redbox Focus: From Page to Screen

by | Jul 29th, 2010 | 7:00AM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Movies, Redbox Focus, Weekly redbox Picks

We’ve been talking all week at redblog about literary adaptations. You can read Erika’s intro, my questions about keeping film adaptations faithful to the book and whether books are always better than movies, as well as Erika’s interview with Jennifer Donovan from 5 Minutes for Books, Erika’s look at the trailer for Never Let Me Go (the upcoming adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel), and my Threes-answer digression on Tristram Shandy, a wry meta-film about trying to film an unfilmable book. (And more to come in the next few days!)

And films based on books keep on coming–a quick browsing of the current redbox kiosk turns up about 30 films based on fiction (or kids’) books and another 10 or so based on non-fiction works. Let’s peruse a few of them, shall we?

(I haven’t read all the books these films are based on–I don’t have nearly as much time for reading anymore because I spend it all watching movies. Ironic, eh?)

Recent Films Whose Sources I’ve Read

The Time Traveler’s Wife — Sure, I liked the novel–as we all know I balk at gooey romance stuff, but Audrey Niffenegger’s book worked in familiar Chicago landmarks plus time travel! And I find the film version perfectly passable–I’m not a stickler at all when adapting books to the screen, so I’m not bothered by changes, omissions or Clare’s hair color (sorry kristYn!). Eric Bana and especially Rachel McAdams make for a fine, tragically time-crossed couple, and the film has an easy, weepy, likable quality. Plus time travel!

Read Erika’s original review

Rent it from redbox

The Lovely Bones — Regular readers know how much I’ve struggled over Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s beloved novel. I saw the film first, then read the book, then watched the film again, and frankly I like the movie much more than the novel. Jackson’s stripping away of a lot of the teen-love sappiness (as well as the film’s darker, more sexual elements) may have alienated fans of the book, but more and more I’m fascinated by the final on-screen result, flaws and all.

Read my original review

Rent it from redbox

The Road — One of my favorite adaptations in the kiosks. It may not be as note-perfect a film as the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men, but like the Oscar-winner, The Road does a fine job of getting deep into Cormac McCarthy’s minimalist, poetic stoicism. (Sorry, no iPods, rugged Eddie Bauer styling, or cool knife-fighting action in this Apocalypse.) Anchored by Viggo Mortensen’s performance, The Road is staggering–and yes, it’s a much deeper and more honest exploration of true religious faith in the face of tribulation and despair than other films’ exploitative silliness.

Read my original review

Rent it from redbox

Sherlock Holmes — Guy Richie’s hopped-up take on the Great Detective is stylistically and spastically far afield from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s staid stories, but Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal actually gets a lot of the character traits right: Holmes was a bare-knuckled brawler at one time, he was prone to manic-depressive mood swings, and he was a pompous, arrogant, annoyingly know-it-all ass a lot of the time.

Read my original review

Rent it from redbox

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — I’ve written a bunch already about this Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling novel and how much more I like the film and Noomi Rapace’s version of Lisbeth Salander than Larsson’s book. I’m still not sure Salander the character is quite as great as others think, but Rapace brings her to life nicely in this chilly, moody mystery. (Be warned: The film comes complete with all the psycho-sexual violence from the book, and it’s harder to watch than to read.)

Read my original review

Rent it from redbox

And I wrote yesterday about how much I like Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, even if it is a far different film from Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book. And then there’s Tim Burton’s re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s absurdist masterpiece Alice in Wonderland as a sort of hero-quest adventure movie (let’s just say I like the parts of Carroll’s vision that still remain). There’s also SyFy’s very kicky and cool steam-punk take on Wonderland in Alice.

Read my original reviews of:

Where the Wild Things Are (Rent it from redbox)

Alice in Wonderland (Rent it from redbox)

Rent Alice from redbox

Even More Novel Movies in the redboxes

Meanwhile, there are many other movies for rent at redbox that are based on books I have not read. I get a pulpy kick out of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s lurid, ’50s-florid version of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island. (I’ve read and enjoyed other Lehane crime novels, but not that one.) I found a lot to enjoy about Michael Cera in the sometimes overly indie-quirky adaptation of Youth in Revolt, even though I have not read C.D.’s cult novel. And I think we all know how much I love Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, without having ever tasted Judi and Ron Barrett’s original kids book.

Read Erika’s and my original reviews of:

Shutter Island (Rent it from redbox)

Youth in Revolt (Rent it from redbox)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Rent it from redbox)

There’s also Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (new in the redboxes this week), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (I’ve never been a Potter-head, have only read the first three books, but have increasingly enjoyed the films as they moved more creatively away from the slavish devotion of Chris Columbus’ first two adaptations), Julie & Julia (love the Julia parts, have learned to tolerate the Julie bits), New Moon (one of these days I probably need to read at least one of those dang books, just so I better know what I’m making fun of), and Dear John (Amanda Seyfried can make me tolerate just about anything… even a Nicholas Sparks schmaltz-fest.)

Read Erika’s and my original reviews of:

Percy Jackson & the Olympians (Rent it from redbox)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Rent it from redbox)

Julie & Julia (Rent it from redbox)

Twilight: New Moon (Rent it from redbox)

Dear John (Rent it from redbox)

2010 Oscar Nominees by the Book

There are also quite a few films in the redbox kiosks taken from lesser-known novels (that is, most of us probably had not heard of the book until the film came along, which often removes that deadly burden of rabid fan expectations). Many of this spring’s Oscar acting-nominees were in films that were book adaptations: Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, Up in the Air (novel by Walter Kirn), An Education (based on Lynn Barber’s memoir, just published last year), Crazy Heart (novel by Thomas Cobb), and A Single Man (from Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel.) Those also just happen to be some of my favorite films of last year, especially An Education, Crazy Heart, and A Single Man.

Read my original reviews of:

An Education (Rent it from redbox)

Crazy Heart (Rent it from redbox)

A Single Man (Rent it from redbox)

You can also rent from redbox:

Precious

Up in the Air

Other films out on DVD you may not be aware are based on books: The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, an engrossing tale of female mid-life crisis directed by Rebecca Miller from her own novel; Tenderness, with Russell Crowe, based on a novel by Robert Cormier; and The Cry of the Owl, from the book by Patricia Highsmith, author of the Tom Ripley thrillers.

Read my original review of Tenderness (Rent it from redbox)

You can also rent from redbox:

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

The Cry of the Owl

Facts (Mostly) on Film

And that’s not even counting the films based on non-fiction books, including Public Enemies (based on Bryan Burrough’s Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34), The Blind Side (from The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis), Extraordinary Measures (from The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million–and Bucked the Medical Establishment–in a Quest to Save His Children by Geeta Anand), and 50 Dead Men Walking (loosely based on IRA undercover informant Martin McGartland’s autobiography).

Plus there are three films starring Matt Damon: Invictus (based on Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation by John Carlin), Green Zone (a fictional exploration of the issues raised in Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City), and one of my favorite films from last year, The Informant! (from the non-fiction book by Kurt Eichenwald). There’s also another film I like very, very much: The Damned United which follows real-life events and a very real character–Brian Clough–but as seen through the prism of David Peace’s psychologically speculative novel.

Read James and my original reviews of:

Public Enemies (Rent it from redbox)

The Blind Side (Rent it from redbox)

Extraordinary Measures (Rent it from redbox)

50 Dead Men Walking (Rent it from redbox)

Invictus (Rent it from redbox)

Green Zone (Rent it from redbox)

The Informant! (Rent it from redbox)

The Damned United (Rent it from redbox)


One Response to “redbox Focus: From Page to Screen”

  1. Jennifer@5 Minutes for Books
    Posted on July 30, 2010 at 5:47 am

    I loved the Education. Just saw it last month, and noticed it was based on her memoir. But from what I read, the movie is probably better.

    I do think that’s possible (but as I said in a comment earlier — I really think it’s only possible if you love the movie FIRST).

    It’s all about a good story. That can come through in many ways.