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Monday, May 23rd, 2005

>Lie Down In Front Of Bulldozer_

I was a big fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy books when I was younger, but as I was watching the movie yesterday, it occurred to me that a) I haven’t read the books in upwards of 10 to 15 years and b) most of my memories of the plotline came from the Infocom text-based adventure game based on the books based on the radio show.

I haven’t checked out what the concensus on this film is, but I suspect that the purists are not pleased. That’s okay, purists are never pleased about anything. I wager they’re among the most consistently miserable people on the face of the earth. When it comes to film adaptations of geek grail material (almost all of which I’ve read), I figure it’s more important that a) the film be entertaining and b) stay true to the spirit of the source material. The word is less important – after all, what works in one medium won’t necessarily work in another and changes will inevitably have to be made. For example, I for one am thankful that I didn’t have to see the original gaudy 70s-era costume designs in the X-Men films. Would it have been faithful? Yes. Would it have been embaressing to see onscreen? God, yes. But I digress.

But back to Hitchhiker’s. Detractors will first have to get around the fact that the script wasn’t written by some hack, but by the original creator – the late Douglas Adams. Yes, it had to be massaged somewhat into final form after his death, but as I understand it, the plot – including changes and new sequences – were all his. It’s also worth noting that the books that people hold near and dear were themselves adaptations of the radio play, and revisions were made in those translations as well. A radio show is not a book is not a film, after all.

Anyway, the one liner is that I rather enjoyed the film. The casting was marvelous, I honestly couldn’t have thought of anyone better for each of the main roles (And I am in love with Zooey Deschanel. Or maybe just her name. No, it’s her too). Mos Def as Ford Prefect was a masterstroke – he captures the character’s attitude perfectly, and that goes double for Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox. Some might find the novel implementation of his second head blasphemous, but I found it less distracting than the birdcage on the shoulder that they used in the TV adaptation.

Narratively, the film sticks fairly closely to the video game for the first half or so, though in somewhat fast-forward. You don’t see Martin Freeman root through his robe pocket for the analgesic or figure out the exact combination of commands for his conversation with Mr Prosser that allows him to make it down to the pub without being killed by a flying brick, but it does stay moderately faithful. The middle section of the film is where it deviates the most from the original tale and not surprisingly, that’s where it drags the most. The jokes become quite thin and the film feels like it’s trying to rush through those sequences and get to the parts that are more comfortable.

It also doesn’t help that the editing is quite heavy-handed and it frequently feels like the film has been pared down from a longer (and possibly more cohesive) version of the film. The finale is also somewhat patchy, though it’s understandable that they needed to offer more closure than the book did in that there’s no guarantee there’ll be any sequels to the film. Overall, it starts out strong but steadily loses steam and only staggers to the finish line. Still, it’s a goodly bit of fun, remains true to the spirit of the original story and the animated Hitchhiker’s Guide bits are pretty damn clever and well executed.

And if you’ve never played the Infocom game I’m talking about, The BBC has a Flash-based online version for you to play. It’s not strictly text-based anymore, but is definitely a trip down memory lane. It’s still as hard as I remember – I had a hell of a time finishing it 20 years ago, and I’m still waiting for the next one…

Some of the schdules for NXNE are now up. You have to browse by venue (fellas – ever heard of a GRID?) but there’s enough information to start planning if you’re planning on attending. At first glance, I am annoyed that the handful of bands that were of interest to me are scattered all over space and time, meaning either a) I get a wristband and club hop, b) pick one showcase and hope the other acts on the bill don’t suck, or c) stay home and watch M*A*S*H* reruns. My money’s on Hawkeye.

House Of Love are expected to sing a worldwide deal with V2 in the near future. While this doesn’t mean that they’ll be touring globally to support Days Run Away, the probability of it happening just went up about a million-fold. A million times zero still being zero.

np – Eisley / Room Noises

By : Frank Yang at 8:57 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Thierry says:

    I already wasn’t terribly impressed by the NXNE listings when I saw who would be performing this year, and now it turns out that three of the acts I wanted to see (Ruth Minnikin, Les Séquelles and Tuuli) are all playing at 1am on Saturday. Great…

  2. david says:

    We thought about going north to NXNE this year after missing last year’s festival, but decided to skip it after seeing the lineup. Maybe next year.

  3. angryrobot says:

    I always thought House of Love were one of the more underrated bands of their time. The new album is decent, but I was somehow expected more from them. I can’t decide if the new tracks sound spontaneous, or just unfinished. Either way, the sound kind of thin. Even without Bickers, I still reckon Babe Rainbow is their best.

  4. Frank says:

    hey dave – I don’t blame you. I live like 5 minutes from most of the venues and still can’t be bothered…

    yeah, the new House Of Love is somewhat less epic than I’d hoped, to say nothing of shorter. But there’s still a few excellent songs (Kid Carter and Gotta Be That Way are as good as anything they’ve ever done) and it’s not an embaressment by any stretch. A welcome reunion, I hope there’s more to come.

  5. Gary Campbell says:

    Agreed that the Hitchhiker’s movie was a bit dull, I do think that Adams writing the screenplay doesn’t mean squat. Often creators mucking around with their own source material can have dire results. (I’m lookin’ at you, Mr. G. Lucas!)

    Still, though the casting was good, how about wrapping up some plotlines, eh? Does Zaphod get his other head back? And what’s with the vice-president who’s been the villian the whole movie suddenly, at the end, off to have dinner at the End of the Universe with the gang? Shouldn’t she be trying to arrest them or something?

    Oh well. Besides, I don’t like anything. :P

  6. Frank says:

    I thought it was fairly evident that the vice-president was only hunting down Zaphod because she was in love with him. Kind of like Cheney and Bush. I wish those crazy kids would just get together and be done with it.

  7. Andrew says:

    I believe Douglas Adams himself said that the ideal source medium for movie adaptations was the short story…

    And I’m dismayed to see the thumbs-down for NXNE–but then again, maybe I’m biased ’cause we’re playing!

  8. Frank says:

    hey Andrew – I’m just annoyed at NxNE because I don’t see enough to make a wristband worthwhile (present company excluded, natch) and there aren’t any lineups that seem interesting enough top to bottom to make paying a single cover and hanging around all night an attractive idea.

    I may still catch some shows. We’ll see.