Archive for the ‘Novel Adaptation’ Category

Where The Wild Things Are – King for a day

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

where-the-wild-things-are-poster21963 saw the release of a controversial children’s picture book called Where The Wild Things Are. It was written and illustrated by American Maurice Sendak, and contained little more than ten sentences. It was, arguably, an allegorical piece, cleverly portraying the difficulties and strains on parent and child. It was a huge hit with children, and has gained legendary status as a groundbreaking piece of children’s literature.

It is hard to believe that something so short, aimed at kids, could metaphorically encompass the complexities of childhood, aggression, loneliness and love; but a picture paints a thousand words.

Almost 50 years later, quasi-loon and creative genius Spike Jonze has brought the story to the big screen with a lavish adaptation. You may remember him as the lead street dancer in the video for Praise You, by Fatboy Slim. He directed this video, as well as countless others including Weapon of Choice (Slim, again), Buddy Holly (Weezer) and surreal Kaufman movies Adaptation and Being John Malkovic.

Where The Wild Things Are would be a new challenge, but he certainly possesses the imagination to bring it to life.

Eight-year-old Max is a lonely boy with an active imagination, and once he becomes frustrated with his perceived lack of attention from his sister Claire and divorcee mother Connie, he decides to do a runner dressed as a wolf.

Max keeps running until he finds a small unattended boat at a nearby riverbank, and sets off into unknown territory. The seas take him to a strange land of sand and forest, and the home of 7 large surprises.

He meets the ‘Wild Things’; a collection of 7-foot creatures with a penchant for eating new arrivals. Max stares them down and tells them that he has great powers from another land – he can ‘explode heads’. He tells them that he is a great king, and will punish them if they try to devour him.

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The Road – A harsh but heart-warming tale of survival

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

theroadposterCormac McCarthy is one of the finest writers in modern literature; he has produced instant classics with Blood Meridian and All The Pretty Horses, not to mention a certain novel titled No Country For Old Men.

The latter is a truly brilliant and breathtaking book, and many who did not appreciate the film would have done well to check out the source material first, in order to gain a better understanding of the story, its purpose and the reasons behind the opinion-splitting ending.

McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with The Road, a literary work that is magnificent beyond words. It is the story of a man and his son as they attempt to survive an arduous journey through a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

The film version, directed by The Proposition helmer John Hillcoat, faithfully adapts the book into a stark, vivid and harrowing piece of cinema.

The two embark on an emotionally and physically draining quest to stay alive in a barren, cold and savage environment where vicious cannibals are a constant threat, and thieves would not think twice about stealing a blanket from a sleeping child.

Man and boy are heading south, out of hope more than anything else. We do not know their names, we do not know what happened to the world and we certainly do not know if they can survive this bleak, unforgiving hell.

A moment of weakness and fatigue sees them investigate a house where they find something truly horrifying in the basement, whilst the man’s own savage survival instincts cause him to defy his son’s desperate request of leniency towards a thief they hold at gunpoint.

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The Box – There are always consequences…

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

the_box_poster_2A man sporting a horrible disfigurement turns up at your door with an offer. He tells you that your money worries could be over; you can have one million dollars in cash, but you have to press a button that will initiate the death of someone that you do not know. What would you do?

The Box introduces us to happily married couple Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Marsden) Lewis living their lives in a quiet suburban area in the late 70s. Arthur works for NASA and is awaiting approval to enter the astronaut program, whilst Norma is a school teacher.

She has a disfigurement relating to her foot that hinders her ability to walk, but her loving husband is secretly working on some technology that could permanently fix this. Their touching relationship is magnified by the presence of their bright and happy young son, Walter.

Norma’s school tells her that the staff discount she receives for her own son’s tuition is to be scrapped. This is coupled with further bad news; Arthur is turned down for the astronaut program despite his absolute confidence that he strolled through every test without any problems.

The couple turn to each other, vowing to soldier on in the face of adversity. But a peculiar box, containing a red button within a locked dome, is delivered to their door in the early hours, and an accompanying note states that Arlington Stewart (Frank Langella) will be visiting the next day at 5pm. True to the words of the note, burn-victim Arlington Stewart knocks at the door and presents his bizarre and morally questionable offer. Norma and Arthur can use the key to open the dome and press the red button, leaving themselves one million dollars richer. But someone, somewhere, whom they do not know, will die. They have 24 hours to decide, and once that time has elapsed Arlington Stewart will return and reclaim the box.

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Les Destinées Sentimentales

Monday, October 5th, 2009

destineesBased on the epic novel by Jacques Chardonne, Les Destinées Sentimentales charts thirty years of French history through the eyes of two star-crossed lovers.

Set among the bourgeois protestant families of the Limoges region of France, Les Destinées follows the career of Jean Barnery (Charles Berling), the reluctant heir of a traditional porcelain business who must learn to steer his way through the frantic beginnings of the 20th century.

Barnery starts out as a minister in the small Protestant community of Barbazac, but after a scandalous divorce leaves his vocation and young daughter and embarks on a passionate romance with the orphaned Pauline (Emmanuelle Béart), a headstrong atheist whom he will later marry. The two wives are polar opposites, and tap into different areas of Barnery’s character. The first Mme Barnery, played by an icy Isabelle Huppert, exemplifies religious stricture; Pauline’s wide eyes and welcoming smile suggest a warm, open sexuality.

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The Reader

Monday, August 17th, 2009

the-readerAdapted from Bernhard Schlink’s bestseller and starring Kate Winslet as a former SS officer and David Kross as her schoolboy lover, The Reader throws up difficult questions about the nature of culpability in the Holocaust.

Ralph Feinnes plays Michael Burg, an uptight German lawyer who is first seen in his sleek, minimalist apartment preparing an orderly breakfast for his bedfellow before bidding her an awkward goodbye – director Stephen Daldry does not shy away from stereotypes of standoffish Germans. The film then flashes back to the late 50s to when Michael (now played by Kross) was 15.Not yet out of school, he begins an illicit and passionate affair with a 34-year-old tram-conductor named Hanna (Kate Winslet), who first encountered him on the street when he was suffering from a painful bout of scarlet fever. She enjoys listening to him read to her, and lust soon blossoms into love, until one day Hanna disappears without trace.

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Revolutionary Road

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

revolutionary_roadIn this tale of domestic strife, Sam Mendes returns to a familiar theme: the tarnished American Dream. However, the scathing satire of his directorial debut, American Beauty, takes on a far bleaker tone in Revolutionary Road. Based on Richard Yates’ 60s novel, the film reunites Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet for the first time since James Cameron’s smash hit Titanic in 1997.

Following in the footsteps of the 1966 film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, the story follows Frank Wheeler and his wife April, a young couple trapped in a marriage of conformity during the fifties. Frank works in a job he hates, yet affects an air of superiority, believing he’s destined for a better life, though clueless as to what that life might be. His wife is a typical 50’s homemaker, raising two children in the couple’s immaculate suburban home and wondering what has become of her youthful ambitions. It’s a tarnished version of the American Dream. “Look at us,” April moans to Frank. “We’re just like everyone else. We’ve bought into the same ridiculous delusion – this idea that you have to settle down and resign from life.”

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Angels and Demons

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

religious-folkRon Howard’s adaptation of Dan Brown’s religious thriller The Da Vinci Code was one of the highest-grossing films of the decade, earning over US$230 million worldwide in its opening weekend. Yet you’d be hard pushed to find a critic who gave its contrived storyline and turgid script the thumbs up. Angels and Demons, which comes before The Da Vinci Code in Dan Brown’s canon but has been adapted for the big screen as a sequel, is slicker and pacier than its predecessor. Howard, along with adapters Akiva Goldsman and David Koepp, stick less rigidly to Dan Brown’s clunky prose this time round, resulting in a more confident, dazzling production. Unfortunately, despite the film’s glossy exterior, it tells a story that is both convoluted and, at time, utterly ludicrous.

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Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

angusBased on Louise Rennison’s popular series of teen novels, Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is a Bridget Jones-style coming-of-age comedy which follows a group of 14-year-olds as they attempt to escape the shackles of their snooping parents and move into the more exciting world of boys, bras and parties. Viewers who’ve endured teen gross-out comedies such as American Pie will find this Brit-flick from Gurinder Chadha (Bend it Like Beckham) refreshingly gentle. There’s no swearing and no mention of drugs, no-one has sex and there are no unwanted pregnancies.

Set in the seaside town of Eastbourne, the story centres around Georgia Nicholson (Georgia Groome) and her circle of giggly, gawkish friends. Her chief aims in life are to secure a fit boyfriend and persuade her parents to throw her the best 15th birthday bash EVER at the local nightclub. Her biggest gripes are her embarrassing, old fashioned parents (Alan Davies and Karen Taylor) and her freakish little sister Libby (Eva Drew), who thinks she’s a cat. When two “sex-gods” called Robbie (Aaron Johnson) and Tom (Sean Bourke) join their school, Georgia and her best friend Jas (Eleanor Tomlinson) are determined to bag them for themselves. Trouble is, the slutty and popular Lindsay (Kimberley Nixon), who wears a padded bra and unbuttons her shirt as low as school uniform rules will allow, has got there first.

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The Kite Runner

Monday, June 8th, 2009

kite-runnerSet largely in Afghanistan before the events of 9/11 and spanning the fall of the monarchy, the Soviet invasion and the Taliban regime, The Kite Runner is a compelling story of two boys growing up during these tumultuous times. Adapted from Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel about guilt and redemption, the film explores the factions and friendships that exist between different Muslim groups of both moderates and extremists. Its mostly inexperienced cast speak in a mixture of Dari, Pashtu and Urdu as well as English.

The film begins in Kabul before the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, where two young boys from very different backgrounds form a close friendship. Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi), is the son of a wealthy landowner who loves to write and is cowardly when it comes to fending off bullies; Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada) is a servant in the household of Amir’s father. Though smaller than Amir, slingshot in hand, he is ready to protect him at any moment. The two play together, read together, fly kites together – they are inseparable.

When one day Hassan is brutally attacked by older children in the neighbourhood, Amir’s cowardliness gets the better of him. He watches in horror but does nothing. Wracked with guilt, Amir persuades Hassan to leave his fathers’ service, and spends the rest of his life atoning for his misdemeanour.

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Yes Man

Monday, May 25th, 2009

nebraskaIn the 1997 hit Liar Liar Jim Carrey played the role of a lawyer who suddenly finds himself unable to lie. In Yes Man he becomes a bank loan executive who cannot say “no” to anything. But where the former found comedy in the tension between wanting to lie and being compelled to tell the truth, Yes Man falls flat because there is nothing intrinsically funny about a loan officer having to approve loans and also wanting to.

When the film opens, Carrey’s character Carl is a down-in-the-dumps recluse who has shunned his friends and ignored his answer machine messages for three years, ever since the love of his life walked out on him. His negative attitude proves useful in his job, which involves consistently rejecting his customers’ loan applications. It also means he is unfriendly to everyone he meets, including his chipper boss Norm (Rhys Darby) who is desperate to win Carl’s friendship.

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