Read the book before you see the film

How many times do you read a book and like it, then hear that it is being made into a movie? It seems that a really good book may have qualities that don’t translate to a good movie.

Cover of Gone GirlIt was said once – and I can’t remember who said it – that more bad books make good films rather than the other way round. Mario Puzo’s The Godfather is a good yarn, but a long way from being a great piece of literature. The film version, however, is one of the great American movies of all time with the bad bits – especially the sex scenes that even Harold Robbins might laugh at – jettisoned.

What can make a book fall over when it hits the screen? Reviews have been less than enthusiastic for the film version of S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and it may be that gimmick-style revelations at the end can’t work when the many readers of the novel know them. Will this make the film version of Gone Girl, expected soon, go the same way?

Cover of Z for ZachariahThere are, however, some interesting adaptations coming up and they may work well on the screen. The film of Z for Zachariah, the classic YA novel by Robert C. O’Brien, may be the first major movie filmed on location in Port Levy and a cast that includes Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Margot Robbie sounds promising.

Further up the island, in the Marlborough Sounds, filming has begun on an adaptation of the excellent novel by M. L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans, the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who find a boat washed ashore with a dead man and an infant on board. Their decision to raise the child as their own drives the plot of the novel which is actually set in Australia. The film has Michael Fassbender, Rachel Weisz and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander in the cast.

Cover of A Hologram for the KingOne of my favourite writers –if you like state of the nation novels – is Dave Eggers and the film version of A Hologram for the King is an interesting choice for a big American film in that it’s about a middle class man trying to hold himself and his family together as the world economy falters by trying to sell himself and his ideas to the burgeoning Arabian world. Tom Hanks is in the lead.

The dystopian world of J. G. Ballard is perfectly captured in his High Rise which is set in a luxury high rise building where things start to go wrong, leading to a major social breakdown. The novel, firmly set in the Thatcher era, has been on the cards for decades and is only now coming to film with Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, Luke Evans and Sienna Miller in the cast.

Cover of The Family FangNicole Kidman’s career may be faltering at the moment, but good on her for buying the rights to one of the most outrageous and funny novels, around, Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang, featuring the worst parents imaginable, a couple of performance artists and their children who live in permanent embarrassment at the idiotic performances their parents dream up. Kidman and Jason Bateman play the parents with Bateman directing. Continue reading

Wicked!

Search catalogueI’m not sure why I torment myself in this manner, but I have signed up for regular emails advertising big events and shows that will be coming to Auckland. This is with the clear understanding that I won’t actually ever GO to them, but once in a while something arrives that makes me stop and think, Maybe THIS will be the one thing I save up my 50 cent pieces for.

And Wicked, the musical based on Gregory Maguire’s bestselling book, may be that one thing. I saw it in Melbourne a couple of years ago, and absolutely loved it, so I’m already thinking about how much time I will need to spend looking  under the couch cushions for loose change.

Most of us know the original 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, and some of us are aware that it was based on a novel written in 1900 by L Frank Baum. Fewer people know that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was only one of a series of over 15 Oz-based books written by Baum, or have any idea just how pervasive the Oz story has become in some literary and cultural circles. A bit like Alice in recent times, the wizard, the good and wicked witches, the flying monkeys, the yellow brick road, AND Dorothy and her little dog too, have appeared in all sorts of places, spaces and forms.

I personally know all the words to Elton John’s 1973 hit Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; will never forget the 1978 movie The Wiz, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson; and have come across innumerable booky references to Baum’s characters and worlds, most notably for me in Stephen King’s epic gunslinger fantasy series The Dark Tower. We had the Disney version at home too (See the picture! Hear the record! Read the book!), and I can still belt out that classic and emotionally inspiring song, “Ding Dong! The witch is dead!” with very little prompting.

And while I have to admit that (again, like Alice and her Wonderland crew) the story and characters still leave me feeling a little uneasy and unsettled, even (quite frankly) a bit creeped-out, there’s no denying that Baum’s world and work has left an enduring mark on our culture, and one that looks to be continuing for some time.

Do you still have cinemaphobia?

If you’re anything like me the idea of being in a cinema post-quake leaves you shaking in your boots. It took me more than a year to attend a cinema and even then the thunderous sounds of the movie playing next door and the cars driving around the attached carpark makes me jump. Still, I have persevered and really enjoyed some great films of late.

Not ready to brave the cinema yet? Try our DVD collection including NZ films and see our new DVDs, read the book that was made into a film, or borrow a magazine about movies.

Did you know the project Gap Filler held cycle powered outdoor movies?

Shutter Island : Good; Leo : Not so Good

Shutter IslandThanks goodness for books! I saw the trailer for “Shutter Island” and before I could even say how great I thought it looked, the dreaded words “Starring Leonardo DiCaprio” came up on the screen. For most people, that would be enough to stop them experiencing this psychological drama, but I’m not a mere movie-goer, I’m a movie-going Librarian!  I looked it up on the Read the Book – Then See the Film section of our website and found that the movie is based on a book written by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone.

I got it out, read it in two nights and it totally sucked. No, not really, it was actually AWESOME! And not an aged-teen-heart-throb-on-the-decline in sight. So if you like psychological thrillers that slowly ratchet up the pace to a zenith, you should definitely grab Shutter Island.

If you like to read the books on which movies and TV shows are based you can check out either Read the Book – Then See the Film which has a listing of books that are in the process of being made into movies, or Books into Film which lists books that have already been made into movies or adapted for television.

Either way you can annoy people you know by telling them the ending or complaining about how the TV/Film adaption “missed the point”, is obviously “not as good as the book” and if you particularly don’t like someone you could say that the film is a good introduction for people who may not have it in them to read the proper version.

Cool new adaptations of children’s books

There seem to  be quite a few movie adaptations of children’s books coming out in the next 6 months or so and I just thought I’d put up the links to some of them up here so you can have a look.  I’m looking foward to seeing all of them because they all look fantastic!

Alice in Wonderland – directed by Tim Burton and starring Jonny Depp as the Mad Hatter

Where the Wild Things Are – the classic picture book by Maurice Sendak

Cirque du Freak – first in a series of vampire books by Darren Shan (particularly for boys – no icky love story here!)

But what I really want to do is direct…

I was watching a movie t’other week on the telly-box starring that wunderkind of nineties indie films, Ethan Hawke, when I suddenly remembered that he had also written a novel that I had actually enjoyed reading. And so I wondered “How many other bona fide movie stars have written novels”?

My idle musings started well as Carrie Fisher’s work immediately sprung to mind. Postcards from the edge would have to be her most well-known book (due to the successful film starring Meryl Streep) but she’s also penned The best awful and Surrender the pink. Her latest non-fiction work, the punnily titled Wishful drinking, hit the library shelves just recently.

And then my movie star novelist list ground to a halt. There are plenty of actors of varying degrees of fame in both films and television that have written novels, but none that I really judged to be “stars”. Until I came across Steve Martin, who in addition to acting and directing has written several novels and plays. One of his novels Shopgirl was made into a film of the same name starring…Steve Martin, natch.

I did discover in my poking around in the catalogue and Googling that there are a healthy swag of British thesps who have written fiction. What is it about British comic actors that makes them more likely to pen novels than other actors or actresses I wonder? Amongst the field are such names as – Michael Palin, Ben Elton, Ardal O’Hanlon (aka Father Dougal), Julie Walters, Meera Syal, Nigel Planer (Neil, when he was a Young One) and the inimitable Stephen Fry. I’m also intrigued by the novels of Rupert Everett, luvvie playboy extraordinaire, but sadly we don’t have any of his, though I may try out his autobiography. It sounds a hoot.

And back to Ethan Hawke, which is where we sort of started.  His book The hottest state is now a movie, written, directed by, and starring Mr Ethan Hawke.  Maybe writing a novel is a good way of securing yourself a directing gig?

Does anybody else have any favourite actor-slash-novelists to add to the mix?

Let the right one in

I sometimes go through “phases” as relates to my chosen reading material.  Sometimes I’m all about non-fiction, with popular science titles or historical works being the flavour of the month but just at the moment I’m in what I’d call a “vampire phase”.  I’ve recently been devouring (sorry) Charlaine Harris’ South Vampire series, after sampling a dose of Sunshine and currently I am supping of the irresistibly creepy Let the right one in* by Swede John Ajvide Lindqvist.

My curiosity was piqued by reviews of the film.  Coming out as it did around the time of the phenomenally successful Twilight, comparisons were unavoidable.  David Farrier, of TV3 reviewed the film and said that it was “actually worth watching” since unlike Twilight, “the book isn’t rubbish”.  Encouraged by this I decided to give it a go.

One of the common themes within vampire fiction is that of loneliness and isolation.  Let the right one in is no different but the execution is very deftly done.  There’s something in the portrayal of the damaged, socially distant characters, combined with descriptions of icy Swedish settings that makes you feel a little cold even in a New Zealand summer.  So there’s something undeniably sweet about two people making a connection amongst all this loneliness.  It’s just a little unfortunate that one of them is a petite vampire named Eli and the other is a bullied, outcast boy named Oskar.

I’m only half-way through the book, so I don’t know yet how it ends.  Unlike many more formulaic treatments of vampire/ human relationships I have no idea where it might go (but I suspect somewhere dark, awful, and beautiful).  It’s not a book for the squeamish, with some fairly gruesome and disturbing content but it has an elegiac tone you don’t often get from your average Stephen King (not that I consider Mr King average).  So if you’re looking for something a little different from your run-of-the-mill fang-tastic potboiler, Let the right one in might be just the thing.

*The title comes from a Morrissey song and the need that vampires have to be “invited” before they can enter the domicile of their “victim”.  Makes you think twice about the Avon lady, don’t it?

Book into movie

The Memory Keeper's daughterOne of the biggest selling novels of recent years is The memory keeper’s daughter by Kim Edwards. It raced to the top of the bestseller list and became a staple of book groups worldwide. It has now been made into a film – featuring Emily Watson and Dermot Mulroney in  the leads – but it won’t be coming to a theatre complex near you as it has been made into a television film as part of the Lifetime network.

Interestingly, Jodi Picoult may be one of the top writers of female fiction yet three adaptations of her novels have ended up as television movies (which usually means less well known actors and not the prestige and the publicity of a cinema release). Ditto for Sue Monk Kidd and her bestseller/book group favourite The mermaid chair – it became a television vehicle for Kim Basinger.

Five Nora Roberts titles also ended up as Lifetime Television movies and Rosamunde Pilcher may be a library and bookshop favourite but you will not have seen the majority of the many television films of her novels and short stories: this is because they were adapted for German television as co-productions of Germany and the U.K. and mostly filmed in Britain with second string English names alongside German actors. They have now mostly run out of material and have now turned to the novels of Mrs Pilcher’s son Robin.

Once upon a time these books would have ended up on the big screen and it is interesting to speculate on why they haven’t. Do women watch more television than men?  Given that some of the top popular male authors – Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum – have ended up as big budget franchises on the big screen, it has been suggested that women will go along with a man to a film he wants to see but he will be reluctant to go along to something she particularly wants to see.  It may be just that stories with a domestic focus might never be first choice for the bigger screen while stories that demand huge budgets, action, stunts, explosions and lots of noise may be more suited to a night a the multiplex.