December 31, 2011

Don't judge a book by its movie cover #3

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? Are the famous faces likely to have a positive impact on book sales?

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Don't judge a book by its movie cover #2
Don't judge a book by its movie cover #1

December 30, 2011

Watch this trailer. You will be moved.

I become really excited about the release of a film, when the trailer moves me almost to tears. Almost, because it is difficult for watering eyes to actually expel tears over the course of a 2-minute clip.

If the trailer is anything to go by, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a movie to watch out for in 2012.

The film is an adaptation of the 2005 novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer. The book's narrator is a nine-year-old boy, whose father died in the world Trade Centre on September 11. It traces his search for answers across New York City.

The film, starring Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks and Thomas Horn, was intended for release in time for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The worldwide release date of January 20, 2012, is a little late – but this film looks to be worth the wait.

December 26, 2011

I have no tale of woe, sir: How ‘Jane Eyre’ compares from book to film

Mia Wasikowska had her sights set on Jane Eyre. When discussing her role in Cary Fukunaga’s 2011 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, she said:

“I had just read the book in 2009, and I was halfway through it when I called my agent and said, “This is amazing. Is there a script around or is anyone developing the project?” There wasn’t at the time, but two months later, she emailed me a script, and then I met Cary. It was a case of really good timing.”

The film opens with Jane fleeing from Thornfield. She is lost, heartbroken, forlorn, alone – there is no dialogue for several minutes as she stumbles over the moors, her feet squelching in the mud and her sobs drowned out by the sounds of falling rain and thunder.

This scene occurs half way through the novel, and starting with it has a significant impact on the flow of the story and the way that viewers emotionally respond to it.

In the novel, Jane comes upon Thornfield after years of hardship. Its dark and eerie stone halls are her salvation from a life of cruelty at the hands of her family and her Head Master at Lowood School. Edward Fairfax Rochester presents to her a life of intellectual stimulation and equality that she had never imagined before.

When the novel reaches its climax and Jane flees, the reader laments her decision. As Rochester begs her to stay, you beg along with him – give up your foolish pursuit of self-respect and dignity Jane, and choose instead to live for your own happiness, for love!

With Fukunaga’s non-linear form of storytelling, the viewer is deprived of these feelings. Instead of wishing Jane to return to Thornfield, those who are unfamiliar with the story will spend their time wondering why she left.

In the director’s commentary on the DVD, Fukunaga explains this deliberate decision. He says the aim was to blend the classically romantic story with the element of suspense. He succeeds.

Fukunaga’s film is a dark, gothic thriller. And it is an enthralling, intoxicating story. Wasikowska brings to life a Jane Eyre that is as true as Bronte’s own mind could have intended – she is young, innocent and sharp and although she is plain she is captivating. Michael Fassbender plays Rochester with an equal firmness and precision – he is enigmatic, harsh, calculating and also touchingly tender.

For any fan, there are of course the obvious omissions – of Jane’s closeness with Miss Temple and Bessie, and the intricacies of her familial ties with St. John Rivers and his sisters. There is no visit from the fortune-telling Gypsy woman, and Jane is not turned away from door after door during her travails through the moors.

When the conclusion of the film is signified by a sharp cut to a completely black screen, fans of the book will undoubtedly sit until the end credits have run their course, waiting for the visual interpretation of the book’s final chapter, which begins with: “Reader, I married him.” But it does not come.

Fukunaga explains his decision-making, his process of adaptation and omission:

“One of the difficult things, when you have a novel that is 500-plus pages, is how to be faithful but also be aware that you are making a film and not just visually depicting a novel… Are you making this movie for people who know the story, or are you making it because it’s a great story you are going to take liberties with how you interpret it? I think you have to balance both worlds, in a way – because the harshest critics will be the ones who know the novel and it’s dear to tens of thousands of readers – but in two hours you are given a certain amount of restriction to tell a story and therefore picking and choosing what parts of a narrative you are going to tell to allow for the emotional impact of the story to be the strongest. And I think that’s the most important in the end, the emotionality.”

On this level, the film is overwhelmingly successful. Bronte stories appeal to those who enjoy the period romance, beauty and language of a Jane Austen novel, but who also desire some grit, some raw human feeling. Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre has it in spades. It is full of feeling and the emotion is forever at a fantastic height.

The verdict: 

Book or Big Screen? Book

The film is:   4. A fine adaptation that maintains the original’s exceptional qualities

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.

December 24, 2011

What’s in a name? A lot when it comes to Sherlock Holmes

In a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Robert Downey Jr, the star of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, spoke about the importance of staying true to the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels:

December 22, 2011

‘The Lucky One’ will be one for the ladies

In a previous post, we spoke about Nicholas Sparks being the king of film adaptations. He is the author of 17 novels, 7 of which are now major motion pictures.

Lucky number 7 is The Lucky One, starring Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling and Blythe Danner.

On IMDB, the plot of The Lucky One is surmised as:

“A Marine travels to North Carolina after serving three tours in Iraq and searches for the unknown woman he believes was his good luck charm during the war.”

Zac Efron plays this war-hardened Marine, Logan Thibault. In the book he is first described as looking like “some kind of hippy from the sixties” who was “too old to be a college student” and “had to be in his late twenties, at least.”

Logan Thibault looked rough, like a man who lived on the road, his only possessions in his backpack and his only company his loyal German Shepherd. His hair was long, like a “rat’s nest”.

Zac Efron certainly doesn’t look rough, and he certainly doesn’t look like he’s pushing thirty – but the casting choice was deliberate. Sparks’ novels cater to hopelessly-looking-for-love, teenage contingent, and Efron is their ideal leading man.

The film comes out on 19th April 2012 – to tide you over, here is the latest trailer. Look out for the rowboat scene, it’s very The Notebook.

For more about Nicholas Sparks adaptations:

December 20, 2011

The many faces of: Mia Wasikowska

As Chaya Dziencielsky in Edward Zwick’s Defiance (2008), based on Nechama Tec's book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans:

As Pamela Choat in Scott Teems’ That Evening Sun (2009), based on a short story I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down by William Gay:

As Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010), based on the classic novel by Lewis Carroll:

As Jane Eyre in Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre (2011), based on the classic novel by Charlotte Bronte:

As Helen Dawes in Rodrigo Garcia’s Albert Nobbs (2011), based on the short story by George Moore:

Mia will also star in John Hillcoat’s The Wettest County (2012), based on the novel by Matt Bondurant, and has been linked to Robert Connolly's adaptation of the Arthur Miller play A View from the Bridge.

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December 19, 2011

Boxing Day: An occasion for film adaptations

One of the biggest days of the year for cinemas is Boxing Day. It’s an annual tradition in Australia that, on the day following Christmas, when everything else is closed, families will flock to their local cinema.

Of course, film distributors are well aware of this trend, and save their best box office hits for the occasion.

In 2011, the 26th of December will see a slew of new movies grace the big screen – and a majority of them are adaptations of novels.

  • War Horse: The story of a beloved horse that is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it is based on a children's novel of the same name by British author Michael Morpurgo.
  • Albert Nobbs: A pet project of Glenn Close, also starring Mia Wasikowska and Aaron Johnson, based on a short story by Irish novelist George Moore.

December 15, 2011

Eagerly waiting for: 'The Life of Pi'

One of the most interesting film adaptations set for release in 2012 is The Life of Pi.

Based on the novel by Yann Martel, it is being brought to the big screen by Ang Lee of Brokeback Mountain fame. Suraj Sharma, who has no previous acting experience, will play the central character, Piscine Patel.

Sharma has quite a task ahead of him. For much of the book, Pi is struggling for life, stranded in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. His only company for 227 days is a 450-pound, man-eating Bengal Tiger.

The film will certainly be one to look out for, particularly if Ang Lee deviates from some of the problems that exist within the ages of the novel – you can read my review of Yann Martel’s book, by visiting Rissi from Scribbles, Scripts & Such.

 Rissi - thanks so much for publishing my guest post!

December 14, 2011

What Daniel Craig thought of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’

Daniel Craig is on the publicity trail for his latest film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The film is an adaptation of the first novel in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, and there is a lot of pressure for it to do well – not only because the novels are a such a worldwide sensation, but because the story has already been adapted to the big screen.

As Craig hops from interview to interview, a common question is what he thought of the books. Here is a sample of his responses.

“I had read them already. I stole a paperback off someone on holiday. Then I read the other two. You’d be at the airport and see the cross-section of people who were reading them, that’s how I noticed them. I kept seeing it on the bestsellers list and had no idea what it was about, and then you’d find 80-year-old men and 14-year-old girls reading it. That’s phenomenal.”

To Reuters:

"It's a book about sexual politics, it's a book about violence towards women and I don't think David Fincher or I would have done it if we had to hold back on that.”

At the film’s European premiere:

“I think they're great stories, and when they're great stories they catch something in the public imagination and they keep going so I'm really just proud and happy to be part of this.”

December 11, 2011

The casting quandary #1

One of the biggest sources of contention for fans, when their favourite books are adapted to film, is whether the cast lives up to their expectations.

Does the main character suit the author’s description?

Is the lead man everything that you imagined him to be?

Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of The Hunger Games, is described as having long, straight black hair, usually in a braid down her back; gray eyes; and olive skin. Although Katniss is strong, she is described as being small in stature.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Hermione Granger is described in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as having wild, bushy brown hair, brown eyes, and very prominent front teeth.

Emma Watson as Hermione Granger

Bella Swan, in Twilight, is described as a very average girl with very pale skin, brown hair, chocolate brown eyes, and a heart-shaped face.

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan

What did you think about the casting for these roles? Did these actresses live up to your expectations?

December 7, 2011

Tell us what you really think: Audrey Niffenegger

"I've got my little movie that runs in my head. And I'm kind of afraid that will be changed or wiped out by what somebody else might do with it. And it is sort of thrilling and creepy, because now the characters have an existence apart from me.”

December 6, 2011

Adapted films dominate awards

Film adaptations feature prominently in this year’s awards, from The National Board of Review in the United States.

* Hugo, based on Brian Selznick's novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, has been selected as the year's best film.

* Martin Scorsese has been named best director, also for Hugo.

* The Descendants, based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, received the most accolades – best adapted screenplay, best actor (George Clooney) and best supporting actress (Shailene Woodley), as well as being named as one of the top films of the year.

* Other ‘top films’ include Drive (adapted from James Sallis’ novel), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (adapted from Stieg Larsson’s novel), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (adapted from J.K Rowling’s novel), and War Horse (based on the children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo).

* Rooney Mara was recognised for her ‘breakthrough performance in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

* Tilda Swinton was awarded best actress for her performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin, based on the novel by Lionel Shriver.

* The cast of The Help, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett, was awarded best ensemble.

* Michael Fassbender received the ‘spotlight award’ for his work in four films, three of which are film adaptations: A Dangerous Method (adapted from John Kerr’s novel), Jane Eyre (adapted from Charlotte Bronte’s novel) and X-Men: First Class (adapted from the Marvel comic series).

* Special achievement in filmmaking was given to the Harry Potter franchise for its "distinguished translation from book to film".

The National Board of Review awards are seen as an important precursor for the Academy Awards – if the Board is on the money this year, it looks like a number of film adaptations will be in the running for an Oscar in 2012.

December 5, 2011

The many faces of: Saoirse Ronan

As Briony Tallis in Atonement (2007), based on the book by Ian McEwan:

As Celia Hardwick in The Christmas Miracleof Jonathon Toorney (2007), based on the book by Susan Wojciechowski:

As Lina Mayfleet in City of Ember (2008), based on the novel by Jeanne DuPrau:

As Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones (2009), based on the novel by Alice Sebold:

As Irena in The Way Back (2010), inspired by The Long Walk, a book by Slawomir Rawicz:

Ronan has also been cast as Melanie Stryder in the 2013 film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s novel The Host and will also reportedly star as Charlotte Doyle in The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, the 2012 adaptation of Avi’s young adult novel (1990).

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Have you read my review of The Lovely Bones?

December 4, 2011

Guest Review: The Notebook

'The Notebook' is one of my all-time favourite movies. It takes pride of place on the chick-flick shelf of my DVD collection, waiting for those rainy days when a girl needs a little old-fashioned romance to lift her spirits. Many thanks to Megan from Storybook Love Affair for ticking one film adaptation off my ‘to review’ list, by contributing this marvelous guest post. 


Having read The Notebook after first watching the film, I have to admit that I did enjoy the movie more. In most cases I try to read the book first before it’s made into a film, and usually this results in me liking the book better – so my feelings in this circumstance are a little unusual.

In the novel version, it’s the lyrical and hypnotic prose that Nicholas Sparks is so famous for that has the most effect. He has a real gift for simple storytelling and is able to create a life-like world through his vivid descriptions of places and people, accentuating these descriptions beautifully with colour and poetry.

Ryan Gosling as Noah Calhoun
What makes The Notebook especially unique is not just the romanticism it celebrates, but also the fact that it is based on a true story. And this true story is one that has never really been told before, and certainly not reflected in this light.

Sparks writes of an elderly man who reads a notebook to an old woman in a nursing home. The story he reads tells of a young couple, Noah and Allie, who fell in love during a brief summer holiday romance. The couple are separated for years, and Allie becomes engaged to another man before they eventually reunite and rekindle their relationship.

It is around this time that we realise it is an older Noah who is reading the notebook to his wife Allie, who is in hospital suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Allie’s memory has deteriorated and she struggles to recognise her husband, but Noah doesn’t give up and she gradually starts to remember him again.

The movie version tells a similar story, with a few changes interspersed throughout. The film begins when Noah and Allie are first introduced to each other at a carnival. I loved that Allie played a little hard-to-get at first, as Noah chased after her. For some reason, the story the movie tells makes more sense to me and I felt like I could relate to it more.

The movie is perfection in every sense of the word. The costumes; the cars; the haunting scenery of North Carolina; Noah’s beautiful old plantation home and the early post-war setting are just a few of the things I loved about this film.

Rachel McAdams as Allie Hamilton
But it is the actors who make this movie truly magical. Ryan Gosling is perfect in his portrayal of Noah and has his serious, thoughtful and playful sides all down to a tee. Rachel McAdams is beautiful as Allie; James Garner, as the older Noah, gives a truly believable performance; and Gena Rowlands, as the older Allie, is nothing short of brilliant.

What the movie really reflects – and I think the novel kind of lacked – is that heart-warming sense of a long life filled with an unforgettable love.

Noah and Allie’s love affair extends into old age, and unlike most love stories we see in books and films today, this story takes us beyond the mere beginning of a true love and all the way to the end – in the process, celebrating the sanctity of marriage.

The Notebook is ultimately an epic love story, where the underlying and most lasting message is that true love never dies. I highly recommended you to both read and watch this enchanting love story and get lost in the competing worlds of both language and imagery. Both are sure to impress.

Would you like to know more about the film adaptations of Nicholas Sparks' novels? Nicholas Sparks, the king of film adaptations

December 2, 2011

Getting to the bones of Temperance Brennan, in this month’s Femnista

Whenever a beloved literary character makes the transition to film or television, fans will inevitably make comparisons. Does the actor pull it off? Do their physical features match the author’s vivid descriptions?

Choosing the ‘right’ actor for these parts will always be difficult, because it is impossible to find one person that encapsulates everybody’s varying imaginations and perceptions.

When adapting Kathy Reich’s best-selling crime novels to the silver screen, the creators of the television series Bones took a completely different tact.

Rather than trying to cast the character of Dr Temperance Brennan, they took her name and career and did away with absolutely everything else that defined the character to readers.
This month, I’ve been fortunate to be involved in Femnista magazine. Its creator, the wonderful Charity from Charity’s Place, kindly allowed me to contribute an entire that focuses on comparing the qualities of these two unique characters.

I encourage you to check out Femnista – it is a fantastic publication that will appeal to anyone who loves stories and characters, irrespective of the medium or genre.

While we are on the topic of the adaptation of characters, can you think of any other instances when a well-loved literary character has been taken in an entirely new direction for the big (or small) screen?