The formula of using a Philip K. Dick short story as a foundation for an action film had been established by the time director John Woo got around to making “Paycheck” (2003). It’s the earliest PKD story – written in 1952, published in 1953 — to be turned into a film. Writer Dean Georgaris (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider — The Cradle of Life”) takes the hookiest part of the story – a person sends clues to his future self before his mind-wipe – and builds a fairly engaging mystery-actioner around it.
After three TV seasons and 10 previous books, the “Roswell” saga arrives at its country-spanning conclusion, “Turnabout” (November 2003). Andy Mangels’ and Michael A. Martin’s novel, the wrap-up of the many threads laid down in “Pursuit,” finds different groups of heroes fighting little battles and doing little missions until it all comes together in a huge showdown. I enjoyed reading it, and the authors serve all the main characters well.
Green Lantern” (2011) has a reputation for being garbage, but it’s a perfectly fine adaptation of the DC superhero who was created in 1940 by Alan Scott and Martin Nodell. If you go in hearing about how bad it is, you might even think “Hey, that wasn’t so bad.” Since my superhero-watching journey is partly for the sake of learning about the major figures in comic-book lore, I found this to be a painless piece of homework.
In Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s co-authored debut “Relic” (1995), Agent Pendergast is already established in his career. The same goes for Lt. D’Agosta and other staples of their quarter century of novels. What’s particularly neat about “Old Bones” (August, hardcover) is we see the very first case of FBI Agent Corrie Swanson, whom we first met as a punkish Kansas teen in “Still Life with Crows” (2003).
The Oscar-nominated “Joker” has brought a key question about art front and center, perhaps most prominently since the early part of this century when sample-laden songs started to become radio hits. Where is the line that separates homages from ripoffs? Inspiration from theft? Two Martin Scorsese films are regularly mentioned as the most obvious forbearers to Todd Phillips’ “Joker”: “Taxi Driver” (1976) and “The King of Comedy” (1982). I’ll look at “Taxi Driver” here.
One of the paradoxes of Philip K. Dick’s career is that he wrote his most robust and mature observations about human behavior at the sputtering start of his career, with none of those nine books from 1950-60 being immediately published. Then he tried his hand at pulp SF and got good at it. But writing about the human condition in 1950s California under American societal morals of the time was arguably his natural calling.
Roswell’s” book-based “Season 4” starts with “A New Beginning” and “Nightscape,” but the stakes seriously ramp up in “Pursuit” (September 2003). Authors Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin, who previously wrote “Skeletons in the Closet,” tell us that Max and Liz have now gotten married – as per the flash-forward at the end of Season 3 – so now all bets are off. There’s no continuity reason why Max, Michael, Isabel, Liz, Maria, Kyle or anyone else can’t be hurt or killed.
The Outsider” (Sundays, HBO) is written, directed and paced with such slow-burn confidence that a viewer can almost fool themselves into thinking this isn’t just another Stephen King novel adaptation. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of King’s catalog; I count some of his books and their movie versions as masterpieces. But it’s hard to disguise the Kingian cliches on display in this adaptation of his 2018 novel.
Zorro is a rare superhero who doesn’t come from comic books, and indeed he predates the 1938 invention of Superman. He was created in 1919 by pulp novelist Johnston McCulley. The “Zorro” film series, of which the two Antonio Banderas-starring entries are the 10th and 11th American outings, dates back to 1920. Arguably, Zorro is not a superhero (he has no superpowers and did not originate in comics), but he’s listed as such enough times that I’ll categorize him as a proto-superhero for now and let the debate continue.
It takes some getting used to, I admit, but eventually I got on a roll with Nina the Vampire Slayer in Kiersten White’s second Buffyverse novel, “Chosen” (January, hardcover). I should’ve braced myself for it after having read last year’s “Slayer,” but first-person present-tense writing is unusual enough that it’s still like getting a bucket of cold water to the face when you crack the book open.