Monday, August 29, 2022

Book to Movie Exchange! Plus Reviews of Prey, Uncharted, and The Sandman

Book to Movie Exchange!

Today, I and Steven Arellano Rose, Jr. are trading Book to Movie posts. He is visiting today, taking on The Black Phone, while I am at his site, tackling Relic. Be sure to read both pieces.

Now, please welcome Steven!

Book-To-Movie Review: 'The Black Phone'
Reviewed by Steven Arellano Rose

It was really nice of Alex to invite me here to do a Book-To-Movie review as a guest blogger and for him to do likewise at my blog, A Far Out Fantastic Site. Thanks Alex! In a Book-To-Movie we review a work of prose fiction and its movie adaptation. Today I’m reviewing Joe Hill's short story "The Black Phone" and its movie adaptation. Both the film and its prose source are made really good. However, the movie further develops the characters and specifies a period setting.

“The Black Phone” short story comes from Hill’s 2005 collection, "20th Century Ghosts."

“Phone” is about a young teenager, Finney, who is abducted by a serial killer known as the "Grabber" and imprisoned in the cellar of the killer's house. There he discovers an old, black analog phone with a severed cord. He has no other way of calling out for help. Because mobile phones are never mentioned or hinted at, we assume the story is set pre-cell phone era sometime. Yet, even though the phone line is dead Finney receives a call on it from one of the serial killer's murdered victims.

The plot to “Phone” is intelligently put together. The action and events are timed good creating suspense while moving the story. The characters are well developed and their relations to each other good and convincing. “The Black Phone” is supernatural and psychological horror with both a realist side as well as a fantastical one and Hill balances out all four of these aspects really good.

“The Black Phone” movie, directed by Scott Derrickson, does a really great job interpreting the short story. It expands on the characters and events without straying from the original plot. Like in the short story, the characters and their relations to each other are developed good. There are a few differences. To name a few, the serial killer, renamed “The Galesburg Grabber”, is presented more visually demonic with the devil masks wears. Finney also encounters more murdered victims’ ghosts.

Another difference between the movie and short story is that the former specifies the time setting: the late 1970s. This time period works good because its remoteness from the ‘90s’ rise of the cell phone assures believability in Finney’s desperate situation. Speaking of believability, the period culture in this film is depicted convincingly. The exception to this is that all references to disco, a permeating fad of that time, are omitted. Still, the film uses some good hard and soft rock songs from the era.

Like Hill does with his story, the producers do a good job with the movie balancing the supernatural and psychological horror elements along with the realist and fantastical ones.

I won't say that I like “The Black Phone” movie better than I do the short story or even that one was made better than the other. That's because Joe Hill is really good with his style of writing and makes his stories believable, and “Phone” is no exception. However, the movie's hour-and-43-minute time frame allows for more development of the characters and their interrelations than what the length of the short story allows. Both short story and movie are really good, each in its own right, but, as far as this year’s horror films go, "The Black Phone" has been the best. Have you read Joe Hill's "The Black Phone" or seen the movie adaptation?

About Steven Arellano Rose
I am a writer and pop culture critic in the genres of science fiction, horror and fantasy. The Fool’s Illusion, a short story collection, was my first published book. From 2011 to its closing in 2016, I wrote film and computer technology reviews for the news site, Bad Appps is my upcoming collection of short fiction. My interests include collecting 1960s and ’70s pop cultural artifacts and other weird things, disco music and meditation. I reside in my native Sacramento, California. Visit me at my blog, A Far Out Fantastic Site, Facebook page, or on Instagram!



From the IMDB:
The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.
Debuting on Hulu, Prey could’ve (and should’ve) been a big theater release. (And it quickly became Hulu’s biggest hit.) This is quality filmmaking.
Setting it in the past with the Comanches was brilliant. This places the Predator in new territory and eliminates a lot of high-tech gadgets. But it also places the Predator in a story that is compelling on its own and characters that are believable and with depth. As my wife put it, this is a thrilling adventure that just happens to have a Predator in it. Amber Midthunder is Naru and she carries the story. You understand her plight, along with her strengths and her weaknesses.

The cinematography is stunning. Beautiful ranges, mountains, and forests dominate the scenery.
The special effects are also on par with a big theater release, from the Predator to the animals such as the puma and bear. (However, Naru’s dog is very real and smart and they have quite a special bond.)
You will be riveted until the very end and thoroughly enjoy the ride.
Highly recommended!


Released earlier this year, this is a film that should have been direct to streaming.
Mark Wahlberg’s character recruits Tom Holland’s character to track down a fortune lost for five hundred years.
It’s a chase and a puzzle-solver, cat-and-mouse and who can you trust. However, despite the cast (which includes Antonio Banderas) and the promise of adventure, not much stands out. It’s a bit vanilla. And it’s also too long. Did I also mention a lot of improbable and impossible stuff? It’s a lot of things you’ve seen in other films and most of it not done really well.
Yet another movie based on a video game laid to waste…
Not recommended unless you are really bored, really curious, or are busy cleaning the house at the time.

The Sandman

Based on graphic novels/comics written by Neil Gaiman.
I enjoyed the graphic novels and this series is very faithful to its source material. It has a strong dream-like quality to it. The scenery, the special effects, the characters – all a bit surreal and otherworldly.
Tom Sturridge is Dream and perfectly cast – mysterious, confident, and purposeful. David Thewlis is also excellent and very creepy in a psychotic way. My wife’s favorite character is Matthew the Raven, voiced by Patton Oswalt. (MST3K and Ratatouille)
If you’re a fan of the graphic novels or just appreciate great fantasy-horror, you need to check it out.
Highly recommended.

See you September 7 for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group - and the release of our anthology, First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts. Plus images from RiffTrax: Live – Return of the Swamp Thing and the September movie preview. Be sure to visit Steven Arellano Rose, Jr. today for my Book to Movie post.

And I have to end with this cool con cosplay photo my publisher sent:

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Reviews, RiffTrax Live, and August Movie Preview

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the August 3 posting of the IWSG are Tara Tyler, Lisa Buie Collard, Loni Townsend, and Lee Lowery!

August 3 question - When you set out to write a story, do you try to be more original or do you try to give readers what they want?

I think it’s a blend of both. A writer must be more original and inventive with subsequent books or he loses readers. But one must always please the fans and give then what they want so they will continue reading. It’s a bit of a tight rope to walk.

Special shout out to IWSG Newsletter Admin, Elizabeth Seckman - she had a book release recently and kept it low key.

About Her : A Second Chance Romance

Find it on Amazon

And note to anyone with an embedded Blogger comment box – Blogger/Google have just made it more challenging to comment. There will be an offer to sign in with Google, leave name and web address, or anonymous. Sometimes, it won’t let you sign in with Google and you have to use another option. (Typing in your name and web address yet again.) Sometimes Google is the only option and sometimes it won’t let you sign in:

Note that any blog not on Blogger or one has a popup comment box instead will not be an issue.
Anyone have a clue? There are a couple people I just can’t comment on their site due to this issue.

Mini-Reviews and Stuff

Thor: Love and Thunder

The fourth Thor movie ends up being the least effective. Too corny, too slapstick, and just not enough substance in terms of story. Soundtrack was cool (several Guns ‘n’ Roses tunes plus a Dio song) but overall this film was a letdown. Will not be buying the DVD, that’s for sure.
When viewing the trailers, my wife commented that there appeared to be no plot. She was correct.

What We Do in the Shadows – Season Four

Staring Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillen, and Mark Proksch, the fourth season of this movie to series kicks of in a grand and hilarious fashion.
Colin, the energy vampire, died at the end of season three, and a baby crawls from his dead body. Part of the hilarity of this season is watching the creature from Colin grow at an accelerated rate and the insane things he does along the way.
Natasha is determined to open a vampire night club.
Nandor wants to impress is wife with a giant penis.
Laszlo really wants to prevent baby Colin from growing into another boring geek like Colin.
And Guillermo still wants respect and to be a vampire.
The hilarity continues!

The Sea Beast

Think How to Train Your Dragon with sea monsters. Red even looks like Toothless.
That said, it’s still an enjoyable movie although it runs a little long. (Almost two hours.) The animation is stunning, especially the water. It’s a mix of realistic and cartoon, similar to How to Train Your Dragon. With epic battles, adventure, comedy, and a very kind heart.
Main character voices include Karl Urban, Zaris-Angel Hator, Jared Harris, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste.
Definitely worth a watch on Netflix.

The trailer for Prey, a Predator movie set 300 years ago into America, looks really good. Fingers crossed it is.

RifTrax Live!

Yes, another RiffTrax Live show is coming.
On August 18, RiffTrax is riffing Return of the Swamp Thing.
And his love interest this time - Heather Locklear!
You don’t want to miss it. I’ve been seeing some of the teasers and it’s going to be good.
Visit RiffTrax Live for a list of movie theaters near you.
Be sure to get there early for the screen shots!

August Movie Preview

Here are the theatrical releases for August. Descriptions courtesy of the IMDB. Snark provided by me.

5 –

Bullet Train
Five assassins aboard a fast moving bullet train find out their missions have something in common.
Director: David Leitch
Stars: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Karen Fukuhara, Zazie Beetz, Sandra Bullock
This just might be a bullet train wreck…

19 –

A father and his two teenage daughters find themselves hunted by a massive rogue lion intent on proving that the Savanna has but one apex predator.
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Stars: Idris Elba, Sharlto Copey, Iyana Halley, Leah Jeffries
Family wanted to see lions, they got lions. Quit complaining!

31 –

Three Thousand Years of Longing
A lonely scholar, on a trip to Istanbul, discovers a Djinn who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom.
Director: George Miller
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Pia Thuderbolt
Love the director, but wish this film didn’t look so damn odd.

Are you more original or do you give the readers what they want? Having comment issues? Watched Thor, season four of What We Do in the Shadows, or The Sea Beast? Going to see RiffTrax tackle The Swamp Thing Returns? What movies catch your eye for August?
I will be back August 29 with a special feature - Steven Arellano Rose Jr. of A Far Out Fantastic Site are trading Books-to-Movies posts.