Friday, August 17, 2012

The Top 5 Great Books About To Become Movies

“Yeah, but it wasn’t as good as the book.”

You hear that about movies all the time pretty much no matter what, whether it’s a spin on a huge best-selling series like “Harry Potter” or an intimate adaptation of a highbrow novel like “Jane Eyre.” We love movies here as much as anybody, but we also know there’s nothing quite like the experience of reading book, feeling like you’re living with these characters in your head for weeks and days on end, and imagining them in a way that’s totally specific to you.

But even if you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, you can’t help but look forward to an adaptation of a book you love, out of curiosity if nothing else. And even though we’ll be spending plenty of time at the movies, we’re also in need of a few good books. So we’ve put our heads together and come up with five books we all love that are on their way to becoming movies, whether set for release later this year or in development at a studio somewhere. Not only do you get to add some great titles to your reading list, but you’ll be totally prepared to be that guy complaining the movie isn’t as good as the book when it finally comes out.

5. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy
Status: November 9, 2012
Who’s involved: Joe Wright directing an adaptation by Tom Stoppard; starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Kelly Macdonald

Why you should read the book first: When people talk about capital ‘L’ Literature, this is the novel they’re talking about. It’s Russian Literature that even other Russian Literature alludes to with references in works by Chekhov, Bulgakov and Nobokov. The innovative tome may seem like a daunting task with eight thick parts to conquer, but at least you get to hold it over everybody’s head when you’re finished. And reading the story of Anna Karenina, before watching Wright’s film, will not only help you keep your Vronskys and Oblonskys, Myagkayas and Vronskayas straight, but give you the opportunity to fully explore the layered thematic implications of the arguably un-adaptable novel as well as put the events you’re to see in proper context. The film’s talent will likely deliver an enjoyable version of Anna Karenina, but it cannot help but pale in comparison to the virtues of the full text. Stoppard is a genius, but even he cannot condense the classic into a two-hour movie and do it justice. 

4. “Carrie” by Stephen King
Status: Set for release on March 15, 2013
Who’s involved: Chloe Moretz, Hit Girl herself, takes on the title role, with Julianne Moore playing the teenaged girl’s manipulative mother. Kimberly Peirce directs, still trying to make good on the promise shown in 1999’s “Boys Don’t Cry.”

Why you should read the book first: At this point, any mention of “Carrie” conjures images if Sissy Spacek drenched in pig’s blood from Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of King’s earliest work. But if potential viewers truly want to understand the hardships suffered by King’s impressionable protagonist, they need to revisit the novel that started the author’s remarkably prolific writing career. Though King has downplayed the book in various interviews (it was his fourth book, but his first published novel), the structure is out of the ordinary and worth celebrating. King actually uses newspaper stories and “official” documents to piece together what he calls the “Black Prom” incident, where a girl with telekinetic powers exacted revenge on the classmates who bullied her. “Carrie” isn’t King’s best book, but it’s better than De Palma’s campy horror, and a chilling preview to what Pierce, Moretz and Moore should be able to accomplish with this anticipated reboot.

3. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Status: Set for release December 25
Who’s Involved: Baz Luhrmann directs a star-stacked cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire

Why you should read the book first: If Luhrmann’s brash and flashy trailer is anything to go by, you may want to better know these characters before they get his larger-than-life melodrama makeover. Beyond a mysterious man of the moment, Gatsby is a pining youth and a dangerous criminal. These are layers I fear may be lost in Lurhmann’s glossy translation, along with Fitzgerald’s complicated relationship with wealth and the American Dream—the author was fascinated yet repulsed by affluence and its aftermath, and never is his conflict felt so strongly as in this incredible novel. Not only is “The Great Gatsby” a captivating battle of past versus present, old money versus new, love versus obligation, and dreams versus reality, it’s also a book that breaks my heart each time I read it, not just for its tragic hero, but for every one of the characters caught in this crushing embrace of New York society.

2. “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
Status: Part one (An Unexpected Journey) set to be released December 14, 2012; part two (There and Back Again) set to be released December 13, 2013
Who’s involved: Peter Jackson directing, with Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom Andy Serkis, and many more starring

Why you should read the book first: One thing that could very well surprise a lot of people come December is that “The Hobbit” is actually very different than “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. In fact, rather than being filled with hordes of orcs, evil wizards, Sauron, and epic battles, the book is actually more of a children’s fable, telling the story of Bilbo Baggins as he goes along with a bunch of bumbling dwarfs to find a treasure. It’s also one of the few books that will get a fairly literal translation on the big screen, as the book is being split into two three-hour films. And who doesn’t love to see a movie taken right from the pages of a legendary tome?

1. “World War Z” by Max Brooks
Status: Set for release June 21, 2013
Who’s involved: Marc Forster directing, with Brad Pitt, Matthew Fox, and more starring

Why you should read the book first: “World War Z” is a legitimately great book, and there’s a very good chance that the movie adaptation is going to screw it up royally. While certainly not the easiest book to make into a movie—as the whole story of the zombie apocalypse is told as an oral history after the fact—the film version seems drastically different than the source material to the point that we must wonder if we will even recognize the book inspiration inside of it. Hollywood is filled with tons of terrible zombie stories, but Brooks has created something really compelling and interesting with “World War Z” and it’s something that can best be appreciated on the page and in the imagination.

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