The film adaptation of Hidden Figures continued to do well at the box office in its second week of wide release, boosting sales of both the tie-in and the original release (now at #5 on USA Today‘s list). On TV, Netflix’s major launch of the adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events is flying high, with strong reviews (example, the New York Times) and the expectation that there will be a season two.
Unfortunately, the news was not good for the wide release of Ben Affleck’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night, which failed to do well with critics as well as audiences.
This week, Lifetime brings back Beaches, beginning Jan. 21. Idina Menzel (Frozen) and Nia Long (The Best Man Holiday) star in the revival of the 1988 Garry Marshall film that Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey made famous. The weepy is based on the Iris Rainer Dart novel of the same name, published in 1995. There is no tie-in but the book is still in print (HaperCollins/Morrow Paperbacks, 2004).
For those that do not know the story, E! News offers a summary: “Beaches follows the serendipitous meeting of two young girls … who, despite vastly different lifestyles, maintain an unexpected, yet lifelong friendship. CC (Menzel) is an aspiring singer trying to make it work in Los Angeles until she’s discovered by a director who gives her big break, while Hillary (Long) is the daughter of a prominent civil rights lawyer who struggles to find her own destiny.”
Menzel, known for her award-winning voice, admitted to E! News she was worried about stepping into Midler’s shoes, saying if “I’m being completely honest, I was terrified to do it at first because I love the movie, it’s a beautiful, beautiful movie and both of those women—especially Bette Midler, for me—were idol[s] my whole life.”
The book features author H.G. Wells who creates an actual version of the apparatus featured in his novel The Time Machine, which is used by Jack the Ripper to escape to 1970’s era San Fransicso, with Wells on his heels (the Kirkus review gives an amusing summary of the convoluted plot).
For the TV series, the US location was changed to present-day New York.
A trailer for the pilot came out in May. Since then the female lead has been recast with Nicole Ari Parker as the character played by Regina Taylor.
No tie-in has been scheduled, but the book is still available, in a 2010 paperback reprint (Forge Books, 978-0765326225; OverDrive Sample).
Elle won Best Motion Picture in the Foreign Language with its star Isabelle Huppert winning for best actress, drama. The film is based on Oh…by Philippe Djian (Gallimard, 2012; not published in the US).
After its limited release opening on Christmas Day, Live by Night expands nationwide this Friday. Based on Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night (Harper/ Morrow; Harperluxe; HarperAudio), starring Ben Affleck who also directs.
The first Friday the 13th of the year offers an auspicious start to a beloved series best known for its unfortunateness. The long-awaited adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket (HarperCollins, 1999 – 2006), begins streaming on Netflix.
The show stars Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf and Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, and Presley Smith as Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire.
A.V. Club says “A fairy tale for macabre bookworms who’ve graduated from Roald Dahl but aren’t ready for Edward Gorey … This blend of tragedy and twee … [is] Kids stuff with adult sophistication, driven by two-part stories, outrageous visuals, and the scenery-chewing of big-name guest stars.”
The horror film Bye Bye Man, based on a chapter in the 2005 nonfiction book The President’s Vampire: Strange-but-True Tales of the United States of America by Robert Damon Schneck (Anomalist Books, 2005), also opens on the 13th.
The film stars Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway, Douglas Smith, Cressida Bonas, Lucien Laviscount, and Douglas Jones and tells the supposedly true story of three friends who get into trouble when they mess around with a Ouija board.
As NPR reported at that time, Fallada was a best selling author between WWI and II, with his books picked as book-of-the-month-club selections and adapted into Hollywood films (which got him blacklisted by the Nazis).
However, Every Man Dies Alone wasn’t published in English until 2009, after Melville House publisher Dennis Johnson heard about the book from the fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg and tracked it down.
When it finally did come out here, it was a best seller and became a NYT‘s Notable Book and one of The New Yorker‘s Favorite Fiction Books of the year.
There’s much to choose from. As PopSugar points out, the warrior princess has her roots in the 1940s so there is a long list of print titles detailing her adventures. WorldCat shows over 4,000 titles in libraries. For introductions and reading guides to the various series, turn to Comic Book Herald and Den of Geek!
EW gave in an A, saying it is “a great read. It has nearly everything you might want in a page-turner: tales of S&M, skeletons in the closet, a believe-it-or-not weirdness in its biographical details, and something else that secretly powers even the most ”serious” feminist history — fun.”
The book will be published simultaneously in print and as a Pottermore eBook edition.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Hogwarts Library Book)
Newt Scamander, J.K. Rowling
Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)
On Sale Date: March 14, 2017
ISBN 9781338132311, 1338132318
Hardcover | 128 pages |$12.99 USD
The glitzy award season starts Sunday, Jan. 8 with the Golden Globes, which honors both film and TV and is known for being less formal than the Oscars, in no small part because drinks are available to the guests throughout the evening.
About TheHandmaiden, LitHub says, “The movie is gorgeous, sensual, terrifying, and an utterly captivating experience—more captivating even than its source material. It’s a stunning achievement, and it should really get every award.”
Love & Friendship is defended with “A generally underrated (or at least under-discussed) film this year, but actually great. Whit Stillman! Kate Beckinsale! Chloë Sevigny! Jane Austen, except meaner than you remember! Well-acted, lively, and satisfyingly acerbic.”
LitHub also lists The Girl on the Train but says “Just kidding. Even Emily Blunt couldn’t save this movie.”
Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove (S&S/Atria, July 2014) is taking off again, rising on Amazon and building yet another holds queue. Already generally exceeding a 3:1 ratio in print (in some libraries we checked it is as high as 15:1) the second wave of attention is due to the film’s release On Demand and on disc. Holds for the film version are topping 44:1.
The movie recently made the Oscar shortlist in the Foreign Film category, meaning it has made the second round-cut (one more winnowing will be made by Jan. 15th to decide the five final nominees – IndieWire explains the complicated and insider-y process).
Like Backman’s books, a large part of the film’s buzz is based on word of mouth. IndieWire reports it opened with modest results and then grew steadily at every theater that ran it. When “other high-profile movies like Birth of a Nation, American Pastoral, and American Honey declined at the box office, arthouse exhibitors turned to Ove. And it just kept chugging along.”
Backman keeps chugging along too. See our stories about his rise and next books.
Two high-profile film adaptations expand nationwide this week, Hidden Figures and A Monster Calls (see our coverage from their Oscar-qualifying opening week).
On NBC, a new series based on The Wizard of Oz begins.
Emerald City is billed as a “modern reimagining” of the backstory of L. Frank Baum’s famous tale.
After a rocky path to the screen, involving delays and major changes in the lead team, it finally premieres Jan. 6 at 9 EST and will run for 10 episodes in its opening season. Tarsem Singh (Mirror Mirror, Self/less) directs. Shaun Cassidy (Cold Case) serves as executive producer.
Deadline Hollywood says the show is “gunning for” the Game of Thrones label, writing it offers a “dark new take” in which “Dorothy [is] transported by tornado along with a K9 police dog into a mystical land of competing realms, lethal warriors, dark magic and a bloody battle for supremacy.”
ScreenCrush calls it an “ultra-ultra-ultra-gritty take” and details the cast: “Adria Arjona as Dorothy Gale (complete with K9 police dog Toto), Dracula star Oliver Jackson-Cohen as Scarecrow-type Lucas, Florence Kasumba as the Wicked Witch of the East, Joely Richardson as Glinda, [and] Vincent D’Onofrio as the Wizard of Oz.”
Calling the book a “sensation,” Deadline Hollywood reports that film rights were just acquired to Kill The Next One, a psychological thriller by Argentinian-born Federico Axat (Hachette/Mulholland Books; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample). Published in Spanish “to acclaim,” rights were also sold for translation into 30 other languages.
Released here earlier this month, it received a good, but not sensational, review in the most recent NYT BR crime column: “mind-bending … Truth, illusion and downright deceit keep crossing invisible lines in this hallucinatory plot.” However, the review continues, “it becomes easy to lose focus on who’s who and what’s what. The shape-shifting characters and fantastic events keep sending [the main character] to his therapist (and us to ours) for clarification … Axat is the kind of hypnotic writer you love to read but can never entirely trust.”
Other coverage to date, while decent, does not indicate a “sensation”:
USA Today includes it on a recent list of new and noteworthy books, quoting the Booklist review that also calls it “mind-bending” as well as “intriguing.”
PW gave it a star, writing “Axat fuses weird fiction with psychological suspense in his stunning U.S. debut.”
Bustle counts it as one of “The 8 Best Fiction Books Coming Out This December That Are Perfect For Holiday Snuggles,” writing “Like a chilling, murder-y version of Pay It Forward, this thriller unfolds as a man seeking to end his life is given the opportunity to kill two other people and then be killed.”
The upcoming holiday weekend is generally a big one for movie openings, but there is a complication this year. Christmas Day falls at the end of the weekend, so there will be less time for families to search out entertainment to round out their festivities. In addition, studios are not willing to schedule films to go up against the second week of Rogue One, which proved expectations with a “massive” debut this week.
But studios need to get movies in to theater to qualify for the Oscars, so several will open in limited runs in the upcoming week.
Bucking the trend, one adaptation debuts across the country on Christmas Day, Fences, Denzel Washington’s film version of August Wilson’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning play. Washington directs and co-stars with Viola Davis, reprising their roles from a Broadway revival of the play six years ago, for which both won Tony Awards.
The Guardian writes “This film is conceived as a showcase for its performers, and, as that, it is immaculate … Would Wilson be pleased? A black director, extraordinary performances, as faithful an adaptation as you can imagine. He’d be ecstatic.”
Six other film adaptations open in limited release this week:
Patriots Day, the drama recounting the Boston Marathon bombing. Directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, Lone Survivor) it stars Mark Wahlberg, J. K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and Michelle Monaghan.
It is based on the nonfiction title, Boston Strong: A City’s Triumph over Tragedy by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge (UP New England/ForeEdge), which traces the events of the bombing and the citywide manhunt to find the terrorists.
Variety calls it “An intense, jittery re-creation … [a] genuinely exciting megaplex entertainment, informed by extensive research, featuring bona fide movie stars, and staged with equal degrees of professionalism and respect.”
The film opens in limited release on December 21 with a wide release on January 13, 2017. There is no tie-in.
A Monster Calls was originally scheduled for release on October 21, but the the film adaptation of the children’s fantasy by Patrick Ness moved to a holiday opening due to what Deadline called “a complete nightmare in regards to competition … the pic’s new date gives it ample time to breathe and spur word-of-mouth during the year-end holidays and into 2017.”
Thus far, reviews are mixed for this fantasy-reality drama about a boy coping with his mother’s illness and his own troubles. The Hollywood Reporter calls it a “sensitive and beautifully made lesson in the limits and power of storytelling … The fact that not every terrible thing can be remedied or appropriately punished is a tough lesson even for adults to learn, but A Monster Calls helps find the sense in it.”
Variety, however, was less impressed, calling it “an incredibly small and intimate gothic fable … [that is] all bark and no bite.”
A Monster Calls: A Novel (Movie Tie-in): Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness, Jim Kay (Candlewick, August 2, 2016, Trade Paperback).
The film opens on December 23, followed by a wide release on January 6.
Silence opens on Dec. 23, with a wide release coming later in January (the specific date has yet to be announced).
Directed by Martin Scorsese, it is an adaptation of the novel by Shusaku Endo, first published in 1966. It is a book that Scorsese writes in the introduction to the tie-in, Silence, (Peter Owen Publishers, Dec. 1; trade paperback, Macmillan/Picador Modern Classics), he has “reread countless times,” one that has given him “a kind of sustenance” that he has “found in only a very few works of art.”
Starring Andrew Garfield, Liam Neeson, and Adam Driver, it is set in about a Portuguese Jesuit priest who persecuted along with other Christians in Japan in the 17th C.
Variety says it is a “challenging, yet beautiful spiritual journey.” While they also call it a “a remarkable achievement,” they warn “Though undeniably gorgeous, it is punishingly long, frequently boring, and woefully unengaging at some of its most critical moments. It is too subdued for Scorsese-philes, too violent for the most devout, and too abstruse for the great many moviegoers who such an expensive undertaking hopes to attract.”
Hidden Figures opens on Christmas Day in some theaters, with a nationwide release on Jan. 6.
It is one of the hot films of the season, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as a group of African American women who worked at NASA on the mission that sent John Glenn into space in 1962. Director Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent) was so taken with the script that he dropped out of the running to direct a Spiderman movie in favor of this one.
Variety says it is a “thoroughly satisfying … Feel-good drama” that is “As brash, bright, and broad as Hollywood studio movies come.”
Tie-in: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, Margot Lee Shetterly (HC/William Morrow Paperbacks; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample).
Live by Night opens on December 25, followed by a national release on January 13, 2017 and is Ben Affleck’s first time in the director’s chair since his award-winning Argo. Not only does he direct and star, he wrote the screenplay, an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night (Harper/ Morrow; Harperluxe; HarperAudio).
Zoe Saldana, Sienna Miller, Chris Cooper, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina and Elle Fanning also feature in this period gangster film set during the Prohibition era.
Variety reports that Affleck told reporters at an early screening “that the idea for him was blending a throwback vibe with modern energy. And that’s fitting: In Lehane’s novel, Affleck has found a gangster yarn akin to the ’30s and ’40s genre pictures that inspired him, but one with a fresh face.”
Live by Night follows The Given Day, which was the author’s first departure into historical crime. A third book in the series, World Gone By, was published last year.
There are multiple tie-ins: The mass market will arrive on Dec. 27, while the trade paperback (both HarperCollins/Morrow) came out on Dec. 6.
The Spanish language film Julieta is based on three linked short stories from Alice Munro’s collection Runaway (“Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence”). It opens in limited release on Dec. 21st.
Written and directed by Academy Award-winner Pedro Almodóvar, it stars Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte along with Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Darío Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner, and Rossy de Palma.
The Guardian gave it five stars, calling it “Almodóvar’s best film in a decade” and describing it as “a sumptuous and heartbreaking study of the viral nature of guilt, the mystery of memory and the often unendurable power of love.”
In addition to several cast members, 97-year-old Katherine G. Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson in the film, is also expected to attend. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year. NASA profiles her as “The Girl Who Loved to Count.”
Below is the ceremony. Johnson’s award begins at 30:24.
Hidden Figures is based on a book that is #5 on Time magazine’s list of the best nonfiction of the year, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly, released as a tie-in last month, (HC/William Morrow Paperbacks; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample).
“not only stirringly celebrates intelligent women of color (and the very idea of science itself), but it also offers a more realistic-seeming portrayal of racism than we generally get in American movies … Hidden Figures is feel-good history, but it works, and it works on behalf of heroes from a cinematically under-served community. These smart, accomplished women had the right stuff, and so does this movie.”
The nominees for the 2017 Golden Globes include a number of TV shows and films with book connections. As the LA Times puts it in their rundown, so many that “if you’re more at home in a library or a bookstore than a movie theater, you’re likely to find some reading material to curl up with while the rest of your family is gathered around the television set.”
Most of the nominees are already well known, as we have noted:
Selected as the Swiss entry for Best Foreign Language Film for this year’s Oscars, it just won the European Film Awards category for best European animated feature (here is its official entry page).
The story is about a young boy who becomes an orphan following the death of his alcoholic mother. Taken to an orphanage by a police officer who befriends him, the boy must learn to cope with his new life and surroundings as he interacts with other traumatized children.
The Hollywood Reporter calls it “lovingly told and gorgeously rendered” and says “Though not as dark as the book that inspired it, nor as directly critical of the French welfare state [it is] not exactly a tale for all ages. That said, savvy distributors who know how to market high-end animated films to older audiences should get some decent mileage out of this Courgette.”
It’s going to be a big weekend in theaters with the opening of the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One this Friday (see titles to know for tie-ins). Nevertheless, a new film adaptation of a novel by Patricia Highsmith, A Kind of Murder, starring Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel, also dares to debut, although it is set for release in just a limited number of theaters as well as on demand.
Reviewing it when it was featured at the Tribeca Film Festical in April, Variety was not enthusiastic, calling it a “stylish adaptation,” but although the “thrills are mitigated by convoluted plotting and suspect character behavior, the film’s uniquely bleak twist on classic noir conventions is enlivening.”
Based Highsmith’s The Blunderer, 1954 available in a 2001 trade paperback from Norton.There are no tie-ins.
Also on Friday, Amazon debuts the second season of their well-received adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s classic 1954 SF title, The Man in the High Castle.
A tie-in was released last year, timed to the first season.