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  • Tara Sonin 6:45 pm on 2017/01/11 Permalink
    Tags: adaptations, binge-watch, , ,   

    Fall in Love with PBS’s Victoria (and 6 More Historical Dramas to Binge!) 

    If, like myself, you’re a sucker for historical dramas, you’ve been chomping at the bit for the next big hit—especially now that Downton Abbey has made its final bow. (RIP, but at least Lady Edith got her happy ending, am I right?) That means the moment you heard about PBS’s miniseries Victoria–based on the book by Daisy Goodwin and starring Dr. Who’s Jenna Coleman!—you, also like me, have been waiting with bated breath caught in the tight confines of a corset.

    Well, call me your majesty, because I have the scoop on Victoria for you! PBS sent me a screener, I devoured it like a box of chocolates, and it is everything you could want in an historical drama and then some. Here are six period dramas you can watch and, of course, my thoughts on Victoria herself, which premieres on PBS January 15.

    Victoria
    I confess, I knew next to nothing about Queen Victoria before starting this series. But in the first episode, we learn a lot: Alexandrina Victoria, as she is still named, is still a teen, but has known since she was very young that she would become queen when the king, her aging uncle, dies. When we first meet Victoria, she finds out that day has come, and in Coleman’s hands, her transition from young girl into monarch with the burden of the world on her shoulders is subtle and nuanced. She resents the influence others try to have on her, rejecting her mother and Sir John Conroy, who wish to control her, and forming a perhaps inappropriate, but super fun to watch, attachment to her prime minister instead. One moment Victoria is composed and eloquent, and the next…she gets too drunk at a coronation ball and flirts with her most trusted advisor, Lord M. The tension between them is almost instant, and makes it immediately that Victoria’s personal happiness will often be at war with her monarchical duties. Full of lush ball gowns, gilded palaces, and some great upstairs-downstairs drama, this miniseries is your first 2017 obsession. I can’t wait to see what Victoria will do next.

    Poldark
    I JUST discovered this historical drama based on a series of novels about a British soldier named Ross Poldark who comes back to his small seaside town of Cornwall after fighting on the losing side of the Revolutionary War to find many things have changed. His father has died, leaving his mine and inheritance in shambles. And even worse, the woman he loves—the woman who promised to wait for him—is engaged to his cousin. Ross decides to spurn the gentry class that has betrayed him and open one of the barren mines, giving hope to the poor in Cornwall…and along the way, he meets a pauper girl, Demelza, and finds a second chance at love. Poldark is a gasp- and swoonworthy drama about legacy, class, love, and the catastrophe (and joy) that can happen when they all collide. (Also, Ross Poldark is gorgeous. You’re welcome.)

    The White Queen
    Based on the novel by Philippa Gregory, this historical drama begins in the midst of the War of the Roses between the Lancasters and and the Yorks—and features three women caught in the middle of the bloodshed, beauty, and love. Elizabeth Woodville’s husband fought and died for King Henry, but when he is defeated, she marries King Edward as part of a deliberate (and possibly magical) plot to gain power. Margaret Beaufort’s son was supposed to succeed Henry on the throne, but with him gone, she plots in the darkness to take back her power. And Anne Neville, daughter of the King’s most trusted advisor-turned betrayer, becomes first a pawn in her father’s game to take the throne, and then a villain herself. Soapy, sexy, and full of drama!

    Outlander
    How could I not put Outlander on this list? When Clare Fraser inadvertently travels back in time from 1945 to the 1770s, leaving her husband behind, she’s soon forced into matrimony (for her own protection) with Highland warrior Jamie Fraser, and is torn between the world and man she’s growing to love and the magic and duty that pulls her back toward her old life. The third season of the TV adaptation arrives in spring, so make sure you binge seasons one and two before Jamie Fraser’s perfect face graces our TV sets again.

    Forsyte Saga
    This is one of my favorite lesser-known historical dramas, which opens in 1874 and chronicles a family’s downfall when issues of class, love, and most importantly, vengeance, come to a head. Damien Lewis plays Soames Forsyte, who becomes obsessed with Irene Heron, despite her lower class. After a loveless, abusive marriage, betrayals, and decades of separation, he cannot let her go. Forbidden love runs rampant in this series, and you will love every second of hating the villainous Soames.

    Wolf Hall
    We’ve all heard of The Tudors, of course, but Wolf Hall, based on the book by Hilary Mantel, tells the story of King Henry’s divorce from Katherine and resulting marriage to Anne Boleyn from a different perspective: that of his adviser, Thomas Cromwell. Thomas is an historical antihero of a different sort—he did not grow up in the gilded halls of Buckingham Palace. He’s the son of a poor man, who rose up in the esteem of the Cardinal…and who, when the Cardinal fell from grace, rose from the ashes to take his place as King Henry VIII’s most trusted adviser. Full of class tension with five-star acting from Damian Lewis as the King and Claire Foy (who now stars as Queen Elizabeth on Netflix’s The Crown!) as Queen Anne. Rich and beautifully created, with drama in spades.

    Hollow Crown
    If you’re into British history, you’ll love this adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays starring some of Britain’s best actors, including Tom Hiddleston, Ben Whishaw, and Jeremy Irons (with cameos by Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery and Hugh Bonneville, as well as Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch!). The Hollow Crown follows four of England’s most infamous monarchs as they try to keep power out of the hands of their enemies. This series is great if you’re into battle scenes and performances so perfect you won’t mind that romance takes a backseat.

    The post Fall in Love with PBS’s Victoria (and 6 More Historical Dramas to Binge!) appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ross Johnson 3:00 pm on 2016/08/15 Permalink
    Tags: adaptations,   

    8 Movies You Didn’t Know Were Based on Books 

    Popular books are like candy to filmmakers. A good book with a good story and a built-in audience can sound like an easy translation to box office gold and glory. But as we’ve all seen (many, many times), it’s not nearly so easy. The conventional wisdom is that the book is always better than the movie, and there’s no question that’s often the case.

    But not always. Fairly or not, it’s not uncommon for a film to overshadow its literary parent—Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was an incredibly popular book that remains a (problematic) classic, but even among readers I suspect that you’d find far more people who’ve seen the movie than who’ve read the book (for the record: I have a copy, and I’ll get to it someday I swear). Same with Mario Puzo’s The Godfather or Robert Bloch’s Psycho. Is the book or movie of Stephen King’s The Shining superior? It’s not always clear-cut. The latter part of 2016 sees several major works making the treacherous journey from page to screen: The Girl on the Train, A Monster Calls, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children among many others. Some of the films will crash, some will equal the success of the book, and a special one or two might even eclipse the source material. Here are a few films that you might have forgotten were based on novels:

    The Princess Bride
    The quirky, weird, funny, and romantic movie from 1987 is so beloved (deservedly so) that it’s easy to forget that it was based on a 1973 novel from William Goldman, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. It would be easy to assume that the film’s wackier bits sprung from the talented comedic cast and director Rob Reiner. If anything, though, the book is even more gloriously strange than the movie. The central conceit is that the book itself is an abridged version (“the good parts”) of an older text by the fictional S. Morgenstern, and promises additional scenes when you write to the publisher. Another very different novel of Goldman’s was also made into a movie: the 1974’s Nazi dentist conspiracy thriller Marathon Man.

    Die Hard
    Action movies are frequently structured around visual set-pieces, so it’s easy to forget that some of the greats have been based on novels. Crime novelist Roderick Thorpe had several run-ins with Hollywood, not the least of which was the blockbuster adaption of his 1979 thriller Nothing Lasts Forever as the John McTiernan directed/Bruce Willis starring Die Hard, a film which has spurred four sequels to date. But there’s more: Thorpe’s book, starring hard-bitten retired police detective Joe Leland (John McClane in the movie), was a sequel to his 1966 book The Detective, which was itself made into a 1968 movie starring Frank Sinatra. Meaning that Bruce Willis and Frank Sinatra played, essentially, the same character twenty years apart.

    First Blood
    Even though the first movie in the series has a bit more weight than the even bloodier sequels, we tend not to think of Rambo as having literary antecedents. This is another case of an action film—this one about a traumatized Vietnam vet who runs afoul of a corrupt small-town sheriff—springing from the page. The movie is largely faithful to the David Morrell’s novel, with similar levels of violence masking themes of our treatment of veterans. Following the novel, John Rambo’s exploits were captured entirely on film, though Morrell himself wrote novelizations of the first two sequels.

    Planet of the Apes
    Pierre Boulle was a prolific author of “serious” novels whose foray into satirical science fiction became his most enduring work, even if the eight (and counting) films derived from 1963’s La Planète des Singes (more correctly translated as “Monkey Planet”) have overtaken the source material in the popular imagination. Similar in tone, the book and the movie part ways in the presentation of the Ape’s world as a more direct parallel to our own, with recognizable technology rather than the budget-saving primitive villages of the movie. There’s also a twist ending of the type that will be familiar to fans of the movies, though it’s goes in a very different direction. All the more reason to read the book.

    The Graduate
    Writer Charles Webb has had something of a fraught relationship with Ben, Elaine, and Mrs. Robinson. Having sold the rights to his 1963 debut novel for a one-time payment, he received little by way of money or credit for Mike Nichols’ classic coming-of-age story about plastics and cougars. Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Katherine Ross, and Buck Henry are names frequently associated with the film, less so Webb. Nevertheless, he wrote a sequel a few years ago, Home School, about Ben and Elaine’s challenges with the American educational system.

    Snowpiercer
    This particular adaption was long in coming: the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette came out in 1982, while the South Korean/Czech co-production (with several American, English, and Scottish stars) came out to much acclaim just a couple of years ago. Given the film’s wonderfully bizarre and action-filled story about a train carrying the last remnants of humanity in a climate-apocalypse future, it’s probably not entirely shocking that this was a comic book first, but the international sensibilities of the movie make it play very different from something like the latest Captain America movie. Keep in mind that there are a lot of movies that you’ve seen based on graphic novels, and they’re not all superhero films, nor even science fiction (Ghost World or Road to Perdition, for example).

    Pitch Perfect
    Just this past year, Michael Lewis’ 2010 non-fiction bestseller The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine was made into an unlikely drama with an all-star cast and heavily satirical overtones. It was even nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It wasn’t the first time that a non-fiction work was translated into a successful film. Another great example is 2012’s catty musical comedy Pitch Perfect, which was based on Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate a Cappella Glory, a book from GQ editor Mickey Rapkin who spent almost a year covering competitive a cappella in three colleges. A couple of the figures in the book were brought onto the movie to help with the music, so the linkages between the popular film and the book go beyond the premise and title.

    Bambi
    Austrian author Felix Salten’s 1923 work Bambi, Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde, was incredibly popular in its time, even before becoming the basis of Walt Disney’s 1942 masterwork. The written work had a tremendous resonance well into the 1940s as Salten, a popular figure who happened to be a Jew, was forced to flee his native country for Switzerland. The environmental themes remained memorable, but the Nazi Party felt that the work’s essential humanity (in a book about deer, no less) made it an overly potent allegory, even though it was more than a decade old. In 1936 the book was banned and burned. Though the movie may have overshadowed the book, Salten managed to scare the Nazis by pouring his heart out onto the page. That’s one helluva legacy.

    What’s your favorite movie made from a book?

     
  • Kat Rosenfield 7:30 pm on 2016/08/09 Permalink
    Tags: adaptations, , , ,   

    6 Stephen King Adaptations to Watch Now (or Get Stoked For) 

    Stephen King is one of the world’s most prolific authors — but even he can’t write fast enough to satisfy the appetites of his biggest fans. Fortunately, there’s an answer for that: the ever-expanding collection of King books that were, are, or will be adapted for movies or television.

    Although many a Stephen King novel, novella, or short story has found its way to screens big and small over the years, the author is having arguably his biggest moment in Hollywood yet. Two fresh adaptations of his work are available for your viewing pleasure right this minute, and another four are coming down the pike. Below, we’ve rounded up all the titles getting some well-deserved screen buzz.

    Cell
    The story of a signal, sent via cell phone, that turns everyone who hears it into part of a murderous hive mind, Cell features an all-star cast that includes The Hunger Games‘ Isabelle Fuhrman; it also stars John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson reteaming up for their second King movie (they starred together in 1408, adapted from a short story in Everything’s Eventual, back in 2007.) Out on demand and in select theaters now, Cell had a rocky road from conception to screen—but as adaptations of King’s novels go, it’s not a bad little movie, particularly in a signature moment involving a gasoline truck and a snoozing flock of phone zombies.

    It
    This terrifying tale of seven tweens who reunite as adults to battle an unspeakable, ancient evil was adapted once already as a TV miniseries—which unfortunately failed to age well, making the upcoming release of a new It a timely entry on the pop culture landscape (not to mention the perfect way to introduce a whole new generation to a well-founded phobia of clowns.) This time, the giant book is being split into two feature films, the first of which hits theaters in September 2017. Fun fact: kid actor Finn Wolfhard, who was so awesome as the wide-eyed hero of the very ’80s, very King-inspired Stranger Things, is part of this production, too.

    The Dark Tower
    After stagnating forever in development, this year brought some big news for fans of King’s magnum opus fantasy series: amovie is finally in the making, and some serious stars are being brought on board. The first of what will hopefully be many movies set in the Dark Tower alternaworld, where Gunslinger Roland Deschain (played by Idris Elba) hunts the appallingly evil figure known only as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), is slated for a 2017 release.

    The Stand
    The good news is, King’s epic postapocalyptic novel about a flu epidemic that wipes out 99% of the American population is being developed into a feature film—or two, or maybe even four. The bad news is, the adaptation is in a holding pattern while filmmakers try to figure out how (and whether) to break up the mega-long book into multiple movies, or whether to start it out on TV and segue into a feature-length film, or…well, the options are limitless, and that’s part of the problem. However, there may be one bright side to the delays: By the time the movie gets made, Matthew McConaughey might be available to take on the role of villain Randall Flagg (because as any Stephen King fan worth his salt knows, Flagg and the Man in Black should really be played by the same fellow.)

    Revival
    While The Stand sits in limbo, its scriptwriter isn’t sitting still. Josh Boone, personally selected by Stephen King to pen the movie adaptation of The Stand, has already gone ahead and begun developing another of the author’s novels: Revival, a terrifying story of religious fanaticism, scientific experimentation, and two men battling different kinds of demons. There’s no studio attached to the script yet, but considering Boone’s clout in Hollywood (he also directed The Fault in Our Stars), you’ll likely be seeing it in theaters sooner rather than later.

    11/22/63
    King’s brick of a novel about a 21st-century schoolteacher who goes back in time to stop the assassination of JFK is a perfect encapsulation of why it’s so hard to adapt his books as feature films—and this TV serial take on 11/22/63 shows why the author’s sprawling plots and peculiar pacing are basically made for an eight-episode format. The Hulu original stars James Franco in a perfectly frantic performance as hero Jake Epping, and draws out the drama almost as well as its source material. (If you hurry, you can still catch this one for free before Hulu phases into its subscription-only model.)

     
  • Kat Rosenfield 3:00 pm on 2016/08/01 Permalink
    Tags: adaptations, art imitating life, , , Colette, iris murdoch, , mary wollstonecraft, , , ,   

    The Bell Jar Gets a Movie, and 5 More Biopics About Women Writers 

    Sylvia Plath is one of modern literature’s most celebrated, complicated women, which is why it’s astonishing that it has taken this long for her famed novel The Bell Jar to get an outing in Hollywood (unless you count the awful, unsuccessful 1979 attempt by an all-male writing and directing team to adapt the novel for the screen…and really, it would be best for all of us if we just pretend that never happened.)

    But now, per a report from Deadline, The Bell Jar is finally getting the movie adaptation it deserves, with Kirsten Dunst directing and Dakota Fanning in the starring role of Esther Greenwood—a character who’s more or less an avatar for Plath herself in the largely autobiographical story about a young woman struggling with mental illness.

    Production on the movie won’t start until early next year, so it’ll be awhile yet before we see whether Dunst and her crew can do this story justice. But knowing that the lives of fierce literary ladies tend to make for great movies (when they’re done right), we’re feeling optimistic! Consider these five grand dames of literature who have gotten (or are about to get) a big-screen outing.

    Virginia Woolf
    Although The Hours was written by a man, it was Virginia Woolf’s life and legacy that inspired the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel—and when the novel was adapted for film, it was Nicole Kidman’s searing performance as the author that won the Academy Award.

    Mary Wollstonecraft
    While big sister Dakota is gearing up to play Plath’s heroine, Elle Fanning has signed on to star in a biopic of another awesome woman writer: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, founding mother of feminism and author of the seminal sci-fi novel Frankenstein. That movie, A Storm in the Stars, will be out later this year.

    Jane Austen
    It is a truth universally acknowledged that the makers of Becoming Jane probably took a few liberties vis-a-vis the seriousness of Jane Austen’s IRL romance with Thomas Langlois Lefroy, but that’s probably because so frustratingly little is known about the personal life of the woman who introduced the world to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy that even the most knowledgeable Austen biographers have had to fill in the blanks.

    Colette
    Colette’s novels, Cheri and The Last of Cheri, have already been made into a delicious (and highly underrated) film starring Michelle Pfeiffer as an aging courtesan and Rupert Friend as the bratty, beautiful title character, but the writer herself had a fascinating life—which will be the subject of an upcoming biopic starring Keira Knightley.

    Iris Murdoch
    The Irish writer—who penned more than two dozen novels, four books of philosophy, five plays, and a libretto before succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease in 1999—was portrayed as a young woman by Kate Winslet and an old one by Judi Dench in the 2001 biopic Iris. In addition to being a literary powerhouse, Murdoch was one half of a fascinating, eccentric literary power couple (not unlike Plath was with Ted Hughes); her husband, John Bayley, wrote the memoir that served as source material for the movie about her life.

     
  • Kat Rosenfield 3:15 pm on 2016/07/15 Permalink
    Tags: adaptations, children's classic, , , , ,   

    Ranking Every Roald Dahl Movie 

    This month, a very big kidlit-to-film adaptation came galloping into theaters: Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited take on Roald Dahl’s classic, The BFG. And thanks to a loyal script and Spielberg’s willingness to leave the signature darkness of Dahl’s stories pretty much intact, the big-screen version of The BFG is, by all accounts, a whizz-popping good time.

    But while Spielberg’s take on Dahl’s giant story is being very well-received, fans of the author’s work were understandably nervous going in—because previous adaptations of Dahl’s books have been decidedly hit or miss. Below, we’ve ranked them all, from the ones that left much to be desired to the nearly perfect cinematic triumphs.

    The Witches
    As a book, The Witches was magnificently creepy. As a film? Alas, nope. Despite Angelica Huston’s best efforts, the witches in the screen version came across as bumbling idiots rather than dreadful, formidable foes; the slapstick humor was overdone; and the whole thing capped off with a made-for-Hollywood ending that totally denied the bittersweet flavor of the book. But one thing does make The Witches potentially worth a rewatch: Mr. Carson of Downton Abbey makes a surprise appearance, in a brief role as a hotel chef with a mouse down his trousers.

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
    Tim Burton’s second outing as a Dahl adapter was, alas, the less successful of his efforts. Although the weird and wonderful visuals were…well, weird and wonderful, and the production hewed pretty closely to the original book, Johnny Depp’s unsettling take on Wonka was a sour note amidst all that delicious chocolate.

    Matilda
    You’ve got to love this movie for its A-plus casting—of the Trunchbull, particularly—and wildly entertaining take on the book’s forced cake-eating scene, both of which nearly made up for a script that didn’t quite capture the unique and oddly intellectual flavor of the original Matilda. Bonus points for Mara Wilson, who was not only a very capable Matilda, but grew up to be a lot like the character in some truly delightful ways.

    James and the Giant Peach
    Tim Burton was a producer on this film, and his signature claymation was the perfect vehicle for a retelling of Dahl’s twisted fantasy about a boy who goes inside the aforementioned giant peach and befriends the giant bugs who live inside it. Add in a score (complete with original songs) by Randy Newman, and you’ve got some solid entertainment, even if it’s only reasonably faithful to the book.

    Fantastic Mr. Fox
    Based on concept alone, Fantastic Mr. Fox is not just the best of the Dahl adaptations, but possibly one of the greatest movies ever made in the entire history of film. Oscar winners George Clooney and Meryl Streep as the heads of the titular Fox family; Bill Murray as a badger lawyer; a script cowritten by Noah Baumbach; and none other than Wes Anderson spearheading the effort? Be still our beating hipster hearts! But despite its charms—and it had a lot of charms—the film fell victim to the same fate of so many others on this list, falling shy of capturing the unique darkness at the heart of Roald Dahl’s original book. It was, however, still quite good.

    Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
    Forty years of doing Dahl onscreen, and you still can’t beat the original: The 1971 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Despite not adhering particularly closely to the source material—and being loathed by the author himself—this movie has everything that matters in a Roald Dahl adaptation, from the wildly imaginative visuals to the unrestrainedly harsh life lessons. But its reasons for placing at the top of this list can be summed up in two words: Gene Wilder. His performance perfectly captured the mercurial-bordering-on-malicious nature of the titular character in a way that remains unparalleled—and the image of him standing like Charon the ferryman, reciting slam poetry at the bow of that boat careening through a psychedelic tunnel, continues to both thrill and terrify us in equal measure.

     
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