Book Review: As You Wish

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
by Cary Elwes & Joe Layden
Read by the author

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Memoir

Twenty-five years after the release of The Princess Bride, a movie that was not much of a success in its time but later became a cult classic, Cary Elwes, who played the iconic Westley in the movie, writes about his time working on the set. With additions by many of Elwes’s co-stars, along with the director, the producer, and the screenplay writer (who also wrote the book the movie is based on), Elwes gives us a peek at the making of a movie in general, and this family favorite in particular.

As soon as I knew this book existed, I knew I’d be reading it, and I knew I’d enjoy it. I’ve seen the movie several times, but even more importantly, it is my husband’s all-time favorite movie. So I suggested we both listen to the audiobook, which is narrated by Elwes himself, an actor we have both really liked for a long time, which is exactly what we did. And we both loved it! We also loved that the bits added by other people who worked on the movie were mostly read by those people as well. I think the fact that they were willing to take the time to first write, and then narrate their own thoughts on the making of this movie illustrates exactly what Elwes says throughout the book, that this cast and crew became a lot like a family. Others who read this book seem to be looking for the seedy underbelly, assuming that Elwes left out anything negative in his rush to extol the virtues of his co-workers. And I can’t say that’s not the case, of course, but perhaps the reason this memoir is so friendly and upbeat is because that’s how it really was. It’s not like poor Wallace Shawn was brow-beaten into saying his time working on the movie was all sunshine and rainbows (he had some issues, but I won’t say more than that).

I loved hearing some of the accounts of things that happened throughout the months working on this film, and even in the time after. Some of them were described by multiple people, which added a nice depth to them. I had re-watched the movie in anticipation of reading this book, but still felt compelled to look up certain scenes to see something Elwes described, whether a specific way he moved during the scene due to an injury or a line that was improvised. For fans of The Princess Bride, this book may make you see the movie in a whole new light and, hopefully, a good one. If you’ve never seen the movie, I recommend it.

Find out more about As You Wish

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book vs. Movie: Thr3e

3 movie vs book

This movie originally came out in 2006. I watched it in the theater, but I don’t actually remember much about it. I’ve had the DVD for years, and only re-watched it recently after re-reading the book for the first time in over 10 years. It was…not great, unfortunately. Part of that is the curse of most faith-based movies, where the production quality isn’t what we normally look for. For example, even though several of the actors I’ve seen in other things (like Marc Blucas), and they were perfectly fine in those other things, most of the acting seemed stiff.

Past that, I had some notes about things that were different from the book that I felt detracted from the story, one that I liked in the movie, and one that was mostly neutral. Fair warning, the rest of this post will be full of spoilers!

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Book Review: Thr3e

Thr3e
by Ted Dekker

My rating: 4.5 / 5
Genre: Christian suspense

Thr3e

Equal parts thriller and philosophical, this book starts with a discussion about the nature of man and by the end of the first chapter, has the main character nearly blown up. Kevin is tormented by a man who demands he confess his sin or his attacks will only get worse. Aided by a caring FBI agent whose brother was killed in a similar fashion only a few months previous and Kevin’s best friend since childhood, he struggles to understand what the madman wants from him. All of this leads up to an unexpected confrontation that I did not see coming.

The book is billed as a thriller, but I think where it tends to trip some people up is that it’s also very philosophical. Unlike Peretti, whom many people compare Dekker to, I don’t know that I’d classify Ted Dekker as a Christian author exactly. The books of his that I have read contain religion or spirituality, but not exactly Christianity. There is a fairly strong moral message in this book, though, and it can slow down the action. It doesn’t bother me much, but it might others.

I first read this book in the early 2000s. I’ve considered it one of my favorite books ever since then, but unlike my long-time favorite book, I have never re-read this one before now. It has the type of ending that led me to think that it wouldn’t really be worth re-reading. Now that it’s 15ish years later and I find myself enjoying books again, I decided it was time. I did enjoy it this time through, but not quite as much as the first time, because of the knowledge I had. However, knowing the Big Twist, I was able to see the build-up to it, spot the signs and hints. I appreciated the way that Dekker spun the story.

I did still enjoy the book, particularly the characterization of the main character, Kevin, and his childhood. That was one big thing I didn’t quite remember from when I first read it–the book hinted at him having a more difficult childhood than what was even shown up front, but I couldn’t remember what it was. I enjoyed unraveling the story again, even though I knew what it was leading up to. I also very much enjoyed Kevin’s relationship with his professor, and the role the professor played in the latter part of the book.

One gripe that I have is in the symbolism regarding the Big Twist. To use an example, when watching Sixth Sense for the first time, you may not even know that the color red is always involved in the Big Twist (not spoiling, though by now, if you don’t know the twist in that movie, where have you been living?) throughout the movie unless you are told about it by someone else. It’s there, but it’s subtle. In this book, the number 3 is a huge part of the bad guy’s psyche, and it’s not even remotely subtle. The bad guy himself says how much he likes the number 3 more than once. I think I would have liked to see it as a more subtle element.

I would recommend this book for fans of Christian thrillers and philosophy.

Find out more about Ted Dekker and Thr3e

This book was made into a movie that came out in 2006. I watched it in the theater, but I don’t actually remember much about it (except that the main character was played by Marc Blucas).  I remember having a terrible migraine, so I don’t think my forgetfulness is completely indicative of how good the movie was. However, I also never felt the need to watch it again in all this time, and that’s considering I’ve had a DVD copy for years. I do plan to watch the movie now though, and will likely post about the comparison like I did with Ready Player One.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book vs. Movie: Ready Player One

RP1 movie vs book

I watched the movie about a week and a half after I finished the book. At first, I wanted to watch the movie quickly, before I forgot details about the book. Only a few minutes into the movie, I thought it might have been better to have waited several months (or more) to watch the movie. Maybe forgetting the details of the book would have allowed me to enjoy it in its own right. I understand that movies adapted from books have to be changed for various reasons, whether that’s to shorten the story, to add excitement, or even because a lot of what happens in the book is internal (which would be fairly hard/boring to show). And there are other reasons too. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

In my review of the book, I gave it a rating of 3.5 out of 5. It’s intriguing to me that the movie actually gave me more appreciation for the book. I’d probably rate it higher now. As with other posts I’ve made, some of my notes about what I didn’t care for in the movie are personal preference. Some of them, though, are places where I don’t think the movie did justice to the book, or even where I felt the movie just didn’t do well in general. I am going to give my notes, but without too much detail, mostly because my list is a little too long to go into much detail here. These are by no means all of the differences between the book and the movie, just the ones that bothered me. Also, I’m splitting these notes into things that aren’t too spoilery (shown first), and then notes that I feel would spoil either the book or movie enough to give a proper warning for.

Note: There are a lot, so it probably seems like I’m ranting. Well, I am. Again, I am well aware that movie adaptations are often very different from the book. If you think I’m being unfair, that’s fine. I didn’t realize how many notes I had about this until I started writing them down, and I considered cutting it short. But in the end, I decided to keep them all (and frankly, there may be some I forgot). So read on, or jump ship right now; it’s up to you!

  • From the very beginning of the movie, the atmosphere didn’t feel right to me. When I read the book, I got a feeling of desolation and isolation in the real world, especially where Wade lived. People didn’t go out much, because they could do much more from the comfort of their couch (and because the real world was fairly dangerous). But we first see Wade outside of his “home,” and it’s pretty lively. People are shown outside a lot during the movie, and it just felt wrong.
  • The book was heavy in 80s pop culture references. The movie expanded that to just general pop culture, but even that was very light (I get that a lot of this might have been copyright issues, but it’s still worth mentioning).
  • In the book, Wade started out overweight (spent most of his life in a virtual environment, after all), but had a physical transformation once he gained the means to be active while also in the OASIS. There was no change of this sort in the movie.
  • Also, in the book, Wade started out completely destitute. The things he had to do to make any progress in the OASIS showed ingenuity and a real struggle. This was barely touched on in the movie.
  • Because The Hunt had gone on for years already when the book started, everyone who was hunting (called gunters) knew pretty much everything there was to know about Halliday, his life, and every book, movie, video game, song, or TV show that he liked. In the movie, Wade was explaining how he’d figured out a clue to other gunters often, and it really bothered me that he knew so much more than the others.
  • Though I said in my original review that the time that Wade was alone (pushed away his friends) was not a time I enjoyed, I realized watching the movie that I missed it when it didn’t happen. Most likely, that means I didn’t enjoy it because it was depressing (which it was meant to be), not that it was a bad story element.
  • I loved Ogden Morrow’s role in the book. In the movie it was kinda…meh (and it seemed like a waste of Simon Pegg).
  • It really bugged me that they called the IOI gunters Sixers, but had absolutely no explanation as to why. It wouldn’t have been difficult to explain it. Even not coming from a book, it was an unnecessary lack of explanation.
  • Similarly, in the book, the first 5 gunters to find the first key were known as the “High Five,” because of their positions on the almighty leader board. When watching the movie, I’d completely forgotten about that until some time in the last 20-30 minutes when Wade uses that term to reference those 5 characters, and I actually sat up and said, “Wait, what?! How are we supposed to know what he means by that, when this is the first time anyone’s said it?”

Before I go into the spoilers, I want to mention a few things about the movie that I liked:

  • The visual effects in the OASIS were great. Much better than I could imagine in my head, I’m sure. I also enjoyed the way it looked when characters accessed things from their inventory and such. I’ve had dreams about actually being inside a game world, i.e. being my character, and it reminded me a bit of that. (Is that weird?)
  • There were some nods to some of the things in the book that weren’t used in the movie at all, which was nice. Seeing the planet Ludus early in the movie, for example, made me smile.

Below here are the rest of my notes, which have what I would consider spoilers. Read on at your own discretion.

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Book Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Science Fiction

RP1.png

Over 100 years in the future, mankind has been largely driven inside the virtual world. They work in the OASIS, go to school, hang out with friends, rely on it for entertainment, and even treasure hunt in the OASIS. The main storyline in the book is a treasure hunt that was created by the man who created the OASIS. The person who finds the Easter egg hidden in the virtual environment, by following all of the clues, will basically be the wealthiest person alive.

Ready Player One is my husband’s favorite book. He’s tried to get me to read the book or watch the movie here and there, but I told him that I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as him, because the 80s references would largely be lost on me. I was a teenager in the 90s, and a fairly sheltered one at that. I don’t even know much about pop culture in the 90s and know way, way less about pop culture in the 80s. But now that I’ve started to get back to my bookworm roots, I knew it was time to give this book a read.

Keep in mind when reading the rest of this post that I was correct about the heavy 80s references not providing much nostalgia for me. However, I don’t think that’s the only reason that the plethora of references fell flat for me. I came to a point pretty early on when I realized how shallow most of the references were. Movies, games, books, TV shows, comics, music–all of these things were briefly named, often in lists, but that’s about it. So I guess the people who get the references get to go, “Oh! That show!” and move on. Not much substance.

On the flip side, however, the times when the 80s pop culture was part of the challenges in The Hunt, even though I didn’t get the hit of nostalgia during those sections that others would get, I really enjoyed them! So not diving into spoilers too much, the Easter egg hunt involved finding 3 keys, which each opened a gate. So the hunters had to find the keys, find the gates, and “clear” the gates, all of which involved solving some sort of challenge, even if just a riddle. Those were my favorite parts of the book. Unfortunately, in between these sections, the book mostly dragged for me, especially when the main character, Wade, pushed his friends away and was alone for a while.

Another thing I enjoyed about the book was the way the author described things inside the Oasis. I actually thought it would seem silly or weird to read about the mechanics in this virtual world, but Cline did a good job of explaining it. I’ve played a decent amount of games that allowed me to imagine how the interface worked, so that might have helped.

As the book ramped up to the end, I kept expecting a huge twist. A certain specific trope that I won’t mention so I don’t spoil that it doesn’t happen was especially on my mind, but it doesn’t happen. Not that there wasn’t any kind of twist near the end, but not what I was expecting, and not as big as I was expecting. I weirdly found the end of the book and the challenges the characters had to go through too easy and very difficult at the same time. It’s hard to explain without giving anything away though.

My husband tells me that the movie is different from the book, but good in its own right. He also says it focuses more on The Hunt (the parts I liked the most). I’m looking forward to watching it!

Find out more about Ernest Cline and Ready Player One

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!