Kyle denies “fat-ass” the chance to attend his birthday party at the legendarily themed restaurant Casa Bonita.  Cartman tries to get back in Kyle’s good books by being less Cartmanesque but when that fails he is told the only way he can attend is if someone else drops out. And so hapless Butters is convinced by Cartman that a meteor is about to hit Denver and he helps Butters to hide out. The Cartman/Butters character axis has all the hallmarks of a Master/Servant dynamic.  Butters is generally the target of some heinous Cartman schemes and in ‘Casa Bonita’ the poor boy suffers more than ever. Moreover, what makes Cartman’s plan so evil is that Butters actually thinks Eric is helping him.  This devious plan actually works because Cartman gets to visit the restaurant even though he ends in juvenile jail for it.

AWESOME-O – (Season 8)

In many episodes the cute, naive Butters ends up being the victim of some horrific experiences.   However, in ‘Awesome-O’ the writers of South Park finally give the boy a break and allow him to get his own back on Cartman.  It all starts when Cartman wears a poorly designed robot costume as a prank on Butters. The prank backfires when Butters admits to having an incriminating video showing Cartman dressed as Britney Spears.  What makes this episode hilarious is Cartman is really made to suffer when he must remain in the costume while in pursuit of the said videotape. There are also some brilliant digs at the Hollywood scriptwriting system and the generic nature of their output especially the moronic, yet unbelievably successful films of Adam Sandler. Incredibly, this episode was produced in THREE days – the shortest ever production in the series history!

GOOBACKS – (Season 8)

‘South Park’ like many fine comedy shows has recurring catchphrases.  “Goddamit!”; “Oh my god, they killed Kenny!”; “Screw you guys, I’m going home!”; “Respect my authoritah” and “I learned something today. . .” are just a few. One of my favourites – featured prominently in ‘Goobacks’ – is “They took our job!” which eventually becomes just a high-pitched cock noise, “Dey turk err jurbs!”  Amidst this pronunciation tomfoolery is a spot on satire of the nature of immigrants and the impact they have on the town.  The immigrants in this case are people from the future who come back using “Terminator rules” and work for peanuts knowing if they save money now they will be worth a fortune in the future. The episode satirizes both sides of the argument and the men’ solution to the Gooback problem is to have a massive male-on-male orgy to ensure there will be no more children or future people.  It is a memorably sick and stupid ending and once again it is left to the children to come up with a more sensible answer.

DOUCHE & TURD – (Season 8)

‘Douche and Turd’ is another triumph of the writers using the children of South Park to highlight their views on America’s political system and voting in general. They also take the time to satirize Animal activists PETA and arrogant uber-star

P. Diddy.  When PETA object to the South Park Elementary School’s use of a costumed cow as their mascot the kids must then decide between a Douche and a Turd Sandwich for the replacement.  Stan thinks this is ridiculous and refuses to vote. He is then banished from the town.  He is, ironically, taken in by PETA and begins living with them as they cohabit and breed with animals. Stan does much soul searching and is advised by a PETA colleague that “an election ‘is always between a douche and a turd’, because they are the only people who suck up enough to make it that far in politics.” I love this episode because Stan’s dilemma is one I feel every time an election comes along. I mean who do you vote for when they are all either giant douches or massive turds.

ERECTION DAY – (Season 9)

Like many stand-up comedians Jimmy Valmer is an attention-hungry, vain and ambitious performer but overall remains a very positive character. In Erection Day he gains our sympathy when he battles unwanted erections while in public. Stupidly, Jimmy seeks the advice of Butters who tells him that he needs to have sex in order to vanquish the unwanted boners.  With Cartman acting as a young, fat Cyrano De Bergerac, Jimmy eventually seeks the help of a STD ridden prostitute but ends up in a ‘turf’ war with a local pimp.  What I love most about this is the basic comedy misunderstanding of naive Jimmy taking a hooker to an Italian restaurant to “woo” her and then the determination he shows to try and win her back from the pimp; even involving himself in a car chase and shoot-out.  Jimmy’s “romance” results in a brilliant finale capped off by the oft-used but never-more-fitting parody of THAT ‘Officer and Gentlemen’ final scene.


This is an Emmy award winning show and probably the funniest ever!  I love it because it features all the children actually joining together to defeat a common foe; namely the guy with “no life” who is going round and killing all their characters in World of Warcraft.  The show was made in conjunction with the team who make World of Warcraft and there is both gentle affection for and ribbing of the game and its’ players. The comedy flows thick and fast notably from hearing the kids voices emanate from Dwarves, Knights, Mages etc.; especially the stuttering Jimmy. There is a lovely reverse parody of sports movie montages where instead of getting fitter the kids get fatter and more ill through their continual playing of World of Warcraft. Indeed, they are so chained to their computers Liane – Cartman’s mum – even holds a bucket for him while he takes a crap.  The episode has the whole cake and eats it with a mild warning of the dangers of videogames to children, but it does it in the most fun way possible. Brilliant title as well!

HELL ON EARTH (2006) – (Season 10)

The show has, over the years, had some really near-the-knuckle plots including: Cartman infecting Kyle with H.I.V; Christopher Reeve using stem cells to become a super-villain; Cartman using Crack Baby’s as athletes and many more.  But in this episode to use murderers Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy as latter day Three Stooges killing and screwing corpses is really sick but bloody funny as well. Ironically, that wasn’t even the most controversial part as there were more complaints at the time about the incredibly bad taste Steve Irwin gag which really took the cake.  Talking of cake, in this episode, it’s Satan’s birthday and he’s having a “Sweet 16” birthday bash with loads of dead celebrities invited and Satan is determined the party is going to be “the bomb”.  I wasn’t aware of these horrific MTV “Sweet 16” shows until I saw this and the fact that the show deems these spoilt American teenage brats WORSE than Satan is fantastic satire.  Throw in a brilliant ‘Candyman’ spoof involving dead rapper Biggie Smalls and a coven of Catholic Priests upset at not being invited to Satan’s party and this glorious episode has something to delight and offend everyone.

CANADA ON STRIKE – (Season 12)

South Park has pretty much offended every major country and some minor ones over the years with its’ crude stereotyping and the Canadians have been lampooned mercilessly in many shows as well as the musical movie.  In this episode the poor Canucks get all upset about not receiving their share of the World’s wealth and thus call a bemusing strike to stake their claim to something or other.  The kids get involved because Stan’s adopted brother Ike also goes on strike.  The Canadians demand some of that “internet money” and the boys set out to earn it by doing a stupid skit of THAT “What-wat in my butt” using “that gay kid” Butters. Butters becomes an internet star and the children become theoretically rich.  When they go to claim their money they come across all the internet “hits” from the last decade including:  Tron Guy, Chris ‘Leave Britney alone ’Crocker, Sinister Beaver-thing, Afro Ninja, Chocolate Rain and other dumb things millions of idiots watch on the internet.  Chaos and a massive bloody fight ensues and it turns out that it’s very difficult to monetize profit on the internet. Both funny and satirical this episode went up in my estimation when I found out the writers were also sending up the Writers’ strike in Hollywood.


This episode should be shown to children as it’s as educational as it is funny.  I think here the writers are at the top of their game as they take on the economy and the global recession and distillate concepts surrounding these mysterious entities to great effect.  It’s not always laugh out loud funny but really connects with the cerebral funny bone as the economy itself is compared to another enigmatic thing namely religion and: GOD!  As Stan follows his way up the economic ladder trying to take back a Margaritaville machine, Kyle tackles the economy in his own way and eventually becomes its’ saviour as a latter day Jesus figure.  Obviously, Cartman becomes a Jew-hunter and tries to get Kyle killed in the story for GTA: Chinatown.  I like many people am very simple and do not understand the economy as well and what this episode does is show you the layers and layers of stupidity present in a system which is patently out of control. The stand-out scene is representatives from the US Treasury “checking the charts” using a colourful board and a chicken to determine the value of things. To be honest, this is probably the most sensible explanation of how the economy works I’ve seen.

FAITH HILLING – (Season 16)

South Park delights in spoofing stupid stuff on the Internet.  This one is brilliant for that as it mercilessly sends up the craze for ‘memes’ and delights in highlighting how ridiculous humans are.  It opens with the boys actually working in harmony together to pull off a “Faith Hilling” prank at a Republican conference.  It’s quite a light episode but it mines the laughs continuously as the boys move from one ridiculous memetic performance to another such as: “Tebowing” and “Taylor Swifting”; even getting involved in a gang fight because of it. The main subplot involving the idea that cats are now becoming as intelligent as humans is hilarious as we get repetitive shots of THAT internet cat saying, “Old Long Johnson” over and over again. If this is what makes us laugh as humans then it deserves the ridicule this episode gives it. Indeed, while the Internet is a wonderful tool it has also given a format to not-so-wonderful tools and crazes.

CASH FOR GOLD – (Season 16)

Great art whether it’s comedy, painting, television, cinema, sculpture, dance and so on should always hold a mirror up to humanity and say, “Hey, what the hell are you doing you idiot humans?!  Stop it!”  This episode is a perfect example of that. Stan turns investigator when he’s given a crap piece of jewellery by his Grandfather bought from one of those exploitative TV shopping channels. At the same time Cartman sees a way of making money and starts his own business buying and selling tacky items.  The satire is damning of humanity as we get an ingenious montage which shows the cycle of stupidity involved as the jewellery is sold online; sold back to Cash For Gold stores; dismantled; smelted down; sent to Asia where kids in sweat shops make the jewellery; before it finally gets sent back to the QVCesque shopping channel to be sold yet again on TV. The final image of a TV shopping channel host blowing his brains out off screen is satire at its’ most brutal and artistic.


Here’s an article I wrote in 2008 and it’s interesting to see that a few of these films have now been made.


“The adaptation of someone else’s writing is, I think, the easiest, because someone else has done the brute work, made the people, invented the story.” William Goldman – Screenwriter

From the earliest days’ of cinema, filmmakers have raided the arks of literature, lifting writers’ slaved-over sentences; carefully constructed characters; and epic plots, before distilling them into bitesizeable two hour chunks we call the movies. Adaptation has always proved popular with filmmakers worldwide, and of course, the Hollywood machine leads the way when it comes to adapting the work of other writers, be it: novels, graphic novels, comic books, video-games, songs and even theme-park rides etc. Not a week passes without the film of the book of the video-game of the t-shirt being released to either: a baying mob of fanatics scrutinizing every frame ensuring a faithful screen conversion; or simple popcorn guzzlers yet to read the original source material.

Adaptations occupy over half of the top twenty spots in the all-time worldwide grossing films ever including: Jurassic Park (1993), The Lord of the Rings’ (2001-2003) trilogy and the Harry Potter franchise. Moreover, from the original summer blockbuster Jaws (1975), to the cash-cows that are Bond, Batman and Bourne, filmmakers continue to use novels and comic-books for inspiration; not simply because “it’s easier” as William Goldman purports, but because of the marketing possibilities ready-made fanbase offers. Furthermore, adaptations not only represent money-making exercises but have also produced cinema of breathtaking quality, including Best Picture Oscar winners such as: Gone with the Wind (1939), Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The Godfather (1972), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), The English Patient (1996), Million Dollar Baby (2004) and most recently, Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men (2007).

But what of the cult classics, critically acclaimed or bestselling novels that have yet to make it to the silver screen? Despite the abundance of adaptations produced there remains many great literary works unfilmed; either jammed in ‘development hell’ or simply proving too complex to make. The following novels arguably deserve adaptation but have yet to successfully make the jump from page to celluloid space. Paul Laight considers the what, the how and the why?

THE DICE MAN – Luke Rhinehart

Published in 1971, The Dice Man, follows the darkly comic adventures of an antihero psychiatrist who, bored with his ‘perfect’ life, gives in to whim and chance; allowing his actions to be determined by the throw of a dice. From this fateful moment his life spawns a series of anarchic episodes involving: sex, rape, murder, psychological breakdown and a ‘dice’ cult. The ‘Dice Man’ gains notoriety and, eventually, is pursued by the law; yet he remains unrepentant and above all else tastes ‘freedom’ via the random choices the dice dictates. As in Fight Club (1999), The Dice Man stands as a savage satire on ‘selfhelp’ groups and literature. Indeed, the cover confidently proclaims: “Few novels can change your life. This one will.”

Subversive and pitch black in tone, it offers the nihilistic premise: only self-destruction allows one to live life to the full. Not surprisingly then with such dark materials at hand, Hollywood have irked at bringing the lunacy of The Dice Man to the screen. One would think a screen version is not too far away: but the screenplay has been entrenched in draft purgatory for years. Paramount are rumoured to still own the rights to the film but at the moment a successful adaptation remains in perpetual limbo.


Following the valve-splitting misadventures of lazy, self-proclaimed genius and social misfit, Ignatius P. Reilly, this Pulitzer Prize winning novel has a backstory worthy of adaptation itself. Author O’Toole committed suicide in 1969 having failed despairingly to get his magnum opus published. Only through the dogged persistence of his mother did the novel finally reach the bookstands in 1980; winning the Pulitzer the next year. A work of unfettered genius and hilarity, Confederacy of Dunces picks and scratches at the seams of New Orleans’ street-folk, revealing a rich tapestry of insane characters and episodes; all anchored within the everyday plottings of the bloated, mooching, hypochondriac Reilly.

While he may be objectionable verbally, physically and morally, the reader cannot help but revel in Reilly’s articulateness, rebellion and utter repudiation of authority figures and societal norms. Ignatius is a cross between the Simpsons comic-book guy and a fatter, sober, non-bowling version of Jeffery ‘The Dude’ Lebowski. As such, free spirited oddballs always stand alone as an anathema to the perfect heroes Hollywood usually dishes up. Like The Dice Man, the films rights for Confederacy of Dunces are owned by Paramount and the most recent attempt to greenlight the book reached casting stage in 2005; with Will Ferrell and Drew Barrymore touted for the leads. However, the Scott Kramer and Steven Soderburgh penned screenplay failed to gain studio support and momentum floundered.

LIFE OF PI – Yann Martel

The eponymous Pi spends the heart of this story trapped at sea, for 227 days, on a raft with various animals including: a ravenous hyena, orangutan named Orange Juice and a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker. While on surface the bizaare relationship between man and beast appears unfilmmable, the book packs a incredible denouement; so memorable to render it a strong contender for cinematic success. Like Castaway (2000), Life of Pi is a story of attrition and survival under the most severe circumstances. The young Pi battles hunger, loneliness and the elements; all the while grieving for the loss of his family. Within the text, however, is a powerful allegory borne out through Pi’s relationships with the animals he must contend with, notably his nemesis, Richard Parker.

Life of Pi, ultimately blurs ideological boundaries from the zoological and religious to the metaphysical and real; delivering an imaginative, suspenseful, life-affirming drama. Any potential movie version could be a hard sell to a Friday night popcorn mob baying for hack encounters of the teenage kind. However, for those crying out for more challenging movies Life of Pi, if done right, would be an amazing cinematic experience. Esteemed directors such as M. Night Shymalan, Alfonso Cuaron and Jean Pierre Jeunet – who dropped out due to budget issues – have all been in the frame to helm the movie, but it currently remains cast adrift within the choppy waters of the Hollywood system.

NEUROMANCER – William Gibson

Gibson’s classic debut novel starts when ‘computer cowboy’, Case – in searching for a cure to his drug addiction – is coerced by an anonymous agency to work on the ultimate hack. From thereon it spirals into a story that explores themes of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and global oligopolies overpowering the state via cyberspace. Sound familiar? A seminal literary work that not only presents a host of wonderfully monikered and totally loco characters including: Razorgirl, Molly, Chiba, The Finn, Lupus Yonderboy, The Dixie Flatline etc., but also introduces a generation of readers to now familiar terms such as: cyberspace, hacker and even ‘the matrix’. Indeed, without Neuromancer, arguably, the Wachowski brother’s box office behemoth may never have existed.

Neuromancer has proved an elusive novel to adapt and author Gibson is understood to have the rights back in his possession. The last known attempt to adapt was by music video director (see his infamous Aphex Twin’s “Come to Daddy”) Chris Cunningham. However, the screenplay saw only red-lights from the studios and alas Neuromancer remains one of the greatest science fiction works not to reach the cinema. Moreover, given the number of imitators it has spawned it may never get the adaptation it truly deserves.

ON THE ROAD – Jack Kerouac

Kerouac’s 1950’s paean to jazz and the open road is – a freewheeling, improvised stream of consciousness – rumoured to have been written in three weeks fuelled entirely on caffiene, ink and benzedrine. Heralded as the bible of the ‘beat generation’, On The Road, is a road movie (waiting to happen) without apparent direction; yet all the more powerful for it. It defined a sub-culture of poets, artists and musicians who disregarded structure for structure’s sake, improvising their loves and lives without concern for what tomorrow brang. Narrator, Sal Paradise tells of the moment his life changed when meeting free-spirit Dean Moriarty; thus precipitating his journey across the landscapes, towns and contours of America.

The road movie has proved a very successful genre for Hollywood with Rain Man (1986), Into the Wild (2007) and Thelma and Louise (1991) being excellent examples of the form. However, On The Road, compared to those stories mentioned, is virtually plotless without crystal clear character motivation and therefore seemingly unadaptable. Gus Van Sant owned the rights for many years, however, the film may yet see the light of as director Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries (2006)) is moving the film into production; although no release date has been confirmed at writing.



Famous and infamous (John Lennon’s assassin Mark Chapman had a copy in his possession when he carried out the shooting) in equal measures Catcher in the Rye remains an incredible examination of teenage angst and depression; of a young nonconformist, Holden Caulfield, at odds with the ‘phonys’ of the world, authority and the 50’s society he exists in. Caulfield presents himself as ‘protector’ of the young from the venal inhabitants of New York and rails against those all around him. However, it is not simply a book about teenagers, but is a story for all outsiders who struggle to fit in.

The angry, vulnerable yet eloquent teenager Caulfield is a difficult character to transfer to the screen. Moreover, given the novel is presented as a internal monologue, adaptation has proved problematic not only in terms of the episodic structure, but also ‘marketability’ to a mass audience of such a unique character. Having said that the book is high on the biggest selling books of all time and Hollywood has tried on many occasions to bring it to the cinemas. Movie luminaries, down the years, such as: Jerry Lewis, Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando and Leonardo Dicaprio have all tried, but failed, to walk in Holden Caulfield’s shoes. The inconvenient truth is that the reclusive author JD Salinger, himself, is refusing all attempts to adapt the work and this may continue even when he passes.



Banks’ incredible debut novel is so dark and filthy as to render the reader blind and unclean, reaching for torchlight and soap once reading is over. Introducing the eccentric (or, depending on your viewpoint, insane) Gauldhame family and told from the point of view of the youngest member, Frank; The Wasp Factory tells a twisted tale of life in an isolated town. Frank – who, himself, would have us believe is a murderer – spends his day’s physically rampaging across the Scottish landscape dismembering all manner of wildlife, notably wasps, while metaphorically searching for his own identity in a perverse, maladjusted and masculinized world.

A shocking and deeply disturbing read, The Wasp Factory, if adapted, would probably create a movie furore like nothing since Cronenbourg’s Crash (1996) was released. However, at it’s heart is a scathing attack on family, organized religion and the difficulties, like Catcher in the Rye, of a young protagonist desperately trying to find meaning in the world.  Frank is a tragic character and the amazing denouement is a twist right out up there with the horror of Hitchcock’s Psycho (1956) and M Night Shymalan’s The Sixth Sense (1999). While it would certainly not be a huge box office draw The Wasp Factory is potentially a ‘cult’ classic in the making.



Not to be confused with the Stallone versus Snipes cockfight that was Demolition Man (1992), Bester’s science-fiction classic was written in 1953 but contains a story that is timeless, such is the imagination and ingenuity presented. Columboesque in structure – beginning with a murder and developing via a subsequent police investigation – the plot is thickened up by pitting the wits detective Lincoln Polwell against a chief suspect, corporate oligarch Ben Reich. The twist is that there has been no murders in 70 years because, in this future, Detectives such as Polwell are psychics and therefore able to read the minds of any suspects; immediately knowing whether they are guilty or not. Murder is eradicated because criminals cannot hide their guilty thoughts.

Perhaps, The Demolished Man treads similar ground to Spielberg’s Minority Report (2001) and I, Robot (2003), both placing a standard cop story in a futuristic setting, however, the novel is resplendent with beautiful concepts and terms such as: ‘espers’, ‘peepers’ and ‘jumpers’. More importantly, the cat-and-mouse, battle of wits between Polwell and Reich makes it a compelling story. The book also stands the test of time; a Godfather to Gibson’s Neuromancer and other subsequent ‘cyberpunk’ literary offspring. The film rights are rumoured to be owned by Morgan Freeman but no studio has confessed an interest to construct a movie from the pages of The Demolished Man.



Described by The Observer as: “As a memoir, it is almost mythic. You can imagine it made epic by Martin Scorsese, the auteur of wayward American maleness in all its extremity”; Frey’s celebrated non-fiction memoir charts the author’s journey from substance addiction, physical and mental disintegration to moral and spiritual redemption through rehab and the love of his family. Protagonist Frey begins his story, aged 23, wrecked by crack and alcohol and wanted by the law in three US States. From rock-bottom the only way is up as he begins the long road to recovery via the Twelve Step program.

Discredited in some circles by various commentators as ‘not ringing true’ and ‘fabricated’, Frey was ultimately ‘convicted’ as a literary fraud when appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show. Nonetheless, whether it is fiction or nonfiction (when did that ever bother Hollywood?), A Million Little Pieces is a compelling literary work and screams out for adaptation. In fact such notoriety could be worked into the screenplay and would only fuel the marketing potential of the film. Unbelievably, your friend and mine, Jennifer Aniston owns the films rights to the book but since the Oprah furore the studio has allegedly got cold feet. Then again, this could be pure fiction too.



With the literary and movie worlds both needing and feeding itself, it isn’t surprising to learn that adaptations of acclaimed literary works such as Cormac McCarthy’s dark western The Road (2009) and Blood Meridien (2009), sci-fi classics Ender’s Game (2009), The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009), Howard Marks’ drug memoir Mr Nice (2009) – and even the once considered daddy of the unfilmmables, The Watchmen (2009) – will hit our screens next year. Ultimately, when adapted by the right talent great novels produce amazing cinema, however, not all authors are impressed by the efforts of Hollywood in translating their work. Of his own opus, the aforementioned, Watchmen (2009), Alan Moore says, “I find film. . . spood-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination. It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms. I for one am sick of worms”.