Novel Adaptations

I imagine the conversation went a little something like this: “But it’s just so damned long. So dense. It’s split up into a trilogy already, but each section is incredibly detailed. We’ll have to cut only the most insignificant parts out, utilize succinct dialogue, and take everything nuanced about it and distill that into visuals for the screen. It’ll be back-breaking, intricate work that will require fortitude and kid gloves in equal measure. There are so many moving parts here, and keeping them coherent and meaningful will be the cyclopean task that either ensures our success or cements our failure. What do you think?” “Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening. Can we hurry this up?” And with that, the task of adapting Ayn Rand‘s novel began. As a piece of classic literature that has already proven itself to stand time’s cruel test, “Atlas Shrugged” deserved a far better movie than it got. The reasons are simple, and I doubt anyone would grandly fault the filmmakers in any real way. It would be like hating Babe Ruth for not being able to hit a bullet with his baseball bat. You hate that he missed, but you tilt your head and accept that everyone else would have missed too. Or, at least, almost everyone else would have. However, since the biggest problem with the adaptation was buried in the structure of the movie, there’s one thing that would have made Atlas Shrugged: Part I a far, far better film. Ready for it? […]

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Atlas Shrugged Part I is a movie brimming with so much frustration that you almost expect the screen it’s playing on to have an aneurysm. It’s an honest attempt at adapting difficult (frankly, non-cinematic) material, and it fails spectacularly on almost every level. Dagny Taggart (Taylor Schilling) is the brains behind a legacy railroading corporation that faces the internal dim-wittedness of its President, James Taggart (Matthew Marsden) and the external hell of a government bent on regulating businesses into non-existence. It’s a Dystopian 2016, but Taggart is on the verge of a sexy and profitable partnership with steel head Henry Rearden (Grant Bowler). He provides an incredible new metal product for her to reform her lines in Colorado, and the day might be saved. But with the government actively trying to redistribute the wealth, will success even matter?

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It’s possible that Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers will be the smartest adaptation of the novel yet. This trailer doesn’t help the odds of that possibility. What it does show is plenty of fighting, some beautiful explosions, and Milla Jovovich awkwardly spinning with Shirley Temple curls in her hair. Hand-cranked flame thrower? Flying war ship? Buckled swash? These are all great things, and this trailer has them in spades and fleur de lis. Check it out:

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It’s all happening. The best working director for the job of tackling a Lovecraft novel is going to roll cameras in June, meaning that At the Mountains of Madness could be in theaters as early as Winter 2012. Tom Cruise will be starring – which raises an eyebrow – but fans of the novel know that there’s an opportunity here to deliver Cruise at his Nic Cage-y best. Ron Perlman, who is contractually obligated to be in all geek properties of this kind, will be involved as well. According to io9, everything is set to go. Fingers are crossed now, and hopefully we’ll be getting some concept art soon. This is when it gets exciting. There’s no mention of how this will affect The Hobbit, which is shooting currently, but I can’t imagine they’d schedule this if it even budged the trip to Middle Earth by a single day. At the most, it sounds like Guillermo Del Toro will go directly from one to the other. Besides, I hear the Antarctic is wonderful in the summer.

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If you’re a science fiction fan, John Scalzi is probably no stranger. He’s a talented writer, has a unit of measurement named after him, and generally hangs out with old men and androids. It’s a charmed but difficult life, I’m sure. The good news of the day is that movie rights to his novel series “Old Man’s War” (which ostensibly includes “The Last Colony” and “Zoe’s War”) have been sold to Paramount. Unlike some novel rights news, this bit comes with a director attached in the form of Wolfgang Petersen. It also comes with a screenwriter attached in the form of David Self. Petersen is a veteran with a lot of big budget material under his belt, although he’s looking for some redemption for Poseidon. Self will probably be angling for a little redemption as well since he worked on Wolfman, but Road to Perdition is as smart a script as you could hope for. With these two kicking things off, Old Man’s War might be the start of a great new sci-fi trilogy. The story focuses on John Perry who, at the age of 75, joins the Colonial Defense Forces and has his mind transferred into a genetically enhanced body based on his DNA. The similarities between Scalzi’s work and Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” is remarkable, but with Petersen at the helm, it’s doubtful that a movie version will stray into square-jawed parody. Actually, it might. You never know. Scalzi had this to say about the project:

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Steve Carell got a lot of free time on his hands after leaving The Office, and even if that exit (set for April) remains bittersweet, the opportunity it leaves for the actor to do more movies is an exciting one. He’s already shown massive range from 40-Year-Old Virgin to Little Miss Sunshine, and apparently he’s staying in the semi-serious vein with Dogs of Babel. According to a press release from Mandate Pictures, the movie will focus on “Paul Iverson, a linguistics professor, who returns home one day to find his wife dead in their backyard. Police rule her death an addicent, but Paul is not quite sure. The only witness to her death is their dog Lorelei.” So what does he do? He attempts to teach the dog to talk in order to find closure. The concept, based on the novel of the same name by Carolyn Parkhurst, sounds like a heart-breakingly sweet one. When we lose a close loved one, the search for answers is one that leads down any avenue that seems even remotely promising, and this story seems to take that to a sort of extreme that can still be rooted in reality. How badly would you want your dog to speak if she could tell you the answer to the ultimate personal question? The film will be written by We Are Marshall and Dear John scribe Jamie Linden, and the production is currently in search of a director.

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Marti Noxon speaks with the sort of joyous enthusiasm you can’t fake. After the Smallville creators (and at least one uncredited script doctor) took a stab at the I Am Number Four script, Noxon sat down to add her geek-property prowess (with episodes of Buffy, Mad Men, and the script to the remake of Fright Night under her belt) to the project about an alien discovering his powers and hiding out from other aliens that want him dead. Noxon was nice enough to take some time out of her day to talk to us about the science fiction flick, how a ghost named Bertha acted as a catalyst for her writing , and to respond to one critic’s fear that Fright Night won’t be gory enough.

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Who is John Galt, and does anyone care? For all I know, “meh” is not actually a word, but somehow it perfectly describes the new Atlas Shrugged trailer. This movie has been through true development hell – detailing every incarnation would be a long, strange trip, but for some reason, no one’s ever pulled the trigger on it until now. Its 40 year ride through development, through Brad Pitt and Russell Crowe, through Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron, has deposited it here – without any big stars and split up into three films. It sees an appropriate release on April 15th, 2011, and you can check out the trailer for yourself:

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As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to. The end of the world is coming pretty soon, and the best way to be prepared for it is to read this book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Don’t be caught with your pants down during the end times. Know your future, gird your loins, avoid gorgeous red heads that make you angry for no apparent reason, and keep a close eye on that neighborhood gang of kids that seems totally harmless. They’re probably hanging out with the Antichrist.

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Simon Beaufoy, the writer behind Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, is ready to change his stripes to write Sharp Teeth – based off the novel of the same name – which features a south LA gang made up of werewolves. Well, not werewolves really. They turn into giant wolves, but they can do it whenever they want (thus sidestepping the terrible curse of the moonlight and its emotional/psychological implications). Basically, these guys can’t do a drive-by without shedding on the car seats. That’s their cross to bear. Although they’ve partnered on two consecutive films, it’s unclear whether Danny Boyle will ultimately agree to adapt it, but that certainly seems to be Beaufoy’s goal. In his interview with BBC America, he claimed, “If I write it well enough, he’ll direct it.” Boyle has already done faux-zombies, so maybe faux-werewolves will be a natural next step (especially if returns to the 28 Somethings Later… franchise for one last go). At any rate, it would give audiences a pack of shape-shifting dogs of a different color than Team Jacob and Twilight. On the other hand, the idea sounds crazy – which might be another reason to love it. The best talent in the business should never be afraid to do some genre work.

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Tina Fey has had some shitty luck with movies. Her writing/acting turn in Mean Girls aside, she has been in some thoroughly average movies that almost refused to utilize her unique style as a comedian. That may or may not be the case with the next film the 30 Rock star is in talks for. Admission is an adaptation of the novel of the same name which focuses on a Princeton admissions officer who tells of all the quirky, funny idiosyncrasies of the gatekeepers making sure you don’t get in. This money quote from the less than stellar review of the book from the Wall Street Journal: “‘Admission’ is a worthy attempt to capture the absurdities of the admissions process in fictional form, but it includes too many wooden monologues explaining in detail how that process works. It is also an improbable love story that relies on coincidences of daytime-soap proportions to push its storyline forward.” Can’t Tina Fey just write something for herself?

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As we all know, Pippi Longstocking is the prototype for Punky Brewster, except Punky didn’t suffer from the rare affliction that made her pigtails stick straight out. Longstocking, on the other hand, has that affliction, and super powers, and a vicious witty retort factory living in her head. She also has a monkey for some reason. Now, Debra Granik wants to direct Pippi Longstocking, using the classic tale as the basis for a coming of age story, and she hopes it’s a new direction than the normal coming of age tales aimed at young women. “What a person in the business can get from that is, ‘Hey, a young female protagonist doesn’t need to have a boyfriend, get pregnant, cut herself or be naked to attract an audience.’ “ That will remain to be seen (as will the film), but Granik is using her well-deserved spotlight for Winter’s Bone and taking on a task of importance (if nothing else, personal importance), and that’s commendable. My one question is, didn’t the Coen Brothers sort of just make this film and call it True Grit?

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As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to. There has been a lot of commotion and debate surrounding the new edition of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” because it waters down the language (at least a certain part of it). It has shocked people that a classic could be so obliterated for the sake of political correctness, but the book was weakened years ago considerably – by movies. It’s time for a fresh cinematic take on Mark Twain‘s – a take that is gritty and hilarious and strongly-worded as the book truly is.

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Criterion Files

The word “cult cinema” is thrown about quite liberally in film criticism, but it takes a dense history to firmly qualify a given film as “cult.” Nicholas Roeg’s sci-fi headtrip The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) is certainly a cult film, as its audience was never “found” in a traditional, straightforward way (i.e., in its original theatrical release). The spotty, complex reception history of The Man Who Fell to Earth has a great deal to do not only with what it was, but when it was. Based on the 1963 novel by Walter Tevis, the film secured financing mostly because of the bankability of its star, David Bowie, in his first starring film role, yet the final product was something of a mystery and an infuriation for initial audiences and critics: a psychedelic bad-trip ruminating on sexual frustration, identity crises, and alcoholism. It was hardly the piece of science-fiction entertainment audiences were used to, as the storytelling frequently cut away to impenetrable, chaotic imagery that was elusive in meaning in Roeg’s signature idiosyncratic visual style. A formal experimenter working with non-experimental material, Roeg made something that was, historically speaking, an anomaly. Just as Roeg’s semi-experiments belonged in neither the movie theater nor the Whitney Museum, The Man Who Fell to Earth sat in a curious liminal space between 1970s sci-fi and New Hollywood countercultural cinema while comfortably embodying neither.

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It will be interesting to see how audiences respond to a film about 9/11 being released on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. On the one hand, it feels like a great reminder and bittersweet tribute. On the other, it could be the hand that rips the bandaid off uncovering the wound again. Still, since the film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is based off the superb writing of Jonathan Safran Foer (check out Everything is Illuminated as well), and being helmed by poetic Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry, there’s little chance that it won’t be soaring and heartfelt. Now, John Goodman has joined Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks for the story of a young boy who loses his father in the 9/11 attacks and goes on a journey with a key his father gave him to find where it fits. [THR]

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There’s a core lesson somewhere inside the remake (or novel re-adaptation) of True Grit about pulling on bootstraps, feeling the bitter cold of the ride, and doing what needs to be done. Of course, that lesson is buried beneath a lot of snide remarks and funny moments. Even if the lesson is hard to find, the film itself is a reminder that there are few things quite as entertaining as seeing a snotty little girl and an eye-patched drunkard go exact a little buck shot revenge. Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is desperate to track down the man who killed her father, so she enlists the reluctant help of sodden U.S. Marshal Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who takes every opportunity to brag about himself. Through a tough ride in Indian Territory, Mattie comes gun barrel to gun barrel with murderer Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) with a chance to pull the trigger and right his wrong.

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As if a better cast could be assembled. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino will all find themselves lookin’ at each other under the direction of Martin Scorsese for The Irishman. The plot could involve three out-of-work plumbers sitting around talking about the glory days, and it would still be a hell of a cast, but the film boasts mob ties, hit men, and conspiracy connections to JFK’s assassination. Plus, they might all solve where Jimmy Hoffa is buried so we can all finally get on with our lives. It’s possible that the only way to make this better is to include Harvey Keitel. Fortunately, he’s involved as well. The only challenge for the film will be keeping the curse words in the low thousands. [Cinematical]

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There’s a splash of Big Fish somewhere in there as well, but the trailer for Water For Elephants, based on the incredibly popular novel of the same name, displays a tone straight out of a watered down (for elephants) Moulin Rouge and a just-as-schmaltzy version of The Notebook. There’s even the Old Man Remembering His Antique Past element. This movie could turn out to be an incredible spectacle, and the presence of two Oscar winners is nothing to scoff at, but there’s something inherently soporific about Robert Pattinson that it will have to overcome. The trailer isn’t as exciting as it should have been, and hopefully the film will triumph despite its disjointed advertising. Water For Elephants hits theaters April 15, 2011, and you can see the trailer in even higher def at Apple.

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There’s nothing quite like a quiet summer day, rocking back and forth on the front porch, watching the parade slowly pass by, waiting to see which one of your neighbors will end up brutally murdered. Mark Carter has been shopping around Serial Killer Days for a while now. In fact, it looked as though Jason Reitman was going to direct it back in 2008 after Juno came out, but he found his way to another project and another Best Picture nomination. However, a producer of both Thank You For Smoking and Up In The Air, Dan Dubiecki, is on board alongside Paramount to finally make the horror satire. The film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name which focuses on a town that has a serial killer at large that strikes on the same day every year. Of course, the town responds by throwing the murderer lavish parades, nominating the Scream Queen, and getting in a generally festive spirit for death.

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Somewhere out there, other science fiction writers are tilting their heads, raising their eyebrows, and attempting to figure out how Daniel H. Wilson keeps getting his books optioned for films. Of course, it’s not like those options actually mean much considering that Paramount never did anything with “How To Survive a Robot Uprising.” On the other hand, with “Robopocalypse” going to Spielberg for a 2012 shooting date, and now his “AMP” picked up by Summit for director Alex Proyas (a great, great pick) to take the lead on,  it seems as though Wilson might be entering the film world in earnest soon enough. AMP will focus on a short time in the future where robotics are used to help the disabled but end up essentially giving them super powers over the puny able-bodied masses. Deadline Tulsa describes the book as being like District 9 with its political and scientific implications. If you’re a struggling sci-fi writer out there and want to be even more frustrated, neither of those optioned books even exist yet as books. So, actually, maybe there’s still hope for you too.

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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