Friday, January 2, 2015

Ten Books I Can't Wait to See On Screen in 2015


There are at least a couple of dozen movies based on books on tap for 2015 —probably more. Some of them are adaptations of books many of us have read and loved — Brooklyn from Colm Toibin — others are based on works we'll I'll never get around to — The American Sniper by Chris Kyle. I've tried to list most of them over at the ever-growing list Books to Read Before You See the Movie 2015;  some I've already read, others I've got to get cracking on. They don't all have official US release dates yet but I'm optimistic I'll be able to plug them in shortly. Of the lot, here are the ten I'm currently really, really excited about seeing on screen. Take a gander and weigh in down below.

1   Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain



At almost 700 pages I'll have to brace myself to read this one but check out the description and you'll probably agree, it sounds like a must read. And a must see when you check out the trailer. Especially when you factor in that Kit Harington (Game of Thrones) is Vera Brittain's (Alicia Vikander) long-time love. It sounds like they have an epic Romance with a capital R at the same time she was trying to break through sexist barriers and carve out a different kind of life as a writer, until World War I broke out. The movie made its debut at the London Film Festival in October '14 and opens officially in the UK and Ireland on January 16th so I'm thinking for those of us stateside, our turn is just around the corner.
Much of what we know and feel about the First World War we owe to Vera Brittain’s elegiac yet unsparing book, which set a standard for memoirists from Martha Gellhorn to Lillian Hellman. Abandoning her studies at Oxford in 1915 to enlist as a nurse in the armed services, Brittain served in London, in Malta, and on the Western Front. By war’s end she had lost virtually everyone she loved. Testament of Youth is both a record of what she lived through and an elegy for a vanished generation. Hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as a book that helped "both form and define the mood of its time," it speaks to any generation that has been irrevocably changed by war.

Alicia Vikander, who I first noticed in Anna Karenina is definitely one to watch this year. Testament of Youth also stars Miranda Richardson, Emily Watson, and Dominic West. Check out the trailer.







2  Brooklyn by Colm Toibin


If you haven't read Colm Toibin's Brooklyn yet, you'll want to get busy. The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen and Jim Broadbent and is making its premiere at Sundance on January 26th. Not sure of a real roll-out date yet. It's a wonderful book about a young woman who immigrates from Ireland to America to find work. I know it sounds like the typical turn of the century immigrant story BUT it takes place in the 1950's so that's a different historical period than we usually see for the genre. I found the book and its main character Eilis compelling, if I didn't always quite understand her choices. The book is actually required reading for freshmen at NYU ; I suppose because it deals so much with the homesickness a young person feels being away from home and in the big city for the first time. Author Colm Toibin has put his stamp of approval on the project and I've blogged about the book quite a bit in the past, and shared a photo gallery here. I'm excited that Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay — he did a wonderful job with Wild — and I'm excited about the casting of Domhnall Gleeson as Tom but not at all sure what I think of Emory Cohen as Tony. I can't get his awful character in The Place Beyond the Pines out of my head, and for now all I can see is the bullying young punk he played in the movie!

Here's the rundown from the publisher;
It is Enniscorthy in the southeast of Ireland in the early 1950s. Eilis Lacey is one among many of her generation who cannot find work at home. Thus when a job is offered in America, it is clear to everyone that she must go. Leaving her family and country, Eilis heads for unfamiliar Brooklyn, and to a crowded boarding house where the landlady’s intense scrutiny and the small jealousies of her fellow residents only deepen her isolation.
Slowly, however, the pain of parting is buried beneath the rhythms of her new life — until she begins to realize that she has found a sort of happiness. As she falls in love, news comes from home that forces her back to Enniscorthy, not to the constrictions of her old life, but to new possibilities which conflict deeply with the life she has left behind in Brooklyn.
In the quiet character of Eilis Lacey, Colm Tóibín has created one of fiction’s most memorable heroines and in Brooklyn, a luminous novel of devastating power. Tóibín demonstrates once again his astonishing range and that he is a true master of nuanced prose, emotional depth, and narrative virtuosity.




3   Dark Places by Gillian Flynn



If you loved Gone Girl, you've probably already read her two other thrillers, Sharp Objects and Dark Places, the latter is enroute to theaters this year. Here's the description from the publisher if you haven't read it. While it doesn't have the page turning power of Gone Girl,  I thought it was great trashy fun.
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.
The film stars Charlize Theron as Libby, Nicholas Hoult (I still can't get over the fact that he was the nerdy kid in About a Boy!) as Kyle, the guy who heads up the Kill Club. Cory Stoll is her imprisoned brother Ben, while Tye Sheridan plays Ben the younger. Vixenish Chloe Grace Moretz stars as young Ben's girlfriend, Diondra. Dark Places is enroute to your local theater sometime in 2015 — come March if you're in Sweden, April for those of you in Denmark, Norway or Greece.





4   Our Kind of Traitor by John LeCarre



My son says I'll love Our Kind of Traitor by John LeCarre so I'll be getting to that in the next couple of months. Again, we don't have a US release date yet except that it's set for sometime in 2015. Hossein Amini  (Drive and The Two Faces of January) wrote the script — I loved Drive but I was biased because my hubby worked on the film AND I'm a Gosling fan (I still treasure the hug he gave me at the wrap party) while The Two Faces of January with Viggo Mortenson,  Kirsten Dunst, and Oscar Isaac came and went without much fanfare. Basically, it bombed. Still, LeCarre is LeCarre so I'm giving the book a read, hoping for a release date to be announced soon.
Here's the description I pulled from LeCarre's website:
John le Carré’s 22nd novel, Our Kind of Traitor, is set in contemporary, recession gripped Britain. A left-leaning young Oxford academic and his barrister girlfriend take an off-peak holiday on the Caribbean island of Antigua. By seeming chance they bump into a Russian millionaire called Dima who owns a peninsula and a diamond-encrusted gold watch. He also has a tattoo on his right thumb, and wants a game of tennis.
What else he wants propels the young lovers on a tortuous journey through Paris to a safe house in the Swiss Alps, to the murkiest cloisters of the City of London and its unholy alliance with Britain’s Intelligence Establishment.
I love that the director cast the beautiful black actress Naomi Harris as the barrister girlfriend. Russell tells me he remembers the girlfriend's beauty is very much talked about in the book, but nowhere does LeCarre describe her as black or white. Kudos to Hollywood for an out of the box casting choice for a change!




5   The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry



I read The Secret Scripture last fall, and while I found the book challenging and a bit sluggish, I think a lot of you will love it. It's historical fiction set against the Irish uprising and I felt I needed a bit more understanding of the period to really fathom the nuances of the novel. I'm looking forward to seeing it on film, although the cryptic description on imdb.com gives you little enough to whet your appetite: A woman keeps a diary of her extended stay at a mental hospital.

The Secret Scripture stars Rooney Mara and Vanessa Redgrave as the young and old versions of the mental patient Roseanne McNulty (life before and after institutionalization) Theo James is the priest Father Gaunt with Eric Bana as Roseanne's modern-day psychiatrist. It's quite a story.
From B&N — where they still think Jessica Chastain is Roseanne, which would have been amazing: 
An epic story of family, love, and unavoidable tragedy from the two-time Man Booker Prize finalist
Sebastian Barry 's novels have been hugely admired by readers and critics, and in 2005 his novel A Long Long Way was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In The Secret Scripture, Barry revisits County Sligo, Ireland, the setting for his previous three books, to tell the unforgettable story of Roseanne McNulty. Once one of the most beguiling women in Sligo, she is now a resident of Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital and nearing her hundredth year. Set against an Ireland besieged by conflict, The Secret Scripture is an engrossing tale of one woman's life, and a vivid reminder of the stranglehold that the Catholic church had on individuals throughout much of the twentieth century.




6   Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach



I'm really excited about this one, especially as the screenplay was written by Tom Stoppard. Honestly I kind of hated the novel; a complete departure from Moggach's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which I loved, both the book and the movie. (That film did so well they've made a sequel —The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel — with all the old stars back plus Richard Gere. It comes out in March and looks slick but predictable and lacking in the charms of the original.) But The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was old love in an unexpected place and crazy comical while Moggach' Tulip Fever is historical fiction, and takes itself quite seriously, as you can tell from what Moggach says on her website about it:
This novel was written in a rush of emotion; it’s really my love-letter to Dutch painting and that lost world of serene and dreamy domestic interiors. I hadn’t written a historical novel before, and found the whole process extraordinary. It happened like this: I had bought, at auction, a painting by a minor Dutch artist. Dated 1660, it depicted a young woman getting ready to go out. She gazes at us with an enigmatic expression, and, as I gazed back I wondered: where is she going? Should she be going there?She hung in my living room, silent with her secrets. 


Imdb.com calls it a "17th century romance in which an artist falls for a married young woman while he's commissioned to paint her portrait. The two invest in the risky tulip market in hopes to build a future together."

And here's how the booksellers describe it:
A tale of art, beauty, lust, greed, deception and retribution — set in a refined society ablaze with tulip fever.
In 1630s Amsterdam, tulipomania has seized the populace. Everywhere men are seduced by the fantastic exotic flower. But for wealthy merchant Cornelis Sandvoort, it is his young and beautiful wife, Sophia, who stirs his soul. She is the prize he desires, the woman he hopes will bring him the joy that not even his considerable fortune can buy.
Cornelis yearns for an heir, but so far he and Sophia have failed to produce one. In a bid for immortality, he commissions a portrait of them both by the talented young painter Jan van Loos. But as Van Loos begins to capture Sophia's likeness on canvas, a slow passion begins to burn between the beautiful young wife and the talented artist.
As the portrait unfolds, so a slow dance is begun among the household's inhabitants. Ambitions, desires, and dreams breed a grand deception — and as the lies multiply, events move toward a thrilling and tragic climax.
In this richly imagined international bestseller, Deborah Moggach has created the rarest of novels — a lush, lyrical work of fiction that is also compulsively readable. Seldom has a novel so vividly evoked a time, a place, and a passion.
 Maybe I need to re-read the book; back in March 2012 when I wrote up my take I was not a fan. It was certainly no "Girl with the Pearl Earring". I didn't like the young wife, Sophia, or the artist, Jan who she falls in love/lust with. Looking at the casting of the film, as well as the setting — 17th century Holland at the height of Tulipmania, when the market for the flowers skyrocketed like our recent housing market—I'm up for the movie. The prose that didn't quite paint the portrait of the period or the love affair I was looking for, can be nicely corrected by director Justin Chadwick. Chadwick helmed The Other Bolyn Girl so clearly knows his way around lush, sumptuous and lusty historical fiction. Christoph Waltz plays the wealthy older Dutchman who marries the beautiful young Sophia played by Alicia Vikander. Waltz isn't as old as I recall Cornelis Sandvoort being which is helpful — there was something just too mean-spirited about the cuckholding of the old man, I couldn't get past feeling he didn't deserve the treatment he got. With Waltz aboard we know there will be more to Sandvoort than the character in Moggach's book. He maybe a lech or have some kind of wicked streak — easy to imagine with Waltz in the role — that allows us to forgive Sophia her betrayal. Vikander as Sophia is utterly perfect, I first noticed the actress as the young and sensual Kitty to Domhnall Gleeson's Levin, two standouts in Joe Wright's flawed Anna Karenina. The young actress is developing quite the CV with starring roles in Testament of Youth, The Light Between Oceans, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Ex Machina, films all coming out in 2015. In fact, she's in three of the movies based on books I must try and read before they hit the theaters this year! Dane DeHaan is the artist Jan Van Loos, a Vermeer-ish character. Having just, if belatedly, seen DeHaan in The Place Beyond the Pines, I can quite see him as the amorous tortured artist, quite carried away by passion. He always looks like he hasn't gotten quite enough sleep. Also onboard Jack O'Connell, Cara Delevingne, Judi Dench, Zach Galifianakis and Holiday Grainger.





7  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman


I haven't read The Light Between Oceans but I'm planning on spending some of my Christmas gift card money on it. Here's how the publisher describes M. L. Stedman's acclaimed novel.

The years-long New York Times bestseller soon to be a major motion picture from Spielberg’s Dreamworks that is “irresistible…seductive…with a high concept plot that keeps you riveted from the first page” (O, The Oprah Magazine).
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.
With Michael Fassbender starring as the lighthouse keeper Tom, and Alicia Vikander as his young wife Isabel, it all sounds as 'irresistible and seductive' as hyped. The movie also stars Rachel Weisz as Hannah Roenfeldt. Directed by Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines, Blue Valentine), the film was shot in Western Australia and New Zealand this past fall, on a script, as I understand it, by the Coen Brothers — geniuses to be sure even though I can't say much for what they did with Unbroken. My favorite composer, Alexandre Desplat is doing the score. The Light Between Oceans is slated to come out sometime in 2015 here in the states; currently the only release date I see is for Denmark in January of 2016.




   London Fields by Martin Amis



I toldja about this movie last spring. The movie was expected to come out in 2014  and at the time I kvetched that director Matthew Cullins had only directed a couple of music videos — I shared the one he directed for Beck's Girl on my original post. There's still no word on an official release date for the film starring Theo James as Guy Clinch, Amber Heard as Nicola Six with Billy Bob Thornton as Samson Young, Jim Sturgess as Keith Talent and Cara Delivinge as Kath Talent. Super star Johnny Depp — he and Amber Heard who met on the set of Rum Diaries, have all but set a wedding date — has an un-named part in the movie as well. I hope Johnny's presences hasn't kybotched the movie's release but Martin Amis' dark comic novel from 1989 is worth reading whether it makes it to the screen or not. I'm in! If you, like me, haven't read the classic, here's the rundown:
London Fields is Amis's murder story for the end of the millennium. The murderee is Nicola Six, a "black hole" of sex and self-loathing intent on orchestrating her own extinction. The murderer may be Keith Talent, a violent lowlife whose only passions are pornography and darts. Or is the killer the rich, honorable, and dimly romantic Guy Clinch?
"A comic murder mystery, an apocalyptic satire, a scatological meditation on love and death and nuclear winter...by turns lyrical and obscene, colloquial and rhapsodic."—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
In this wildly ambitious and funny novel, one of England's brilliant young writers relates two murders in the making. The first is the self-orchestrated extinction of Nicola Six. The second is the murder of the Earth itself, whose fate seems intricately bound up with Nicola's.




9  The Human Comedy by William Saroyan



I'm reading this lovely little book right now, a classic written back in 1943 about Homer, a 14 year old telegraph messenger in a quiet mythical Californian town called Ithaca. Ithaca is also the title of Meg Ryan's movie. It's a nostalgic book, set during the second world war, each chapter giving us a sweet and innocent stories about the telegraph delivery boy, his family and the grown-ups around him. The unassuming tales gently reveal the boy's character and that of the good people of the town around him — it's a world where hardworking fourteen year olds can work from five to midnight delivering messages on their bicycles, while his four year old brother Ulysses is free to wander the streets alone. Saroyan dedicated the novel, an autobiographically-inspired story of his own fatherless upbringing in Fresno, California to his mother. Reminiscent of the world we see in It's a Wonderful Life, I get teary-eyed just thinking about it. I've not finished the book in which their eldest brother, Marcus, is away fighting the war but I can't help thinking I'm going to have something to really cry about.
From Amazon
The place is Ithaca, in California's San Joaquin Valley. The time is World War II. The family is the Macauley's—a mother, sister, and three brothers whose struggles and dreams reflect those of America's second-generation immigrants…In particular, fourteen-year-old Homer, determined to become one of the fastest telegraph messengers in the West, finds himself caught between reality and illusion as delivering his messages of wartime death, love, and money brings him face-to-face with human emotion at its most naked and raw. 
Gentle, poignant and richly autobiographical, this delightful novel shows us the boy becoming the man in a world that even in the midst of war, appears sweeter, safer and more livable than out own.
Meg Ryan makes her directorial debut with this one, calling it Ithaca and casting her old friend Tom Hanks as Homer's deceased father, newish face Alex Neustadter as Homer with Sam Shepherd as Willie Grogan, Homer's boss at the telegraph office. Meg Ryan does double duty, playing Mrs. McCauley with her real-life son Jack Quaid on as Marcus, the son off fighting the war. This is the second time round for A Human Comedy; Andy Rooney starred in the original released the same year as the book. I'm hoping Ryan hasn't updated it.  You've gotta watch this trailer to see why!






10  The Martian by Andy Weir


At least we have a release date for this one! November 25th, 2015. Imdb has this one liner "An astronaut, stranded on Mars, struggles to survive" but I've read my friend Emily's review over at As the Crowe Flies and Reads, so I know the story is much more compelling that that.
Here's the lowdown from Barnes & Noble who include it on their list of the 'best books of 2014'
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.
Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.
But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

6 comments:

  1. I love getting all of my book-into-movie news in one place like this. I'd heard (from you, OBVS) about the Brooklyn adapation, and that one sounds great. I hadn't heard until now about the adaptation of The Light Between Oceans. I really liked that book!

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  2. I simply searched Anne Tyler today on Twitter as I'm about to start her new book and somehow fell down the rabbit hole to find you - lucky me! So many gems above that I'm not familiar with and I love your writing. You also had me at the Kit Harrington and Ryan Gosling mention, too. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks Lindley! I'm excited about the new Ann Tyler book too. Oh by the way, I'd like to add Far From the Madding Crowd to my Top Ten list; I'm a sucker for lush, romantic period dramas. Have you seen the trailer? That's Carrie Mulligan doing the singing, pretty glorious:)

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  3. Yes - the lush romantic period drama *swoon! Sucker for Thomas Hardy novels and for Carey Mulligan - she was so good in The Education (?) - think that was the title. Your reading may be more challenging than mine - looking forward to new Jane Smiley novel. Her Thousand Acres made a great but heartbreaking movie, too. Also Map of the World. Yum.

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  4. Believe it or not, I've never seen A Thousand Acres and I LOVED, I mean, really LOVED that book. Thanks for the reminder; I'm going to have to track it down, hopefully it's on Netflix or Amazon:)

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