Archive for the ‘Books & Movies’ Category

Hitting Screens This Week

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

9780451234780Debuting on Monday on the cable channel VH1 is a fictional movie about the origins of hip hop, The Breaks, inspired by the nearly 700-page nonfiction title, The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop.  Examining the journey from book to TV movie, Forbes magazine suggests tit may be the beginning of a series. There is no tie-in, however.

Sister station MTV begins its big gamble (the most expensive original production in the network’s history) in trying to attract new audiences on Tuesday, Jan. 5th with the 10-part series Shannara Chronicles.

The L.A. Times notes, “Yes, the network of Real World and Jersey Shore is now channeling Tolkien.” Switching to another comparison, reporter Steve Zeitchik (formerly of Publishers Weekly) adds, “Shannara is a counterpart of sorts to HBO’s Game of Thrones and seeks both to ride that wave and set itself apart from it, though whether it can do both simultaneously is among the more interesting questions of the winter television window.”

Reviewing it under the to-die-for headline “The Next Game of Thrones Is Great On MTV, But It’s Really The Next Star Wars,Forbes does not equivocate on that question,

“…while Shannara appears like another small screen Lord of the Rings in its marketing, its premise and actual presentation make it much more akin to the likes of Star Wars … From the first scene of its pilot, The Shannara Chronicles sets itself apart from the pack and makes it clear that this is going to be unlike any magical fantasy series we’ve seen before. The ways it does this are vast and supremely accessible to audiences that may not typically find much enjoyment in the genre, and that’s wonderful. Even if the series is nothing more than a gateway drug to the likes of heavier fantasy, it will still go down as one of the first great new shows of 2016 and one of the best new shows of the 2015/2016 television season.”

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As we noted earlier, tie-in editions of the first two titles in the book series have been released (although the TV series is actually based on the second volume):

The Elfstones of Shannara (The Shannara Chronicles) (TV Tie-in Edition) by Terry Brooks (PRH/Del Rey; OverDrive Sample), released in both a trade edition and a mass market version and

The Wishsong of Shannara (The Shannara Chronicles) (TV Tie-in Edition) by Terry Brooks (PRH/Del Rey; OverDrive Sample).

The heavily promoted movie The Revenant opens wide this coming Friday, after it Oscar-qualifying debut in December. The trade paperback hit the NYT best seller list this week at #6. Released to little fanfare over ten years ago, LJ reviewed the new tie-in edition last week, calling it “A must-read for fans of Westerns and frontier fiction.” More on the book in our earlier story.

9781590514375Debuting on Friday is the indie movie Lamb, based on a novel of the same title by Bonnie Nadzam (Other Press, 2011). About the friendship of an 11-year-old girl and a 47-year-old man,  it was featured at film festivals earlier this year, called “beautiful and troubling” and “dangerously unclassifiable” by Variety and “difficult to market” by the the Hollywood Reporter. Likewise, the book was called “daring and disturbing” (The Telegraph). The movie receives a lackluster C+ in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly; “about as strange as it sounds: a Lolita story almost more unsettling for the lines it doesn’t explicitly cross.”

Nadzam’s next novel Lions, is scheduled for publication in July (Grove Press).

Adaptations In Theaters,
Christmas Day

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

Most of the movies trolling for audiences this holiday weekend have already opened (People offers a guide, complete with appeal factors), but a few debut tomorrow.

The one getting the most media attention is the one that opens inthe fewest theaters. Debuting on just four screens in New York and L..A. to qualify for the Oscars, is Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant,  getting attention not only for its star, but for its director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won both Best Director and Best Picture last year forBirdman and for the difficulties the cast and crew endured on the film shoot.

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterIt is based on Michael Punke’s debut, his only book to date. Published in 2002, it received little attention, but caught the eye of studios prior to publication and went through several potential directors and stars before landing with Iñárritu.

This should be an exciting time for the author, but as the Washington Post reports in a profile, “as the deputy U.S. trade representative and ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Switzerland, he’s missing out on a lot of the fun” and isn’t even allowed to give interviews.

A tie-in was released earlier, The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke (Macmillian/Picador; OverDrive Sample). Copies of the original edition of the novel are showing somewhat heavy holds in a few libraries we checked, with some running a 5:1 ratio right now.

The movie expands to many more theaters on January. 8th.

9780812989267_9e2e2Opening in wide release tomorrow is Concussion starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a pathologist who uncovers the extent to which brain injuries affect football players. It is based on a 2009 GQ article, that was recently released as a tie-in,  Concussion (Movie Tie-in Edition) by Jeanne Marie Laskas (Random House Trade Paperbacks).

People magazine, listis it at #7 of  a dozen picks for the week (Revenant is at #1), saying that “Smith effortlessly carries this uneven but revealing drama.” He is also getting Oscar Buzz for Best Actor.

In the film, Smith as Dr. Omalu is warned, “You’re going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week.” The same could be said of the movie, which the NFL is none too happy about. Hacked Sony emails reveal, according the the New York Times, that the studio “found itself softening some points it might have made against the multibillion-dollar sports enterprise that controls the nation’s most-watched game.”

Opening tomorrow in wide release after debuting on 12/11 is The Big Short based on Michael Lewis’s book

Novelizations, No Phantom Menace

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

9781101965498_0e088We don’t often see reviews of novelizations, but in The Washington Post Elizabeth Hand addresses the question, “You’ve seen the new Star Wars movie — should you read the book tie-in?” Her answer may be a bit biased. She wrote the novelization of Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys as well as a few Star Wars titles.

She reveals that authors “typically don’t see the film before they write the book. They’re given a screenplay and some still photos, and they work from that.”

Some may believe that novelizations were a 70s phenomenon, but Hand dates the popularity of books based on movies as far back as The Perils of Pauline, The Ten Commandments, and Metropolis, and writes that Jack London even made money as a novelizer.

Other well-known authors such as John Steinbeck, Orson Welles, Graham Greene and Arthur Miller produced them as well. Take that, novelization snobs.

As to the newest Star Wars novelization, The Force Awakens (PRH/Del Rey/LucasBooks; Random House Audio/BOT), Hand loves it, saying author Alan Dean Foster (who also wrote the very first Star Wars novelization although it got credited to George Lucas), does the movie “proud.”

At this point, the only available edition is the eBook. The print version has been delayed until January, for fear that hackers would get into printers’ files and reveal key plot points before the movie’s release. Hand says the reading experience is “fast-moving, atmospheric and raises goose bumps at just the right moments … it’s a testament to Foster’s skill and professionalism that he not only evokes entire onscreen worlds but that he also gives us glimpses of an even more vast, unseen universe that has arisen from his impressive imagination.”

So cheer up Star Wars fans, even as the movie ends, the story does not.

From the Set of

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

zookeepersActress Jessica Chastain, currently working in Prague on the film version of The Zookeeper’s Wife (Norton, 2007), reveals just how male-dominated the movie business is.

In an essay in The Hollywood Reporter‘s special “Women in Entertainment” issue, Chastain notes that, although women make up only 20% of the crew of The Zookeeper’s Wife, that’s “way more” than any film she’s ever worked on.

“There are female producers (Diane Levin, Kim Zubick and Katie McNeill), a female screenwriter (Angela Workman), a female novelist (Diane Ackerman), a female protagonist and a female director. I’ve never seen a female camera operator like Rachael Levine on one of my films. And I’ve never, ever seen a female stunt coordinator like Antje ‘Angie’ Rau..”

As a result, she says, “You don’t feel a hierarchy; you don’t have anyone feeling like they are being left out or bullied or humiliated.”

The Zookeeper’s Wife is the true story of the valiant couple who rescued 300 Jews from the Nazis by hiding them in the bombed Warsaw Zoo (see the NYT review of the book here). The shoot wrapped at the end of last month. The movie is expected in theaters some time on 2016,

Movie Deal for

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

9780307451064_1e451At one point, Johnny Depp was in talks to play famous magician Harry Houdini in a film based on the 2007 biography, The Secret Life of Harry Houdine.

Another film based on a different book that features Houdini may make it to the screen first. STX Entertainment has acquired film rights to David Jaher’s first book, The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World (PRH/Crown; BOT; OverDrive Sample).

About Houdini’s showdowns with a famous Boston medium of the time, it got a glowing review from NPR calling it “spellbinding” and saying that “Jaher writes with a novelist’s panache,” has a wonderful “poetic sympathy and journalistic distance,” and “exhibits a what-the-hell candor that makes [the book] a page-turner.” The Wall Street Journal was also enthusiastic.

Echoing the reviewers’ assessments, the president of STX says in a press release quoted by The Hollywood Reporter, “Quite a few producers and studios were pursuing rights to this book for very good reason … this is a spellbinding and exciting true story.”


Adaptations Opening Today

Friday, December 18th, 2015

It may seem crazy to open a movie today, debut day for Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuts, but the studios hope there will be audiences looking for different fare. For kids, theres Alvin and the Chipmunks The Road Chip (see our listing for tie-ins) and for comedy fans, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler play Sisters.

It’s also an ideal time to release movies with Oscar buzz, barely within the deadline late enough to be fresh in the Academy’s mind. Two such movies open today, both adaptations [CORRECTION: We jumped the gun on both of these films, 45 Years opens on Wed. Dec. 23 and The Revenant opens in limited released on Friday, Dec. 25]:

45_Years_(poster)45 Years, an adaptation of David Constantine’s short story “In Another Country,” was just selected by The Guardian as #1 on their list of the 50 best films of 2015 in the UK . Stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay already won best actress and actor awards at  the Berlin International Film Festival. The movie explores what happens when a long-buried secret shakes up a 45-year-long happy marriage and is getting kudos for daring to feature older actors.

The story it is based on is in the collection, In Another Country, (Biblioasis, June, 2015).

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterOpening in limited number of theaters on Dec. 25, expanding to more on Jan. 8,  is The Revenant starring Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman).

Early preview screenings brought a shiver of internet excitement when the Drudge Report claimed that the movie contains scenes of Leonardo DiCaprio being raped by a bear (unfounded, although the process of filming the movie has been described as “a living hell“).

Based on Michael Punke’s 2002 debut novel of the same name, it is a vengeance tale set on the 19th-century American frontier, based on a true story, as The Tekegraph reports “Best served cold: the terrifying true story behind The Revenant.”

A tie-in edition is scheduled for Dec. 29., The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke (Macmillian/Picador; OverDrive Sample).


Thursday, December 17th, 2015

The DinnerLaura Linney is in talks to star in an adaptation of The Dinner by Dutch author Herman Koch (RH/Hogarth), reports Deadline.

It was once reported that Cate Blanchett would direct, but it that chair will now be occupied by Oren Moverman.

A hit in Europe, the novel arrived in the U.S. in 2013 to predictions that it would be the next Gone Girl. Although it didn’t achieve that level, it sold well and was on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list for seven weeks, reaching a high of #7.

+-+971582089_140Linney has completed work on another book adaptation, Sully, based on Highest Duty by Chesley Sullenberger (HarperCollins/Morrow, 2009), who piloted an airplane to safety after its engines were  disabled by a bird strike.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks will play Sully and Linney his wife. It is set for release some time in 2016.

Afghanistan, with a Dash of Humor

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Will Tina Fey be able to find cinematic humor in the war in Afghanistan? At least one person thinks so, declaring on Jezebel that Fey’s upcoming movte Whiskey Tango Foxtrot “could be the first to succeed where other studio films have flopped.”

Noting that “The whole project is legitimized by the fact that it’s based on” Kim Barker’s “darkly funny” memoir The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the reporter cautions, “I am still wary, since Hollywood is capable of making smart, nuanced stories into broadly offensive blockbusters, but hopeful—if any Af-Pak war comedy has a chance at success, it’s certainly this one.”

Once titled Fun House, now changed to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, itmarrives in theaters on March 4.

The first trailer was released today.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (The Taliban Shuffle MTI): Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Kimberly Barker, )RH/Anchor, 2/23/16)

MAGICIANS, Sneak Preview

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

9780399576645_c2490After last night’s final episode of Childhood’s End, adapted from Arthur C. Clarke’s classic novel, the Syfy channel gave viewers an early look at the pilot for The Magicians, based on Lev Grossman’s novel, which is set to begin  January 25th..

It’s not clear why they decided to release the pilot ahead of the series, but if they were hoping to build buzz through good reviews, that didn’t work out.

The fan site Den of Geek is the most positive, acknowledging that the pilot is overstuffed, but “With a number of paths towards mystery and adventure (perhaps too many) already established, there’s plenty of material to explore, both from the novels and this already quite different screen adaptation. Fans of the Grossman trilogy and of the fantasy TV genre are both sure to be pleased.”

Salon‘s reviewer notes that the adaptation “makes big changes but keeps the heart of the original books,” objecting that “it’s hard to not feel rushed through the pilot  … Which is too bad, because the story of The Magicians would be well-served with a little bit more time to breathe,” and concludes, “it’s a bit too early to judge the show, even on potential. The rapid-fire introduction of all of the characters and major plot drivers doesn’t do any of it real justice”

Entertainment Weekly’s reviewer hasn’t read the books, but spends quite a bit of time analyzing how the TV version relates to other books (the Narnia series, Harry Potter, The Golden Compass) and ends up giving the pilot a middling B.

The Wrap is the most damning;  “Imagine a horny Hogwarts and you’re on the wavelength of The Magicians, a somewhat intriguing, occasionally diverting, mostly just silly and campy adaptation ” — After only one episode, it would take a clairvoyant to know whether “The Magicians” will eventually develop into an agreeably dark and twisty piece of juicy genre fare, but at this early stage its future looks murky.”

Tie-in: The Magicians (TV Tie-In Edition) by Lev Grossman (Penguin/Plume).


Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

The first trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, based on the faux Hogwart’s textbook by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic, published in 2001 and rereleased earlier this year) gives a glimpse of the world seventy years prior to Harry Potter’s arrival.

Planned as the first in a trilogy, the movie is scheduled for release on November 18, 2016. starring Eddie Redmayne as magician Newt Scamander, the “author” of the book. Also  in the cast are Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, and Katherine Waterston It is directed by David Yates, who was responsible for 4 of the 7 original Potter films.

The other movies in the series are planned for release in two-year intervals; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2 (2018) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3 (2020).

In Theaters and On Screen

Friday, December 11th, 2015

9780544805026_ef240On Broadway, The Color Purple opened yesterday and is getting kudos from coast to coast. The New York Times calls it “a glory to behold” and the L.A. Times says it is “a spiritually transcendent theatricalization of the tale.” The latter review also notes that the production “relies to an extent on the audience having some understanding of the basic story.”

Fortunately, there is a tie-in, The Color Purple (Musical Tie-In) by Alice Walker (HMH/Mariner Books).

In_the_Heart_of_the_Sea_posterTwo film adaptations open today, including Ron Howard’s long anticipated adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea.(poster at left).

Unfortunately, despite early Oscar buzz, Variety predicts, based on the overseas box office where it opened last week, that it will be  “one of the biggest flops of director Ron Howard’s career and will serve as a painful coda to what has been a devastating year for Warner Bros.” Reviews are not helping, exemplified by NPR’s headline, “There’s Entirely Too Much Melville In The Heart Of The Sea

But unsuccessful movies sometimes bring readers to the books they are based on. The trade paperback edition has been rising on Amazon’s sales rankings,

9780143126812_fcff5  9781101997765_36a9c

Tie-ins include one for adults and another for young readers:

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (Movie Tie-in),  Nathaniel Philbrick (Penguin; Penguin Audio)

In the Heart of the Sea (Young Readers Edition), Nathaniel Philbrick (Penguin/Puffin Books; Blackstone Audio; OverDrive Sample).

The_Big_Short_teaser_posterAnother hotly anticipated adaptation The Big Short, based on Michael Lewis’s best seller he housing 9780393353150_28589and credit bubble, opens in a limited number of theaters today. Says Variety, “Paramount will try to exploit the empty playing field this weekend by launching The Big Short, a comic look at the financial crisis, in limited release. The subject matter is dense, terms like collaterized debt obligations are bandied about, so it will fall to an all-star ensemble of Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Steve Carell to bring in audiences. The Big Short debuts on seven theaters before going wide on Dec. 25.”

The NYT is much more positive, calling it “A true crime story and a madcap comedy, a heist movie and a scalding polemic, [that] will affirm your deepest cynicism about Wall Street while simultaneously restoring your faith in Hollywood.”

The tie-in edition was published a few weeks ago, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (Norton; OverDrive Sample).

Three TV events occur this week.

9780553391695_bdc60Hallmark continues its string of Christmas book adaptations on Sunday with Debbie Macomber’s Dashing Through the Snow (RH/Ballantine), the story of two strangers trying to make it to Seattle in the holiday rush.

There is not a specific tie-in edition, but as we noted the book was one to watch when it came out this past October.

In a three-night event the Syfy channel brings Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel, Childhood’s End, to the small screen.

9781101967034_f5c4bA tie-in edition came out in October, Childhood’s End (Syfy TV Tie-in) by Arthur C. Clarke (PRH/Del Rey; Brilliance Audio).

About an an alien invasion, the take over of the planet begins Dec. 14.

9780316390682_80bc8Also coming from the Syfy channel is The Expanse, a new space-set series based on the Hugo and Locus nominated book Leviathan Wakes (which is the first book in The Expanse series).

A tie-in edition came out in early November, Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (Hachette/Orbit; OverDrive Sample).

The series begins Dec. 14.

STAR WARS Leads List of Tie-ins, Week of Dec. 14

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Lines began forming for the 7th installment of Star Wars:The Force Awakens, as early as last Saturday, 12 days ahead of its Thursday midnight opening.

There’s is a raft of Star Wars branded products to occupy them. As the Seattle Times points out, this is the first Star Wars movie “from merchandise-driven Disney.” following their acquisition of Lucasfilm.

You can get Death Star shoes and even Star Wars mascara and, of course, a wide range of collectibles, introduced earlier this year. Lucas film president Kathleen Kennedy comments in brand-speak, “Star Wars toys have always played an important role in how our fans interact with the Saga.”

9781101965498_p0_v3_s192x300Several Force Awakens branded titles were released in September and a whole new set is scheduled  for release next Friday. However, the print novelization is being held off until January, to avoid spoilers (that does not apply to the eBook edition, scheduled for release the same day as the movie). lists and annotates the books and PRH/Del Rey has a Facebook page for their titles, including the recent “official cover reveal” of Chuck Windig’s sequel,  Aftermath: Life Debt, May 31, 2016. For ordering information, check our listing of tie-ins (minus library-unfriendly merch. items, like sticker books and those that include light sabers).The title currently highest on Amazon’s sales rankings is Pablo Hidalgo’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary (Penguin/DK).

If you had any doubts, there will be more Star Wars movies. Wired predicts “You Won’t Live to See the Final Star Wars Movie” and JJ Abrams, director of the current movie, is touting Selma director Ava DuVernay for future iterations.

Other tie-in arriving this week follow the normal pattern of being pubished months in advance of the movies:

Snowden (The Snowden Files Movie Tie In Edition): The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man, Luke Harding (PRH/Vintage).

MV5BMTA4NTk5Nzg0ODheQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDgyOTEzMDcx._V1_SX214_AL_Oliver Stone is taking on the Snowden story in a film set for release on May 15, 2016. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as  Snowden, along with Shailene Woodley and Nicholas Cage. The script is based on Harding’s nonfiction account, which published as an original trade paperback in the U.S. in February 2014.

For a while there was a duel going on for film dominance.

Sony bought rights to Glenn Greenwald’s No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State (Macmillan/Metropolitan Books) in 2014 (see our story here on the rivalry between Harding and Greenwald). However, Greenwald’s own website reports, relying ironically on leaks from the Sony email hack, that the film based on No Place to Hide is likely dead in the water, quoting an email from a Sony executive as saying the Stone film “will beat our Snowden project to market and therefore ours is unlikely to happen … We ended up passing after seriously considering the project.”

A teaser trailer has been released:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Movie Tie-in Edition) by Jane Austen, Seth Grahame-Smith (Quirk Books).

pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies-movie-poster-405x600The godmother of the mashup genre, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, finally makes it to the screen, beginning Feb. 19 in a film starring Lily James (CinderellaDownton Abbey and the upcoming BBC adaptation of War and Peace) as Elizabeth Bennett and Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy.

As we reported earlier, many leading ladies have been rumored or announced, including Natalie Portman, Emma Stone, Anne Hathaway, Scarlett Johansson, Mia Wasikowska and Rooney Mara.


THE BFG Gets A Trailer

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

The first teaser has just been released for Steven Spielbeg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1982 childrens book, The BFG, (Macmillan/FSG YR). The movie is set to open on July 1 next year.

If the trailer reminds you a bit of Harry Potter (which Spielberg was offered, but turned down), you’re not the only one.

The movie stars newcomer Ruby Barnhill as Sophie. Mark Rylance, who just received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC’s Wolf Hall, plays the Giant.


The BFG Movie Tie-In
Roald Dahl
Penguin/Pufin Books: May 17, 2016
Paperback; $7.99 USD
Audio tie-in, Listening Library

BIG LITTLE LIES Cast Developments

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

big little liesNews recently leaked that Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley were being courted for the HBO series based on Australian author Liane Moriarty’s best seller Big Little Lies (Penguin/Putnam/Einhorn).

Deadline now confirms that Dern has signed to play Renata Klein, one of the three mothers at the center of the story. Woodley is expected to play Jane, a single mother whose son is accused of bullying, but that has not yet been confirmed, but seems certain since producer Nicole Kidman announced it last week.

The show runner is David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal), with Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) set to direct several of the episodes.

Moriarty is scheduled to publish an untitled new novel in July (Macmillan/Flatiron Books).

The Husband's Secret  What Alice Forgot

Two of Moriarty’s other novels are in development, as feature films. The Husband’s Secret, (Penguin/Putnam/Einhorn, 2013), with CBS Films and  What Alice Forgot(Penguin/Putnam/Einhorn, 2011)  with TriStar. At the end of October, it was reported that Jennifer Aniston is in talks to star in the latter.

Closer to Screen: BIG LITTLE LIES

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

big little liesThe HBO series based on Liane Moriarty’s best seller Big Little Lies (Penguin/Putnam/Einhorn), now has another big name attached. Shailene Woodley is set to join Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon in the production, reports Variety, but the news seems to have been broken via a tweet from the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. Variety notes the deal is not completed. Since the source of the news is Kidman and she is a producer, it seems it is likely it will be confirmed shortly.