Re: Films - meh
thought the Dune film was OK when I saw it, given what it had to squeeze into a small amount of time (though I had the advantage of having previously read the books)
That's the thing, though. The movies acts as a great illustration to the book, but without having read the book it's very confusing.
That's the way we felt about the Harry Potter films - well, from the second one onwards anyway. The first book was (apparently) very heavily edited, and as a result more of it ended up in the film. The children read the books before the films (in the case of two of them, because they read the books before the films had come out) and agree that they understood a lot more of what is going on as a result. I think the same is true of many film adaptations of books.
Not read any recent Neal Stephenson, though I did like Zodiac, Snow Crash etc.