November 30, 2011

Hugo: The gift of a sensory experience

Many thanks to Sandy from You’ve GOTTA Read This! for bringing this enchanting film to my attention.

Hugo is a 3D adventure, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sacha Baron Cohen. The film is based on Brian Selznick’s innovative part historical novel part children’s picture book The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

According to the website Rotten Tomatoes, the reviews appear positive so far. From 126 reviews, 96% are favorable. Sandy seems to agree:

“Scorcese gifted us the sensory experience of 1930's Paris...the lights, the music, the fashion, the food… I wasn't just watching this film, I was IN it. I was IN the clock tower, or running through the streets of Paris dodging pedestrians, or standing outside with snow falling on me.”

The film was released last week in the U.S. Unfortunately, Australia has to wait until January 12. In the meantime, we will have to be content with the trailer. What do you think? Is Hugo on your must-see list?

November 29, 2011

Do you have a craving for… The Hunger Games?

Teenagers compete in a series of life-threatening challenges that test their physical abilities as well as the moral fibre, and there can only be one winner…

No, I’m not talking about the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter. In 2012 the wizarding world is out and The Hunger Games are in.

The Hunger Games is the first novel in a trilogy from author Suzanne Collins. The film adaptation is due to hit cinemas on March 23, 2012 and the second in the series, Catching Fire, is already scheduled for release on November 22, 2013.

The series is expected to be the next box office smash that will catapult its central cast – Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth – into the celebrity stratosphere.

An extended trailer for the film has been released – take a look and share your thoughts. Does The Hunger Games have what it takes to be the next Harry Potter or Twilight? Are you already a fan?

November 27, 2011

Don't judge a book by its movie cover #2

The film was based on the best-selling book, and now the book is sold with images of the adaptation emblazoned on its the cover. It’s an endless cycle of one capitalizing on the success of the other.

Here are some examples of original book covers, and the replacement movie poster versions. What are your views? Does the movie poster demonstrate what the book is all about? Does the new art do the original story justice? 

November 26, 2011

A film adaptation the world may never see: The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye is one of the world’s most beloved and revered novels. The plot is a little thin, but that doesn’t matter – because The Catcher in the Rye is a true character story; the appeal is in the novel’s honest insight into the innermost workings of an angst-ridden teenage mind.

Since it was published in 1951, filmmakers have persistently pursued the film rights to The Catcher in the Rye. However, each offer to adapt the novel was stiffly and obstinately refused by its author, J.D Salinger.

You see, like the novel’s central character Holden Caulfield – “If there’s one thing that I hate, it’s the movies” – J.D Salinger despised the prospect of his work being adapted to the big screen.

J.D Salinger
At one stage Salinger was willing to consider The Catcher in the Rye as a film, but being displeased with the film adaptation of his short story Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut (renamed My Foolish Heart) in 1949, he put a stop to that.

In the ensuing years, Salinger turned down offers from Sam Goldwyn, Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg and many, many others. The role of Holden Caulfield is so coveted that Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Jerry Lewis, Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson have all put their hats into the ring over the years – but to no avail.

John Cusack once commented that his one regret about turning twenty-one was that he had become too old to play the part – perhaps Salinger had the same regrets. In the 1950s, the author considered bringing The Catcher in the Rye to the stage, but only if he could play the lead role himself.

Ezra Miller
Salinger’s death in 2010 invigorated the hopes of many, as Salinger once suggested that he would leave the unsold rights to his wife and daughter in case they encountered any financial hardship – however that seems unlikely when 250,000 copies of the novel are still sold each year.

It seems like this book will forever stay on the shelf, but it doesn’t hurt to dream. Since seeing We need to talk about Kevin, I could picture Ezra Miller as Holden Caulfield. Who would you cast?

November 25, 2011

Tell us what you really think: Michael Lewis

“The actual feeling of people who make movies is that everybody would be better off if the author was dead. The last thing they need is an author running around bitching and moaning about what they are doing to his art. And I actually sympathize with that. Because they basically have to break it and remake it, they've got to go off on their own.” 

November 23, 2011

The many faces of: Daniel Radcliffe

Did you know that EVERY movie that Daniel Radcliffe has starred in is based on a novel?

Mark Pendel in The Tailor of Panama

Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1 & Part 2)

Maps in December Boys

Arthur Kipps in The Woman in Black

Oh, and it looks like his next project will also be a film adaptation – he is tipped to star in The Amateur Photographer.

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The many faces of Keira Knightley

Coming Soon: The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black is Daniel Radcliffe’s first big-screen project since the Harry Potter series.

The 1983 novel by Susan Hill is about a young solicitor who travels to a small town to attend the funeral of a client. Radcliffe stars as the solicitor, Arthur Kipps, whose fate becomes entangles with a vengeful spirit.

It might sound like just another ghost story, but it actually looks pretty good.

The film is scheduled for release in the United States on 3 February 2012. To tide you over until then, here is the extended trailer.

November 22, 2011

Wolf Hall: Set for the Silver Screen

Thanks to Nicole From Linus’s Blanket and Natalie from Coffee and a Book Chick, I just found out that Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is being developed into a four-part TV miniseries.

Wolf Hall is a work of historical fiction, which documents the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell, the first Earl of Essex, from 1500 to 1535.

The story, which takes place during the reign of Henry VIII, provides a unique take on a well-documented period in England’s history: Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn.

Since its publication in 2009, the novel has won both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Hilary Mantel is now working on a sequel entitled Bring Up the Bodies.

At 650 pages, Wolf Hall is a hefty read. If you are thinking of tackling this one, you might like to join in with Nicole and Natalie’s Wolf Hall read-along.

Of course, you may choose to wait for the miniseries, but you will need to be patient. Peter Straughan (of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Men Who Stare At Goats fame) is writing the scripts, which still need to be commissioned by the BBC before pre-production begins.

Have you read Wolf Hall? What did you think?

Some more film adaptations that we are eagerly waiting for:

November 20, 2011

A smile, lifted lifelessly as if by hooks: How ‘We need to talk about Kevin’ compares from book to film

When I was a kid, I used to linger in the dark hallway at bedtime so that I could watch the beginning of Unsolved Mysteries. As soon as I was spotted I would be ushered to my room, but the narrator’s eerie voice still lingered down the hall and pervaded my dreams.

That is how it feels to read We need to talk about Kevin. It is bone chilling and heart breaking novel, and the glimpses into the minds of Eva and Kevin Khatchadourian are utterly gripping.

Lynne Ramsay’s film is just as chilling and just as captivating. When the final scene fades off to a starkly white background and the end credits suddenly flash, the cinema remains completely still. The audience is shocked and awestruck, and it’s eerily quiet without the usual rustle of discarded popcorn boxes.

Lionel Shriver’s novel is a 468 page inner monologue, as Eva Khatchadourian divulges each detail of the story in a sequence of rambling letters to her husband Franklin. I confess that, for a huge chunk of the novel, I had serious problems with this structure. I constantly distracted myself with questions – is this really something that a wife would write to her husband?

Tilda Swinton as Eva
The background details of Eva’s life were too obviously for the reader’s benefit and I felt sorry for Franklin if he ever had to read them. The only way I could continue reading myself was to imagine the letters sitting in a crumpled mess, gathering dust on Eva’s desk.

It’s when Eva begins to deconstruct Kevin – and finally reveals some facts that Franklin doesn’t already know – that the novel really picks up. If you persist to the point in the book where Eva engages in “black, straight-faced banter” with her son, you will be hooked.

One compliment that must be paid to Shriver: she is a true wordsmith. When you least expect it she will surprise you with such a well-constructed, lyrical sequence of words, which you will immediately re-read just to experience it again.

The equivalent in the film is the score, which is splendid. In scenes when Eva is alone and quiet, with only her inner torment for company, the music unpredictably ramps-up into a folksy, upbeat tune. A stark contrast to the unearthly silence of the Khatchadourian home, interrupted by the thump of Kevin’s backpack against the counter top or the reverberating echo of the garden sprinklers.

The film couldn’t be more true to the spirit and feel of the novel; it is a true psychological mind warp. Although there are some elements of the story that you will need to read the book to understand, but the film does not seem lacking without them.

One area where the film does fall short is in its depiction of Eva. Tilda Swinton’s character never manages to snap out of her shocked reverie. She is so guilt-ridden and tortured that it borders on pathetic – but you cannot help but feel for her, as she is so cruelly subjected to a Lindy Chamberlain-style persecution that the film never entirely explains.

Ezra Miller as Kevin
In contrast, Shriver’s character is much more stoic and rigid, and much more difficult to forgive. She is forever passing the blame – from herself, to Franklin, to Kevin, and to the inadequacies of the world – but she is so unashamedly selfish, independent, un-maternal and vain, that you wonder if it really was all her fault.

Some of the most riveting passages of the book occur when Eva challenges Kevin in conversation. But in the film she’s often too dumbstruck to speak. It does deprive the film of some of the book’s electricity.

If you are intrigued by the human condition, the debates of nature versus nurture, and the very foundations of evil, We need to talk about Kevin is a must-read. And follow it up with a film experience that will leave you wondering whether any movie will ever challenge you in the same way again.

The verdict: 

Book or Big Screen? Book

The film is:   3. A decent, credible, faithful adaptation

I would be very happy to receive your comments and feedback on ‘Book or Big Screen’ – please click on the below link to tell me what film adaptation you are excited about, or to suggest the book/film that I should review next.

November 17, 2011

Mixed Reviews: Breaking Dawn Part 1

In a previous post, I talked about film adaptations that can be viewed as completely unique works of art. Despite being based on a book, the strong cinematic qualities of these films mean everyone can enjoy them, whether they have read the book or not.

But let’s face it, not all films are like that. And not all films are supposed to be like that.

I used to get frustrated by haughty and self-important film reviewers, who would criticize the cinematic qualities of the Harry Potter series. These reviewers had never picked up a Harry Potter book in their lives, and wondered why they didn’t ‘get’ the films.

The Harry Potter series was not made to impress these reviewers in their ivory towers. The series was made entirely for the fans – so that they could see and hear and experience all over again the characters that they fell in love with while reading the books.

True, some of the minor characters in the book were a little under-developed, and some of the plotlines required a lot of assumed knowledge – but that’s how the fans want it. They don’t want to walk into The Goblet of Fire and be reminded about Harry’s history and how he came to be at Hogwarts – in the minds of fans, if you don’t know it already, you have no business seeing the film!

The Twilight series is another, more recent example. Sure, not everyone will enjoy the films, but not everyone has to. Clearly, the studios are making enough money that they can afford to only satisfy the fans.

The film was released in Australia at 12.01am last night and fans have been up ever since, catching as many cinema sessions as they can and bombarding web forums with their verdicts. Even though they may be just a little bit biased, we have established that the film is for them, so lets see what they think.

Nicole Helena says:
It was in one word: amazing. Kristen Stewart’s acting was A+. She showed so much emotion through out, it was unbelievable. It felt so real (sometimes I did feel like I was watching Robsten instead of Edward & Bella)… Breaking Dawn part 1 is the best one so far. (all though Twilight will always stay special to me)

Asja says:
Just got back from the theater and it was AWESOME!!!!! everything i hoped for...and more!!!! the only bad thing...well actually two bed things: 1. It was too short :( and....well...we need to wait another year to see the rest of it :((( everything else EPIC!!!

Emmy says:
Holy Lordy!!! I've just come out of the movie........ The BEST one yet by absolute far...... It's amazing....... Sooo damn good!!!!! Kristen did an amazing job and as did everyone and all the extra bits in the movie fitted perfectly!!! Omgoodness.... F-ing amazing!!!

Hamilton23 says:
Totally agree!!!!! I love love love Bella's wedding dress, especially the back! When the movie ended at the premiere in LA everyone in the theater (like 4000 people!) absolutely roared!!!! It was like BAM!!!!!! So amazing. Still gives me goosebumps remembering it. :)

Christinekinder84 says:
I'm in Australia it's 2.30am and I just got home from seeing BDP1 and I don't care what the critics say that movie was by far the best yet! I loved every minute of it and it lived up to all my expectation. I already can't wait for BDP2!

I think that says it all.

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November 16, 2011

The air is alive with chatter and laughter: Inside the garden party of The Great Gatsby

Pictures: Bill Hearne, Source: Daily Telegraph

F. Scott Fitzgerald dedicates page upon page to the descriptions of Jay Gatsby’s fun and frivolous parties. Chapter three opens with:

“There was music from my neighbour’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”

When Nick Carraway arrives at the party, he spends the better part of the evening trying to find his host. But it soon became curious that no one seemed to have ever laid eyes on him.

That is until, mid-way through the chapter, when Nick begins to converse with a man who just so happens to be Gatsby.

It was not long until the affable and polite young fellow was called away, and Nick observes him “standing alone on the marble steps and looking from one group to another with approving eyes.”

It is this very scene that Baz Luhrmann was in the process of filming this week, when a paparazzo’s from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph was hiding in the bushes.

Leonardo DiCaprio cuts a fine figure standing on those stairs as “the fraternal hilarity increased” around him. So much so, that you would be close to forgiving Luhrmann for giving Gatsby more screen time than F. Scott Fitzgerald would have intended.

The Jay Gatsby of the book is a mystery. The masses of people that flock to his weekend soirees know nothing of him, except for the rumours that he was a German spy during the war and that he killed a man. All anyone knows for sure is that he is a man of considerable wealth who “gives large parties”, although he is himself largely unsociable.

I hope Luhrmann fights the urge to show-off his leading man too early. When fans of the book finally walk into the cinema in December 2012, we want to feel this air of mystery around the character. We want to be convinced of the possibility that Gatsby may not exist, until the very moment that he appears.

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November 15, 2011

The challenge of creating Renesmee

The teasers and trailers for the latest Twilight installment, Breaking Dawn, reveal the basic plotline for the first half of Stephenie Meyer’s book: Bella finally walks down the aisle to marry her vampire boyfriend Edward; they set off on their Honeymoon, which they both seem to thoroughly enjoy; and of course, Bella falls pregnant.

The wait is almost over for fans, who will be flocking to cinemas this week to see the ensuing dramas and tragedies unfold – in particular, fans are just dying to see Mackenzie Foy as Edward and Bella’s half human-half vampire baby, Renesmee.

Now, fans shouldn’t get their hopes up to see too much of Foy in Part 1 of Breaking Dawn… although the young actress is listed as a cast member of Part 1, we all know that Renesmee's birth doesn't occur until halfway through the book.  It’s likely that fans will have to wait until the second installment in November 2012 to really see her in action.

There has been much discussion about the technical challenges of creating Renesmee, the little girl with ringlets of shiny bronze-colored hair and chocolate-brown, adult-like eyes, who ages at lightning speed and implants thoughts in people’s mind with a single touch.

Sheri Reed at ‘The Stir’ reported that Renesmee’s ageing will be pulled off with special effects, similar to those used on Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. So basically, Foy’s face and expressions will be superimposed on the bodies of three other actresses of different ages.

That’s all well and good, but I’m more interested to see how Taylor Lautner’s character Jacob Black will ‘imprint’ on little Renesmee without it looking a little creepy.

When you get a chance to see Breaking Dawn, let me know what you think. Did Mackenzie Foy bowl you over as Renesmee, or is it a case of what works on the page doesn’t quite feel right on the screen?

November 13, 2011

Don’t judge a book by its movie cover #1

The film was based on the best-selling book, and now the book is sold with images of the adaptation emblazoned on its the cover. It’s an endless cycle of one capitalizing on the success of the other.

Here are some examples of original book covers, and the replacement movie poster versions. What are your views? Does the movie poster demonstrate what the book is all about? Does the new art do the original story justice? 

November 12, 2011

Can adaptations ever be seen as a unique art form?

In October I wrote a review of the TV miniseries of The Thorn Birds. In response to my post, Lori from What Remains Now made a very interesting comment:

“I did enjoy the mini-series, but only because I viewed it as separate from the book. In fact, that's the way I typically enjoy any film adaptation...if I can separate the book and the film into "related" but not the "same" works of art.”

Lori makes a very good point. So often we over-analyze every detail of film adaptations and criticize the filmmakers for each oversight or omission, when perhaps we should allow the film to stand on its own.

Having said this, studios are very quick to capitalize on the popularity of bestselling books. Through their marketing strategies, we are given the impression that that the film will be true to the original. We are told that by watching the film we can relive our experience of reading the book, when in reality there is no guarantee that we will get this experience at all.

Filmmakers shouldn’t be able to have it both ways. They should not have the luxury of the additional revenue that comes with recreating a story that already has an established fan base, whilst at the same time imploring us to treat their creations as independent works of art.

On the other hand, publishers play the same game. I always find it a little disconcerting when a new edition of an old favourite is released with a movie poster emblazoned on the front cover. Even if the characters and plots of the film are completely different, publishers jump onto the Hollywood bandwagon and badge the original with images of the new.

Standing in my local Dymocks, I am drawn to the ‘Booklovers’ 101 Best Books’ section. A majority of the books have movie posters as their covers. I often wonder which came first. Did the film studios fight over the rights to a best-selling book, or did the book sales only reach their height after the release of the film adaptation?

I’ll do some investigating and will get back to you.

November 8, 2011

The many faces of: Keira Knightley

We know that Hollywood studios love film adaptations – but so do Hollywood’s biggest stars.

Keira Knightley is one actress whose face has brought some of the world’s most famous literary characters to life. Here are some promo shots that show Keira’s penchant for film adaptations - in particular those that involve period costumes.

Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice

Cecilia Tallis in Atonement

Helene Joncour in Silk

Georgiana Cavendish in The Duchess

Charlotte in London Boulevard
Ruth in Never Let Me Go

Sabina Spielrein in A Dangerous Method

And… of course we don’t have a picture yet, but don’t forget that Keira will also soon star in the title role of Anna Karenina.