Books to Read before the Movie Premieres

I’d like to augment Alan’s series on books which have been made into movies with this list of 2014 movies which are based on books. This is going to be an awesome year at the movies and you’ll enjoy the them even more if you check out these books from the library and read them before viewing the films. Here they are in order of release date.

index (34)1. The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel and Bret Witter. The book: The true story of art historians who joined the armed forces during World War II to try to track down and save as much fine art as possible before and after Hitler got his hands on it. The movie: Will be released February 7th and stars a fantastic cast including: George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray.

index2. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. The book: Takes readers on a journey to New York of the Belle Époque, where Peter Lake attempts to rob a Manhattan mansion only to find the daughter of the house at home. Thus begins the love between the middle-aged Irishman and Beverly Penn, a young girl who is dying. The movie: This romantic fantasy comes out February 14th and stars Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe and Jessica Brown Findlay.

index (1)3. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead. The book: Try to read at least the first book in this series. There are way too many sexy vampire books out there, but with a mythology different from your typical vampire story, a novel this dark is definitely worth your time. The movie: Will also be released February 14th and stars Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, and Sarah Hyland.  It was made by the directors of Mean Girls.

index (2)4. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. The book: Tells the story of four people who encounter one another on the roof of Topper’s House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives. It is told in four distinct voices and manages to be humorous and somber at the same time. The movie: Stars Aaron Paul, Rosamund Pike, Imogen Poots and Pierce Brosnan and will be released March 7th.

index (3)5. Divergent by Veronica Roth. The book: Set in a world where you’re placed in neat little categories called factions, it’s dangerous to be someone like Tris — someone who is Divergent. Being Divergent means you don’t just belong in one category, and it also means you can’t be controlled. This is a frightening world, but a must-read book. The movie: Stars Kate Winslet, Shailene Woodley and Theo James and will be in theaters March 21st.  Scary!

index (4)6. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The book: Will have you laughing and crying and then crying some more since it is a beautifully written romance between two terminally ill young people. It is a beautiful story about life and death. The movie: Also stars Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort and will be out June 6th. Remove your mascara and take tissue with you to this emotional movie based on the book.

index (5)7. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais. The book: The story starts with a tragedy in Mumbai, India and follows the family around the world until they land in Lumiere, France where they open an Indian restaurant one hundred feet from a fancy french restaurant. The movie: Helen Mirren will play Madame Mallory who is initially infuriated when the new restaurant is such a success, but then softens and takes the young man under her wing. Release date is August 8th.

index (6)8. The Giver by Lois Lowry. The book: The Giver,  the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, follows the story of a boy who is given the responsibility of remembering the history of the world that existed before the establishment of the Utopian society in which he now lives. Profound and full of important messages, this is definitely a novel that should be on your ‘To Be Read’ list. The movie: Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep make this a highly anticipated movie and Taylor Swift tries acting. The release date is August 15th.

index (7)9. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. The book: This is a dark twisted tale with despicable characters and a sometimes harrowing, but well developed, plot which some readers may find just too uncomfortable to read. It’s not a happy story or a feel good book. On the other hand, if you like a little of the above, then Dark Places will keep you turning the pages and have you sitting up and reading long into the night. The movie: To be released September 1st with Charlize Theron.

index (8)10. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. The book: Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the end of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family. The book is hilarious. The movie: With Jason Bateman and Tina Fey. Enough said. To be released September 12th.

index (9)11. The Maze Runner by James Dashner. The book: The Maze Runner is the first book in the trilogy of the same name by James Dashner. It is the story of Thomas, who wakes up in a strange place and can remember nothing more than his name. Set in a mysterious place surrounded by a maze that changes every night and contains hideous monsters within its walls, this is a sci-fi thriller that’s a little bit Lord of the Flies and a little bit The Hunger Games.The movie: With the release date of September 19th, features Dylan O’Brien and Kaya Scodelario.

index (10)12. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The book: Amy mysteriously disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary and it’s looking more and more like her husband Nick was involved. This thrilling book will translate into a great suspenseful movie. The movie: With Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, it will be out on October 3rd just in time for the Halloween season.

index (11)13. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. The book: the true story of Louis Zamperini, a track star from the 1930′s who participated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and then became an airman in WWII.  His plane went down in the Pacific Ocean and the story is fascinating. The movie: To be released on Christmas day, directed by Angelina Jolie, and starring Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney, and Domhnall Gleeson.

index (12)14. Wild by Cheryl Strand. The book: Chreyl lost both her mother and her marriage in quick succession, so with nothing left to lose, she decided to hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.  It is a story of wilderness salvation and survival, both internally and externally. The movie: Will be released sometime in 2014 and will star Reese Witherspoon.  

index (13)15. Serena by Ron Rash. The book: The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena learns that she will never bear a child, and sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. The movie: A must-see since it stars Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. To be released sometime this year.

Well, there you have it. Read the book first so the movie will be all the better. Enjoy! Go Seahawks!

Best of 2013: Audiovisual

We end our best of 2013 list with our picks for the best films, television series and music. So much to see and hear, so little time.

Feature Films:

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Seven Psychopaths 
Marty is a struggling screenwriter who wants nothing more than to finish his script. Instead, he becomes entangled with the Los Angeles gangster underworld when his odd, but well-meaning friends kidnap a volatile gangster’s shih tzu.

McDonagh delivers an edgy, funny screenplay that deals with serious issues like creativity, fantasy vs. reality, and does so with a terrific cast.  – Alan

Gimme the Loot
Malcolm and Sofia are the most determined teenage graffiti writers in the Bronx. But when a rival gang buffs their latest masterpiece, they hatch a plan to get their revenge by planning the ultimate graffiti tag, to bomb the New York Mets’ home run apple.

An endearingly raw debut film depicting the lives of urban youth who happen to be graffiti bombers. – Kate

If I Were You
After Madelyn and Lucy meet by chance, they make a pact to fix their unhappy lives: they will only do what the other one says and ignore their own instincts. But Madelyn has a secret.

Marcia Gay Harden is great in the lead role; it’s a perfectly balanced dramedy of errors. – Kate

The Kid with a Bike
Twelve-year-old Cyril is living in a group home but refuses to believe he has been rejected by his single father. He spends his days frantically trying to reach the man, over the phone or on his beloved bicycle. In French with English subtitles.

Full of heartbreaking betrayals and unexpected grace – Kate via ifcfilms.com

Television Series:

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Luther Season 3
A twisted fetishist is targeting young women in London. As Luther is called to another case, will the killer escape his grips? Luther faces an even bigger threat as members of his own team will stop at nothing to bring him down.

The eagerly anticipated third mini-series of the thriller/detective/murder mystery Luther is gruesome at times, but this quality of entertainment television programming is not to be missed. – Kate

The Fall Series 1
In the five-part drama series made and set in Northern Ireland, Gillian Anderson stars as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson who is brought in from the London Metropolitan Police to help catch the killer when a murder in Belfast remains unsolved.

The stereotypical role of the female detective gets turned on its head while a thriller of a story unfolds. – Kate

Documentaries:

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Venus & Serena
An unfiltered look into the remarkable lives of the greatest sister-act professional tennis has ever seen. With unprecedented access, the film tells the inspiring story of how these two women, against all odds, but with the help of visionary parents, made it to the top.

Gives us insight into Venus and Serena’s fascinating relationship as sisters and as competitors, how they became the pro tennis powerhouses they are, and what their lives are like now. – Kate

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
A stunning documentary about the life of indigenous people living in the heart of the Siberian Taiga. Deep in the wilderness, far away from civilization, 300 people inhabit the small village of Bakhtia at the river Yenisei. There are only two ways to reach this outpost: by helicopter or boat.

A look at a centuries-unchanged culture – an incredibly difficult lifestyle, one that is truly astounding and completely foreign to most of us. – Kate

The Whale: the true story of Luna
The Whale tells the remarkable true story of a young, wild killer whale (an Orca) nicknamed Luna, who lost contact with his family on the coast of British Columbia and became famous around the world when he tried to make friends with human beings.

This documentary stands out among the relative many recent releases about killer whales. – Kate

Saving Face
Every year, hundreds of people are attacked with acid in Pakistan. The majority of these are women, who are left physically and emotionally scarred. Saving Face tells the stories of two acid-attack survivors. The film also follows plastic surgeon Dr. Mohammad Jawad, who put his London practice on hold to return to his home country to help acid victims.

A stark reminder of the atrocities committed against women in Pakistan. –Kate

The Gatekeepers
A documentary featuring interviews with all surviving former heads of Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency whose activities and membership are closely held state secrets.

The history of Shin Bet is more fascinating than you might think; it’s a heady film, but worth it. – Kate

Music:

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Reflektor  |  Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire follows up their acclaimed and Grammy-winning album, The Suburbs, with one of the most buzzed-about albums of 2013.

It sounds like an ‘another Arcade Fire album’ without feeling cookie-cutter. It doesn’t break new ground for the band, and in this case, that’s a good thing. – Zac

The Very Best of the Pogues  |  The Pogues
The Pogues had a stellar career, spinning tunes that combined elements of traditional Celtic music with maximum rock and roll.

Their songs have a jaunty piratey air, bringing a soulpatch of happiness to my days. – Ron

Hesitation Marks  |  Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor has always been adept at bringing in new styles and advancements in electronic music production; his hard work pays off in this album.

All the dark, grimy, oddly-dancy cuts you’d expect from a Nine Inch Nails release, made addictive by Trent Reznor’s flawless production. Listen to this loud, preferably with some really good headphones. – Lisa

Movie’s Better: Part I

I stand before you, dear reader, to settle a debate that has raged since time immemorial (or, since movies immemorial anyway):

The book was better!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. In many cases it is…but not always. Lots of times, the director brings something across in such an artful, evocative, deeply affecting way, that the author (who can deliver plot and story, but can’t draw a character to save his life) was incapable of expressing.

This isn’t exactly revolutionary. Although it does at least confuse, if not outright anger, book lovers there are lots of people who prefer an adaptation to its source material. As of the writing of this post, 663 books have gotten as many as 949 votes from the folks on Goodreads passionate enough about their selected film.

The Godfather was first published in 1969, at which time, Kirkus called it a “A Mafia Whiteoaks,  bound for popularity, once you get past the author’s barely concealed admiration for the ‘ethics’ and postulates of primitive power plays.”  In other words decent genre writing, but nothing groundbreaking.

Generally considered (nearly the) best American film ever madeThe Godfather received decent praise initially – mostly in line with surprise that it was actually any good, that it didn’t ghoulishly dwell on mob murder and stereotypes nor act as a Mafia “Whiteoaks.” Here are some examples:

Jay Cocks, Time Magazine: “In its blending of new depth with an old genre, it becomes that rarity, a mass entertainment that is also great movie art.” Although he would later foolishly pan a sequel that some consider superior,Vincent Canby raved “Francis Ford Coppola has made one of the most brutal and moving chronicles of American life ever designed within the limits of popular entertainment.” Roger Ebert: “Coppola has found a style and a visual look for all this material so ‘The Godfather’ becomes something of a rarity: a really good movie squeezed from a bestseller.”

One of his great movies, in fact. A good book, a great movie. The Godfather is fine genre writing, favoring scope over depth. The book has lived many lives, spawning 2 sequels by the author and another couple by Mark Winegardner, most recently as 2007 — generally not so great. Similarly, a lot can be said for the fat a movie must trim, such as character-defining genitalia descriptions. Bottom line: The Godfather is beloved for what it spawned; the book has diminished and since become universally considered inferior pulp to the expansive, artistic films it spawned.

Alan