> Chapter1-Take1: January 2012

We Bought A Zoo by Benjamin Mee: My Take on the Book #book2movie

We Bought A Zoo 
written by Benjamin Mee
204 pages

Opened  December 23
Stars Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson,
Directed by Cameron Crowe 

About the Book:

Knowing it was the basis for what looked like a romantic comedy starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, I really wanted to LOVE this book. It was not at all what I expected and I tried to enjoy it for its own merits. If you've seen the movie, believe me, this is nothing like the film. BUT if you are an animal lover and find topics like extracting a tooth from a bear or how to get a decrepit animal park in shape for the inspectors, then this book may be for you. It was occasionally funny and heartwarming but Mee's tendency to go on an on about the bureaucratic process really diluted the pleasure of the good bits!

What's sad is that there is a very central human element that should be at the heart of this 'memoir' which has to do with Mee's ill wife. Unfortunately, Mee had no idea how to deal with this in real life and even less on paper. The emotional ground was never mined. I really have no idea how a producer read this, saw the heart at the core and decided IF they changed this and that, it would make a really lovely movie. Which it did! It has made just shy of $94 million worldwide and is still playing in theatres near you so I suggest you see it.

My Reading Log (may contain book and/or movie) spoilers

November 21, 2011: It's the true story of a British family who --wait for it -- buy a zoo!

If you've seen the trailer for the movie which stars Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, you already know that in the movie the family is definitely NOT British. And the zoo, which in the real world is in England, looks like it's somewhere in the states in the reel world. So one wonders what else they've changed. Or does one? Because just over 60 odd pages into this two hundred and four-page book, this is what I know:  British family emigrates to France to restore an old farmhouse, wife gets diagnosed with cancer. Treatment cures her massive tumor except all the experts say it will come back; there is a very, very small chance of survival. The husband, a DIY writer, is in a bit of a state of denial about this so when his family back in Britain suggests they all pool their resources to buy a zoo - which comes with a huge ramshackle house - he plunges in to explore the options. After endless rounds of conversation, consultation, studies, and legal documents ad nauseam, they buy this zoo - which is in just as poor shape as the house.
And just over 60 pages in, this is what I know. The basis of the story should be a glorious feeding ground for the dramatic. Unfortunately, at least so far,  Mee's telling of it isn't. It's a tad stodgy and so full of the endless details of the purchase, and really very little attention to the wife, that one can forgive screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna and director Cameron Crowe (more about Crowe in another post) for making a film, more accurately inspired by the book, rather than being based on it. Then again, perhaps I'm not being fair, perhaps we're still in the formative stages and Mee will deliver the goods in the three-fourths of the book I've yet to read. So, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I will persevere and shoo away my thoughts that for once, the film may be better than the book. A nice ending. Just not what I am hoping for as I read! Have you read it? What did you think? Am I getting ahead of myself?

November 27, 2011
Sadly, finishing the book only cements my initial responses. Mee's book gets very bogged down throughout with the details of bringing the zoo up to snuff. Not that it's not important ground to tread - it is - but with the exception of a couple of pages which literally brought me to tears (you know, the kind that blur the pages)
Mee mostly casts his wife and kids as background players. What's important to Mee - at least in this book - are the animals and taking care of them. And he does do that very well. Reading about animal escapees, and dental operations on big cats and a bear no less, is fairly interesting stuff, especially if you are an animal lover and interested in the world of animal conservation. But the drama, the human pathos, he doesn't quite know how to deal with that.
Perhaps Mee himself, grieving over his wife's death (which I have to add happens DURING the course of rehabbing the zoo; it is NOT the catalyst for the purchase as the movie has it, rather more nobly) still needed to keep his feelings at arm's length in order to pen the memoir. Perhaps the sadness was just too overwhelming for him to deal with it and, much as it seems he did with his kids, he just had to put it on the backburner to get by. He does tell us that he frequently has to leave a room abruptly to have a cry but as every writer and reader knows, there is a big difference in telling us something and showing us. Show us and we will feel it. For the most part, Mee doesn't. If you are looking for human pathos, see the movie. If you are fascinated with the subject of animals, and animal conservation, add this one to your bookshelf first.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John LeCarre: About the Book

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy written by John Le Carre
343 pages

Opened  December 9, 2011
Stars Gary Oldman as George Smiley, Colin Firth as Bill Haydon, Tom Hardy as Ricky Tarr, John Hurt as Control, Mark Strong as Jim Prideaux. Benedict Cumberbatch as Peter Guillam, Cieran Hinds as Roy Black, Cathy Burke as Connie Sachs and Philip Martin Brown as Thesinger
Directed by Tomas Alfredson

About the Book:
This is John LeCarre at his masterful best. Just like his character, George Smiley, LeCarre moves things along quietly, in his polite and gentle way, until BAM, he has got you good. No escape. No escape for us and none for the mole that Smiley has been brought back from forced retirement to find.
I love how LeCarre takes his time with the setting so we really see every inch of gloomy England, can almost taste the tension in the air at the circus. The characters are so well drawn out; real and not a caricature in the bunch.
The storyline is complicated but realistic and absolutely worth every second of reading. If you love British spy novels, you've no doubt read this one. If you haven't, add it to your TBR pile. It's so worth it. And believe it or not, the ending actually made me cry.
The film, by the way, was brilliant too.

My Reading Log (may contain spoilers, yeah, it probably does)

November 14, 2011
The truth is, if old Major Dover hadn't dropped dead at Taunton races Jim would never have come to Thursgood's at all. He came in mid-term without an interview -- late May, it was, though no one would have thought it from the weather --employed through one of the shifiter agencies specialising in supply teachers for prep schools, to hold down old Dover's teaching till someone suitable could be found."

This is how Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy begins, and as I settle in to read a few pages, I can't help thinking 'Oh, how good it feels to be in England, how comfortable, especially in the masterful hands of LeCarre'. I have a sudden longing for tea and biscuits in front of the fire, oh and a cat too, dammit.  If one didn't know better, one would not be blamed for thinking she was about to embark on a poignant tale ala Goodbye Mr. Chips. LeCarre takes his time, much the same way as the best intelligence is gathered gently, slowly, with patience (no water boarding here, thank you very much), LeCarre lulls us with lovely passages and quiet grace until suddenly, when having meant to spend just a few minute dipping into the opening pages, I find myself on page 117 and wondering where the past couple of hours went.
Witness Jim Prideaux' entrance ...
"Jim Prideaux arrived on a Friday in a rainstorm. The rain rolled like gunsmoke down the brown combes of the Quantocks, then raced across the empty cricket fields into the sandstone of the crumbling facades. He arrived just after lunch, driving an old red Alvis and twoing a second-hand trailer that had once been blue."
LeCarre is a seducer and  skillfull one. He knows I can't resist George Smiley and his world and I can't! Of course I keep thinking of Gary Oldman - who isn't at all fat - vs Alec Guinnes - who was a little more so- as George Smiley and I hope he can play it gently enough. Colin Firth seems like a brilliant choice for Haydon, Mark Strong perhaps a bit young for Prideaux. Tom Hardy (Bronson, Inception)  is one of the years' big heartthrobs and I can see him with his full lips and somewhat loutish good looks as being just right for Rikki Tarr.
I hope I am not compelled to finish this book in one sitting! I'd like to savor the pleasure.

November 16, 2011
Having left Jim Prideaux in the caring hands of young Bill Roach - oh, please, I want to beg, don’t break up this happy pair. Bill “Jumbo” Roach needs Prideaux to watch over and to idealize, so that he has some sense of his own purpose in the world that we really hope they can continue to stay on at Thursgoods forever. Where Jim can go “pounding down Combe Lane with a rucksack on his crooked back as he returns from his morning march.” and Bill Roach and the other school boys can “covertly watch him at golf, which he played with a dreadful old iron, zigzagging across the playing fields, often after reading to them from an extremely English adventure book: Biggles, Percy Westerman, or Jeffrey Farnol, grabbed haphazard from the dingy library.”
It’s just so cozy and idyllic. Of course this isn’t some ancient edition of Boys Life magazine, it’s a spy story, where George Smiley is brought out of forced retirement in order to investigate whether there is a mole in the bureau. So the landscape has to change. The pace has to change too although at this point it’s more about quiet sweating and thinking than the hard action and fisticuffs you’d find in a James Bond action saga. And I assume even at its climax Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy won’t be about raging violence anyway.
In a way, it’s easier to remember the large cast of characters that make up the Circus when you can put a face on them, easier when you can match them up with the actors playing them. Is that cheating? I suppose it is and I hope John LeCarre won’t mind. I have no trouble keeping tabs on the sly and slippery Tom -Ricky Tarr- Hardy or seeing Colin- Bill Haydon - Firth having a love affair with Lady Ann right in front of poor George‘s face. And I can just picture the supercilious smile on Haydon/Firth’s face. Grrrr!. Getting to know Control better this time around, who else but John Hurt should play him unless it could be Peter O‘Toole? Crazy, senile, near death, but as the Mothers say with their eyebrows raised “towards paradise. “A terminal case,” said these gentle glances. “We are humoring a great man at the end of his career.” I love the “young” Peter Guillam character with the girl on his mind as he goes about the nail biting business of switching files. Just now had a peek at the actor playing him, Benedict Cumberbatch and he is quite dishy and just right. He’ll be out in another movie based on a book in December, when he plays Major Stewart in Speilberg’s War Horse.
And George, of course, “Small, podgy, and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of London’s meek who do not inherit the earth. His legs were short, his gait anything but agile
I guess Gary Oldman’s role in the Batman movies must have given the director the idea to use him. Give him a pair of oversized glasses, the pasty skin, and yes, he can be that typical Englishman, retired, padding around in his slippers, or watering his roses, while his wild wife wanders off with Haydon or who knows who. I love his interrogation methods too - filled with silences - and innocently phrased questions. He’s a British hybrid of Columbo (RIP, he died this past June), Jethro Gibbs, and Adrian Monk.
November 17, 2011

I’d forgotten, I think, just how quiet and controlled Le Carre is, much like George Smiley. The pace doesn't get faster, just more intense. Nothing flashy. Not a lot of violence, mostly intelligent, deliberately built suspense. There is some action and violence of course, certainly not enough for today’s “Fast and Furious” crowd. The Hong Kong bit where Ricki Tarr meets Irina and of course, the Brno escapade where Jim gets his back shot up. A lot of action there.
The beautiful thing about Le Carre though is he is a first class novelist rather than a ‘crime writer’ type. I mean no insult to the crime writers here, but Le Carre is absolutely invested in setting his scenes lushly, with building characters slowly, layer by layer, and revealing their true natures just as subtly.
I’ve just finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and please don’t laugh, but it choked me up. It was full of page turning suspense all right but when it was over, there was no big Ah Ha!  Just as George names the characters who really had known all along who the mole was - but didn’t want to see it - we the reader (this reader anyway) realize we have known it all along too. Who else could it have been?
And, because of who he is and the relationships, Le Carre has built for him, we are deeply disappointed too. Not in the ending, but in the man. I won’t say who Gerald is, just in case you’re not going to read the book; I don’t want to spoil it for you.
The bit that made me cry? I won’t spoil that for you either. But if it touches you, as it touched me, I’d love to hear about it. This is another one I can't wait to see and sincerely hoping the filmmakers have got it right. Certainly the cast is top notch; mostly fabulous British actors who never play a false note. It will need a more mature, more thoughtful audience to appreciate it, I think. 
To whet your appetite, take a look at the trailer. I think it strikes just the right chord. Fingers crossed!

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson: About the Book

The Girl Who Played with Fire written by Stieg Larsson
649 pages

Stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyquist
Directed by Daniel Alfredson
Released 2010

About the Book:
Wow! Wow! Wow! I've just spent the last couple of days absolutely immersed in number two of the Millenium trilogy; The Girl Who Played with Fire. My husband dragged me away from it to see the latest Sherlock Holmes movie last night - Game of Shadows which Noomi Rapace was in, along with stars Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr and a stunningly brief appearance by Rachel McAdams. Not great but certainly entertaining enough, and I've taken time out to do some laundry and eat but besides that I've been pretty much glued to the page. Or should I say pages. All 649 of them. I think the sheer length of the book - it's daunting heft - kept me from reading it before. Who has time to read such a loooooong book?! How long will it take?? Trust me, make the time and it will fly by. Take this coming weekend for example. Forget going to yet another boring New Year's Eve party and ring the New Year in with Blomkvist and Salander instead.
This is an incredibly exciting read - more so in many ways that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. One of the things I loved most about it is that quite a bit of it takes place in Stockholm; it's great fun to get a sense of the city and I look forward to seeing it on film. 

Isn't that one of the reasons to read they always put on those posters - READING TAKES YOU PLACES. This book sure took me places.
Another thing I absolutely loved - the amazing cast of characters. We get to see Libeth in a whole new light. We see more of wonderful Armansky and Palmgren, Nils Bastard Bierman- her horrible guardian - more of Erika Berger, the Millennium editor and of course more of Mikael Bloody Blomkvist. Then there is a dizzying array of all new characters, good guys and bad guys - I mean, really, really bad guys -  and I won't even go into who's who because it is just so much fun to go along for the ride!
Having read the book, I will look forward to seeing David Fincher's version of it which should come out in a couple of years. A couple of years?? That's IF he decides to do it - he's said Book 2 and Book3 are basically two parts of one entire book and if he does direct, he'll shoot them back to back. Regardless, that's way toooo long to wait so I'll be watching the Swedish language version in the meantime. Interesting that Neils Arden Oplev is not back to direct, instead it's Daniel Alfredson who also directs the final film in the trilogy, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. AND he is brother to Tomas Alfredson, who you may remember, just directed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  It's a teeny tiny world when you come right down to it!

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: About the Book

Never Let Me Go written by Kazuo Ishiguro
243 pages
Stars Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightly, Andrew Garfield

Directed by Mark Romanek
Released 2010

About the Book
I tend to stay away from sci-fi but for me, this reads more like a contemporary novel about relationships. Which makes sense when you consider "dystopian" fiction is about relationships and power AND when you consider Ishiguro wrote The Remains of the Day. Except of course for the creepy facts of the character's lives, which he doles out little by little. The three main characters Cathy (it's written from her point of view), Ruth, and Tommy, live in a British boarding school for 'special' children who are being raised to donate their organs. Since this isn't a new book - it was published in 2005, and because it's such a unique premise, it was made into a film back in 2010. But I didn't read it and didn't see the film so it's all new to me. I'm not finished yet but I know that Carey Mulligan is Cathy, the nice one; Keira Knightly is Ruth, the rather manipulative and popular one; Andrew Garfield is Tommy, Cathy's 'friend' and Ruth's boyfriend. Yes it's a love triangle which takes place in a very unusual setting and in very unique circumstances. Right now I am loving Cathy - even if she is a bit naive - and hating Ruth. Tommy is just clueless. I love the way Ishiguro  - through Cathy's grown up eyes (she's 31 when she recites the tale) - lets the story unfold quietly. He's so good at understated revelations, enough so that even knowing things aren't quite what they seem, as well as describing the setting perfectly, one almost wishes one went to Hailsham too. Well almost! Can't wait to finish it and see where things end up.  In fact, I think I'll go do that now!

Since this is not my usual choice of reading matter it really took me on a journey I don't get to go on much. And I loved it. Having finished it I see my feelings about Ruth were understandable. She is the manipulator and Tommy still reads as quite clueless; as if he is always just waiting for someone else to take action. The romantic in me really hoped for a different ending but there were to be no surprises. The end of the book, like the ends of the character's lives were predicted, planned, written, and set into motion from the start. My niece said she didn't like the book; "Why didn't they just run? Most people would have."
My response was, that's all they knew. They were programmed in a way to lead these lives, like we are programmed to go to school, get a job, marry, have children, a home, die. It's all very pre-ordained if you think about it and very few of us have the courage to run, and change the basic wiring. Interesting stuff, it really has me thinking about expectations.

The Marriage Plot: About the Book & Casting the Characters #book2movies

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
366 pages

Screen rights acquired by Scott Rudin late in 2011.
Directed by ?
Released ?

Updated 1/16/2018

About the Book:
This book, written by the writer of the Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, has been on a ton of Best of 2011 lists. And having heard this was going to be made into the film, I was eager to read it, eager to like it.
It starts out promisingly enough, three young people on the verge of  graduating from their ivy league school. A bright and beautiful young English major, Madeleine Hanna, who is working on her senior thesis vis a vis, Jane Austen, George Eliot and the "marriage plot" at the heart of many an old english novel.  The handsome, charismatic scientist Leonard that she becomes erotically and emotionally entangled with.  And Mitchell Grammaticus, thoughtful, sensitive, obsessed with Madeleine; looking for love and looking for God.  A perfect love triange. What's not to love.

I liked this book a lot. I didn't love it. Maybe I was in the mood for something less messy, less life-like, more escapist. A love story that resolves itself the way those 'marriage plot' books do.

Yes the road to true love is difficult and marred with obstacles but alls well that ends well.

But that's not The Marriage Plot.
Instead I was frustrated with these characters and Eugenides for giving them life. I really related to Madeleine but was irritated that she couldn't see what a great guy Mitchell was. And I was irritated with Mitchell; come on, I wanted to shout at him DO SOMETHING! But of course, she's attracted to Leonard who is completely self-absorbed and isn't that attractive? Mitchell takes off on a round the world spiritual quest, Madeleine and Leonard move in together.
I didn't enjoy reading about Leonard's downward spiral. I didn't enjoy the armchair trip I was forced to go on with Mitchell to India. I wished that Eugenides could have given me the pat romance I was looking for. Instead it was a complicated story of friendship, love, frustration, mental illness, spirituality, growth and self-awareness. The characters were very well drawn out, if anything too much so. I couldn't keep my distance from them; it was less like reading a book and more like listening to the lives of friends and family unraveling and you wish you could help but you can't. All you can do is shake your head in sympathy and cluck.

Producer Scott Rudin has acquired the film rights for the book. He doesn't shy away from difficult material - he is the producer behing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - and I'm curious to hear who will write the adaptation. And who to talk about in terms of casting. Perhaps because I just saw her at the Golden Globes, Shailene Woodley strikes me as a potential Madeleine although perhaps she's a bit young. (not anymore! 1/16/2018)Characters should be about 22 - 24. 

Have you read the book? I will have to think about it; but Joseph Gordon Levitt could be quite wonderful as Mitchell. In fact, Anna Kendrick, his love interest in 50-50 might make a good Madeleine too. Leonard, fiery, unpredictable, utterly dashing, a young Robert Downey Jr or Johnny Depp. Who is that? Where are our twenty something actors with real chops?

Interesting side note: Jeffrey Eugenides was asked about his Oscar picks. In that context he made a couple of interesting comments about the film adaptation of The Marriage Plot

"And recently the producer Scott Rudin bought “The Marriage Plot.” No director is attached, but if Mr. Eugenides had to choose from this year’s crop of nominees he’d go with Alexander Payne of “The Descendants,” which also happens to be his pick for the adapted-screenplay Oscar this year. “I think he would be good at the kind of quiet, humorous realism required for ‘The Marriage Plot,’” he said. “And I’m a huge fan of ‘Sideways.’”

Stones Adaptation of Savages Set for Summer Release

Universal must think they have a hot, hot property in Don Winslow's Savages. Mike Fleming reports in Deadline the studio has switched the planned September release to the sizzling summer season. The new release date is July 6, just days after Sony opens The Amazing Spider-Man on July 4 and quickly followed by Fox’s Ice Age sequel and Universal-distributed Seth MacFarlane-directed comedy Ted on July 13th and The Dark Knight Rises on July 17.

That's a lot of MEGA competition! Not a lot of time and space to make a dent; is Universal's confidence warranted? To compete with huge franchises like Spider Man and Batman, I would have thought you'd need mega stars which none of the stars involved is. Sorry, John Travolta, you used to be that kind of A-lister but not anymore. Is Oliver Stone as director enough or perhaps the material is really that enticing. I haven't read Winslow's best seller yet. Let me know if you have!
Perhaps the recently released picture of Benicio del Toro blowing pot smoke in Blake Lively's face will create a big enough buzz to keep interest burning until summer!?

"Scripted by Shane Salerno & Winslow & Stone, the film focuses on Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), two pot growers who refuse to knuckle under to a Mexican cartel and then have to find a way out after the cartel kidnaps the free-spirited girl they share (Blake Lively), who’ll be killed if the pot growers don’t capitulate and pay a huge ransom. They do it by ripping off the cartel’s shipments, a most dangerous game. The film also stars Benicio Del Toro, freshly Oscar-nominated Demian Bichir, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Emile Hirsch, Twilight Saga‘s Mia Maestro and Salma Hayek."
Simon & Schuster recently announced it would publish a prequel novel by Winslow to coincide with the film’s fall release.  It's not known if the publisher will move that prequel publication date to summer too.

The Thought of Taylor Swift in Les Miserables Makes Me Miserable!

Reading this article in the Guardian online; I realize I am rolling my eyes. No one is there to see me but I do it none the less! The article, which I'll post below, is about Colm Wilkinson who was Valjean and Frances Ruffelle who was Eponine in the original 1985 production joining Tom Hooper's current production.

Tom Hooper's forthcoming film adaptation of Les Misérables
 will unite original cast members and Hollywood stars.
Photograph: Alastair Muir/Rex Features
Original cast members from the musical Les Misérables are to be reunited in Tom Hooper's new film adaptation.
Frances Ruffelle and Colm Wilkinson, who created the roles of Eponine and Jean Valjean respectively in the 1985 production at the Barbican Centre, will play featured roles in the film, which starts rehearsals today and will be released in December. But they will not reprise their original roles: Hugh Jackman and Taylor Swift are set to do that.

Wilkinson will play the Bishop of Digne, from whom Valjean steals a number of valuable silver candlesticks, while Ruffelle, who is currently starring in Pippin at the Menier Chocolate Factory, will appear in the sequence built around the number Lovely Ladies, playing "the most fabulous whore", according to producer Cameron Mackintosh.

Wilkinson told the Daily Mail that the casting brings him "full circle."

Both cast members transferred with the original RSC production to Broadway two years later. During that run, Ruffelle won a Tony award for best featured actress in a musical and Wilkinson was nominated for best actor in a musical.

Other confirmed cast members in the forthcoming film include Russell Crowe as Javert, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as Thenardier and his wife and Anne Hathaway as Fantine. Birdsong star Eddie Redmayne will play Marius and Amanda Seyfried, Cosette.

In a separate development, it was revealed earlier this month that the original Les Mis cast will lose out on recording royalties because their contracts with the recording company have lapsed. After a dispute involving Equity, the actors' union, both sides are in the process of negotiating new contracts.

Les Mis celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010 with a concert at the O2 and a new production that returned to the Barbican Centre. The musical has been seen by more than 60 million people across 42 countries worldwide.

The reason I am rolling my eyes is the absolutely lazy casting job Hooper is doing. Taylor Swift as Eponine? Why? I'm sure with the magic of mixing, they'll be able to get the songs and the high notes out of her but again, why? Hooper has already loaded the Broadway classic with a plethora of big names; why the rush to throw a pop star in the mix? Is it merely to rake in a younger audience? I do wish he would give a young unknown a chance and I wonder if he's really explored the young women currently playing the part on stage. When I think of Swift, I just can't think of anything but Taylor Swift and dopey looking Taylor Lautner being silly in Valentine's Day. And I don't think I'm the only one. I think she brings a lot of unnecessary baggage to the production and the beloved role.
Yuck, Tom Hooper! You did such a lovely job with The King's Speech, I love this musical and really want it to be spectacular. If sh'e's not up to the task, I hope you'll find a way to sack her. If she is, kudos to you for seeing it!
What do you think of Taylor Swift as Eponine? Or the casting in general?

Neil Smith to Translate The Andalucian Friend

For all those interested in The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Soderberg I just learned that Neil Smith will be doing the Swedish to English translation. Note it won't be out until 2013 so we really need to cool our heels! Smith lives in Norfolk, does a ton of Swedish to English translations. I've tweeted him asking if he's seen anything from the book yet. Let's see if he responds at all. HIS extensive list of translation credits is at the bottom of this post. Among them is Linda, as in the Linda Murder; another upcoming film.

If you haven't heard, Soderberg is the latest in a string of Nordic crime writers gaining huge popularity worldwide. I guess it started with Stieg Larsson and his immensely popular Milennium trilogy. Currently Jo Nesbo is top gun, the screen rights to both Head Hunters and Snow Man have been acquired. Up to now, Soderberg has been a television script writer who has made a living adapting the work of writers like Camilla Lackberg for the tv screen. The Andalucian Friend seems to be his first foray into novels himself and he's had wild success, selling world rights as well as screen rights at the Berlin Book festival this past fall.

The Andalucian Friend is the first book in the series following Sophie, a Swedish nurse and single mother, who becomes involved in a conflict between two powerful crime syndicates and a group of corrupt police officers

Neil Smith who lives in Norfolk, England is a member of the Swedish English Literary Translators Association. His  translations include: Mons Kallentoft, 'Midwinter Sacrifice' (Hodder & Stoughton, 2011), Liza Marklund, 'The Bomber', 'Exposed' (Transworld, 2011), 'Red Wolf' (2010), Postcard Killers (Little, Brown, 2010); Ulf Nordfjell, 'Fourteen Gardens' (Frances Lincoln, 2010); Hjalmar Bergman, 'Memoirs of a Dead Man' (Norvik Press, 2007); Stefan Einhorn, 'The Art of Being Kind' (Little, Brown, 2006); Stig Björkman, 'Trier on Von Trier' (Faber & Faber, 2005); Alexander Bard & Jan Söderqvist, 'Netocracy: The New Power Elite and Life After Capitalism' (Reuters, 2002), 'The Global Empire' and 'The Body Machines' (ebooks); Ralph Edenheim, 'Skansen: Traditional Swedish Style' (Scala, 1999). Unpublished work includes film scripts and sample translations. Forthcoming: Liza Marklund, 'Paradise', 'Nobel's Last Will' and 'Lifetime' (Transworld, 2012); Mons Kallentoft, 'Summertime Death' (Hodder & Stoughton, 2012), 'Autumn Sonata' (2013); Leif G W Persson, 'He Who Kills the Dragon' (Transworld, 2012), 'Linda, As In the Linda Murder' (2013); Alexander Söderberg, 'The Andalucian Friend' (Harvill, 2013).

Book vs movie: One for the Money ISN'T Worth the Money!

Ouch. I had pretty low expectations for One for the Money but as low as they were, they weren't quite met.
And I'm not sure why.  I enjoyed the book, it was a fast, funny and fun read. I enjoyed seeing the divorced and newly unemployed Stephanie Plum rise to the occasion when it came to getting her man. I enjoyed seeing her get the best of Morelli, and I enjoyed the fact that at the end of the day, he came, in a way 'crawling back.' Besides all that, there was the threat of Benito Ramirez; the book was full of excitement and suspense.
And I was looking forward to the movie. I thought it would be just as much fun.
But the film just fell flat for me.  Heigl looked fine as Stephanie Plum, except for some awful skin that an equally awful makeup artist and cinematographer did nothing to disguise. But she did little beyond a half-hearted attempt at a New Jersey accent - the credits include two dialect coaches, no less - to conjure up a real person out of Janet Evanovich's very popular fictional character. Instead of being royally pissed and feeling justified about bringing Morelli in, Heigl's Stephanie vacillated between cutesy flirtation and vapid exasperation.  Jason O'Mara's Morelli, on the other hand, was surprisingly good. And real. It was like he and Heigl were in two different movies. 
Evanovich's truly terrifying Benito Ramirez character was chopped to nothing; such a shame to do that,  not only to the actor, Gavin Keith-Umeh, but also to the storyline. There was so little left in the way of threats and obstacles, it was almost laughable.
What happened?  Why was the pacing so off? Where was the chemistry? Who filled the story with such stilly over the top dialogue?
The director, Julie Ann Robinson has done mostly episodic television including a half dozen episodes of Greys Anatomy. That presumably is how she and Katherine came to know each other; she could have served that friendship better by pushing Heigl more, getting to the truth and thus the very real humor in the situation.
The trouble may have begun though, with the writing; it usually does, right? Given the source material is well done - (while it's not Shakespeare, milions of Evanovich's fans would say the book is both funny and well done) it may indeed be the trio of female writers that started it all. Lix Brixius has been nominated for her work on Nurse Jackie. A talent she sure didn't bring to this project. This is Karen Ray's first screenplay, period. And Stacy Sherman is best known for a documentary she co-wrote.
Ladies, including Heigl who is credited as a producer, you should all be ashamed of yourselves!
While most of the characters are weak and stereotypical, the female characters in particular are more caricature than character.
Heigl is left to flail around foolishly. With the exception of learning to shoot by the end of the movie, she barely seems to grow. Even Sherry Shepherd's character has a bigger arc - as Lula the hooker, she gets to move off the streets and into Cousin Vinnie's office as staff!  Ana Reeder as Connie is the wisecracking secretary. Debbie Reynold's the crazy, loud-mouthed grandma. Debra Monk the mother frantically trying to get her daughter paired up. I can just picture them watching the dailies and thinking it was all so hysterical when in reality it is all just so dreary.
Honestly, I can't be bothered to try to analyze this any more thoroughly; it just doesn't seem worth the effort.
One for the Money aka None for the Money aka Not Worth the Money aka Save Your Money. You get the picture.

Don't forget to enter the Give Away for One for the Money book.

Only a couple more days to enter the One for The Money Giveaway! ENTER NOW! to win a free copy of Janet Evanovich's best seller.
We were supposed to see the just released movie starring Katherine Heigl yesterday but once again my work interfered! Ah, the nerve.
Anyway, hoping to get to the theatre over the weekend.
I'm looking forward to seeing it because I dont expect it to be anything but good, fun entertainment. I don't expect to go home and think or feel about it. I don't expect it to have any impact on my life except for a couple of hours of sheer escapist entertainment.
And that's fine with me.
I have seen so many amazing movies this year, movies that touched my heart, films that nudged my brain.  Sometimes a movie that asks you to do nothing more than sit in the theatre, sit back and have a good time is exactly what I need. I think the biggest question this movie will ask me is whether Katherine Heigl is right for the role of Stephanie Plum and whether Jason O Mara is cute and sexy enough to be Morelli.
What's your favorite escapist entertainment movie?

Screen Adaptation of Shadow Dancer at Sundance

Not to be outdone by all the films based on books getting Oscar buzz, there's at least one book to read before you see the movie which just premiered at this years Sundance.
Shadow Dancer, set primarily in the Belfast of the early 1990's, was adapted for the screen by the book's novelist, Tom Bradby. Bradby, used his real life experience as a former news correspondent in Northern Ireland to pen the book in 1998. His first, Bradby has written six novels in total. Part of the excitement surrounding the film, is that it comes on the heels of the acclaimed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - a film about MI5 that's not Bond-related has some people hoping the genre may enjoy a new upswing in popularity.
In Shadow Dancer, Colette McVeigh, played by Andrea Riseborough, whose entire family has always been involved in the IRA,  is forced to be an informer for MI5 in order to stay out of prison ... and stay in the lives of her children.
Her MI5 handler, David Ryan in the book, Mac in the movie is played by Clive Owen. Gillian Anderson - yes, that X-files Gillian Anderson is Mac's supervisor.
James Marsh, best known for his riveting documentary, Man on a Wire, directed.
Read an interview with Andrea Riseborough at Indie wire.
Read the Shadow Dancer at Sundance review for more about the movie.

The question this Oscar season is Have you read the book?

USA TODAY has an article out today with the headline

"It's movie awards season, and the trending question isn't "Have you seen the movie?" — it's "Have you
 read the book?"

THANKS USA TODAY! I couldn't have said it better myself.
Read the full article here
I love the fact that when a book is made into a movie - and does well - more people end up reading the book. Even when the movie isn't particularly faithful to the book!
I recently read somewhere that when asked how he felt about "Hollywood ruining his books", Raymond Chandler showed the interviewer into his study, and pointed to his books on a shelf. He said something like (I'm paraphrasing here because I'm too lazy to go and find the quote) 'There they are right there. They're not ruined.'
Actually, while that's witty, I think it makes an important, if obvious, point. Books and movies are two very different art forms. And while, we book lovers tend to feel very protective about what Hollywood does with our favorite books ... I do anyway ... we need to keep that difference in mind. And try to judge it in that light.
I'm trying to remember to ask myself how a film speaks to me as a work of art on its own terms. And to remember that the way a novelist puts his characters, their thoughts, that fetching description of the town, the back story, etc on paper is miles away from how a filmmaker shows his story on the screen.
And even if they royally screw it up - like they screwed up Hunter S. Thompson's The Rum Diary - it's the film they screwed up, not the book. Like Raymond Chandler said, the book is still there, on the shelf.
Even when that shelf is on your Nook or your Kindle!

Lynne Ramsay talks about adapting We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay and Tilda Swinton
You simply have to read the interview in Word and Film with We Need To Talk About Kevin director and co-screenwriter, Lynne Ramsay. She's a fiery Scotts woman who was fired from The Lovely Bones. If you saw the movie, you know how that turned out.
(Peter Jackson ultimately directed. Ryan Gosling was signed to play the father until he showed up on set on day one, about 30 pounds overweight. Not what Jackson wanted at all so Gosling was sacked and Mark Wahlberg hired for the part.)

Adapting books is total bullshit, man,” is how writer and director Lynne Ramsay attacks the problem of fashioning a cogent and compelling film from Lionel Shriver’s fairly unadaptable, prize-wining 2003 novel We Need to Talk About Kevin. The book chronicles a Columbine-type high school massacre through a series of letters written by the shooter’s mom, exquisitely wrought in Ramsay’s film by Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton"
Read the rest of the story at Lynne Ramsay in Word and Film.  It's so refreshing to hear someone tell it like it is!  This book by Lionel Shriver was brilliant and disturbing and I just have to see the film!

Watch the trailer!  It's the U.K. version, by the way.

Certain Prey Airs Again!

Updated 1/25/2012
Certain Prey fans will have to wait a couple of months for the next showing of the popular USA network movie. The next time you can see Mark Harmon as Lucas Davenport is March 23, 2012 at 2am on the USA channel in your area.
Here's a link to show and cast info

Certain Prey aired again at 2am on January 8th. I see nothing on the schedule for the rest of January of February!
 Mark Harmon fans - me, me, me - can relax! If you missed Certain Prey starring Mark Harmon as Lucas Davenport when it debuted on the USA network this past Sunday, never fear. Certain Prey will air again (I knew it would) this month on November 19th at 11pm. Then again on December 3 at 1pm and December 4 at 10am. And just added* For you early risers, December 5th at 8am. And for the night owls, December 21st at 12am I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief!
Lola Gaudini formerly of Criminal Minds, also stars as Carmel Loan, a high-powered attorney and Tatiana Maslany as hit woman Clara Rinker. 
The story in a nutshell: Davenport is called in to investigate the murder of the wife of a rich real estate lawyer. The police target the husband as the prime suspect until a team of FBI agents ("feebs" as Davenport calls them) descends on Minneapolis with evidence linking the crime to elusive hit woman Clara Rinker   Davenport suspects that Clara is working with a partner and sets his sights on Carmel Loan who seems to have an  obsession for the real estate lawyer. The beautiful killers kick up the action and the body count as Davenport works the crime in his usual unorthodox but inexorable way.
Did you watch Certain Prey when it aired last Sunday? I'm dying to know how it was. What do you think - was Mark Harmon good as Lucas Davenport? PLEASE let me know what you think!

Certain Prey starring Tatiana Maslany and Mark Harmon available to stream

Tatiana Maslany
as Clara Rinker
UPDATED: 10/3/2017

New Tatiana Maslany fan? 
Certain Prey starring Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black & the upcoming Stronger with Jake Gyllenhaal) and the ever popular Mark Harmon is available to stream on Amazon, YouTube, Vudu, GooglePlay and iTunes. 

Reposted the rest of this info - originally posted back in November 2012 - because sooooo many of you are John Sandford fans and keep wanting to know when Certain Prey will air again. 

Here's USA's description of the show...

JOHN SANDFORD'S CERTAIN PREY centers on Lucas Davenport (Harmon), the Deputy Chief of Police for the city of Minneapolis. Davenport doesn't need his job; he could have retired long ago with the money he made designing computer simulations. But Davenport loves what he does just as much as he loves nice suits, fast cars and women. When a cop is shot after witnessing the murder of the wife of a local real estate lawyer, Davenport is called to the scene. The cops quickly zero in on the husband as the prime suspect until a team of FBI agents (or "feebs" as Davenport describes them) descends on Minneapolis with evidence linking the crime to elusive hit woman Clara Rinker (Tatiana Maslany). Taking charge of the investigation, Davenport suspects that Clara is not working alone and sets his sights on Carmel Loan (Lola Glaudini), a high-powered attorney with an intense obsession for the real estate lawyer. As Carmel and Clara try to cover up their crimes, the body count grows and Davenport does what he does best -- break all of the rules to nab this deadly duo.

Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay ... and the rest of the story

The Oscar nominations are up! For Best Screenplay Adaptation the nominees are: The Descendants (2011): Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Hugo (2011/II): John Logan
That has got to be a tough vote. All five films were excellent! I'm a little surprised that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close didn't even get a nomination in this category. I saw the film last night with a group of  seven women. I'm the only one who had actually read the book and thought Frears did an amazing job of culling down this difficult material. BUT since half my friends didn't care for the film, calling it slow, and contrived, I guess it's not that hard to understand why but it did get a Best Picture nomination so I'm confused.

I think the main reason Ides of March was nominated is the George Clooney factor. An excellent film to be sure but best adapted screenplay out of the over two dozen qualified films based on books alone, not to mention those based on plays, as Ides of March was???? I loved Hugo, Tinker, and The Descendants but I'm betting on Moneyball. Sorkin won last year for The Social Network, and has an industry reputation for crisp writing from his West Wing years.

The Best Picture nominees are The Artist, The Descendants , Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close , The HelpHugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life and War Horse.  I've seen everything except Tree of Life and War Horse and I'm still leaning towards Hugo.

For the rest of the nominees IMDB has the full list here.
And The Hollywood Reporter has some "factoids" and analysis here. I'm still absorbing and processing.
What Say You?

Being Flynn IS Another Bullshit Night in Suck CIty and it comes out Friday

UPDATE: February 28, 2012
The movie Being Flynn  comes out in just four theatres this Friday! Two here in L.A., the Arc Light on Sunset (the former Cinerama Dome) and the Landmark on Pico plus two in New York, AMC's Lincoln Square 12 and the Landmark Sunshine Cinema 5 on Houston.
I seriously hope it gets out to a wider swathe of the country! The film is based on the book Another Bullshit Night In Suck City  but the book is now being re-released as Being Flynn.  Visit the Focus Films site to get on their list; hopefully you'll get notified when the movie will be playing in your town or a town near you!
Aaaack! I hate it when I get things wrong! I posted previously about the film Being Flynn by Nick Flynn being based on the as yet unpublished memoir of the same name. WRONG WRONG WRONG! The film is based on his memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. They are releasing the movie tie in version, to coincide with the movie ... which they are renaming Being Flynn in April. Which means you don't have to wait until it comes out to read it, you can read it now, as originally titled. It's in paperback at $14.95 at Barnes and Noble, $5 in their 'marketplace' or on the Nook for $14.37
The movie stars Paul Dano as Nick Flynn, Robert DeNiro as his father, Julianne Moore as his mother. Check out their Facebook page and watch this amazing trailer.

Rainy Days and Mondays and a new movie based on a book coming

Ugh! Monday and it's raining like crazy here in sunny California. That's a double header of pure gloom. A great day to curl up with a book or catch a movie (especially one based on a book) but I'm tied up with work. I am however, looking forward to seeing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close tonight. I am going with my unofficial movie club - a bunch of great women friends who will be completely sympatico if the sobs get too loud!
If you're a Harlan Coben fan then you have things to look forward too. His new book, Stay Close, comes out on March 20th and Deadline reports that Lawrence Kasdan and Coben are teaming up on a script adaptation which Kasdan would direct. Usually a studio acquires a script then hires the screenwriter and director but they're doing it a little differently since so far only one of Coben's best selling novels has actually made it to the screen!  That was Tell No One back in 2006 which was made in France, presumably in French. Ben Affleck has reportedly been attached to direct an English remake for a 2014 release date but so far there's been no action there.
 Here's what Lawrence Kasdan, a master best known for Body Heat and The Big Chill says about it:
“Harlan and I met at a conference organized by Jeff Bezos, and we just hit it off,” Kasdan said. “I’d read a couple of his books, and after asking him why they hadn’t been made into his movies, he told me his tale of woe, of having everything optioned and developed to death. We agreed to look through his stuff, and he said, I just finished a book today, do you want to read it? I think it’s the most adaptable of his books, with a tight plot and strong characters. We’ll have the script ready by March, and at that point we’ll see who salutes. When you boil Harlan’s fiction to its core, it’s intensity, momentum and tension and this will be a medium budget sexy and violent film.”

Take a look at Tell No One. Looks pretty sexy to me. Also frightening...

Reading the description of Stay Close on Barnes and Noble sounds like it could be just as exciting!

Megan is a suburban soccer mom who once upon a time walked on the wild side. Now she's got two kids, a perfect husband, a picket fence, and a growing sense of dissatisfaction. Ray used to be a talented documentary photographer, but at age forty he finds himself in a dead- end job posing as a paparazzo pandering to celebrity-obsessed rich kids. Jack is a detective who can't let go of a cold case-a local husband and father disappeared seventeen years ago, and Jack spends the anniversary every year visiting a house frozen in time, the missing man's family still waiting, his slippers left by the recliner as if he might show up any moment to step into them.
Three people living lives they never wanted, hiding secrets that even those closest to them would never suspect, will find that the past doesn't recede. Even as the terrible consequences of long-ago events crash together in the present and threaten to ruin lives, they will come to the startling realization that they may not want to forget the past at all. And as each confronts the dark side of the American Dream- the boredom of a nice suburban life, the excitement of temptation, the desperation and hunger that can lurk behind even the prettiest facades- they will discover the hard truth that the line between one kind of life and another can be as whisper-thin as a heartbeat.

Sunday Snippets: A very surprising Sherlock Holmes!

I know everyone is talking about Downton Abbey on PBS but my son suggested I might enjoy the British series Sherlock instead. Currently Netflix has the first 3 episodes available on instant streaming so Mark and I checked it out. Episodes are also scheduled to air today, as well as January 29th.
WOW! Bloody brilliant. Dead brilliant. Smashing.  Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) is Sherlock Holmes in this fresh, funny and contemporary adaptation. Martin Freeman - he was Tim in the original British series The Office, Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and is Bilbo in the upcoming Hobbit films- is Dr. John Watson. He's newly returned from serving in Afghanistan and has a 'psychosomatic' limp. The chemistry between the two characters is sparkling; Holmes is the self-obsessed mad genius; Watson is the solid, sensible sidekick. While constantly irritated by Holmes complete desregard for anyone and everything, Watson is blown away by Holme's mad skills...as are we.
It is just delightful how they've updated the original; while Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Dr. Watson wrote up Holme's adventures in The Gazette, this Watson has a blog. Where Holmes would say "Elementary, my dear Watson" and indulge in a pipe to help him think, this Holmes says "Obviously" and calls Watson, John, and wears 3 nicotine patches at a time. Cell phones, text messages, gps all figure largely and they all work. Watch the first episode A Study in Pink (the original was A Study in Scarlet). It had us grinning ear to ear.
We own several collections of Sherlock Holme's stories; Mark, my resident Conan Doyle expert thought this televised version were the best screen adapatations he'd ever seen. I've seen plenty myself and have to agree. The music is amazing. The production design is as well; you can't miss the outstanding wallpaper! The trailer should give you an idea but really watch an episode and you'll be hooked. Have you seen it? Do you love it too?

Don't forget to enter my Giveway contest to win a free ONE FOR THE MONEY book. Katherine Heigl is Stephanie Plum in the film version coming out on the 27th of this month.

Movies based on books: My take

If you've visited my blog before, you know I'm interested in everything related to books that have been - or are being - made into movies. The casting of the stars, the screenwriters, the directors, the composers, the novels and the novelists. The whole shebang.
I also blog about what I think about those films. Up to now I guess I haven't been very organized about it; I see a movie, write out what I think and post it. Often I call my blurb My Take on ... because I get a little squeamish about calling what I write a "review". That's sounds so official, so professional. It's just my opinion, which honestly, is no better or worse than yours. Be that as it may, if you are curious as to what I think about a particular movie, I've gathered them on one page which I'll add to as I go along.
I'm calling it My Take: Movie Reviews.    Pretty creative, eh? Anyway, if you are interested you can visit the My Take: Movie Reviews over in the sidebar on the left. You'll see a list of clickable links.
Thanks for checking it out and thanks for reading my blog!

CONTEST! One for the Money Book Give Away!

Welcome to my first ever Friday Free Day Give Away!

the winner of my first ever give away! 
LadyTink (I hope to learn her real name soon) has won a copy of Janet Evanovich's One for the Money. A book I recommend seeing vs the movie which I could take or leave!

I'm very excited to offer you a chance to win a free copy of One for the Money by Janet Evanovich, the movie tie in edition!  The movie opens here in the states on January 27th.

Entering is easy... here's how.
~ Leave a comment telling me what you think of Katherine Heigl playing Stephanie Plum. If you haven't read any of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels tell me who your favorite book-to-movie heroine is!
~ Entries are open to everyone BUT you may enter only once.
~ All entries must be received by midnight PST, January 31, 2012.
~ I will draw the winner on February 1st.
Then  I will contact the winner for his or her mailing info, so I can get the book to you. Good luck!
Visit Janet Evanovich's site for more about the book and the movie.

The Age of Miracles headed for the big screen

Add it to my TBR list! Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles was acquired by several international book publishing companies last spring in major bidding wars. In the U.S. Doubleday paid a million bucks for it, in the U.K., Simon and Shuster paid 500,000 pounds. Doubleday has it in Canada. The book will be published on June 21st, 2012 according to this article in The Guardian.

But hold on .... according to Word and Film River Road Entertainment has already acquired the screen rights. River Road is the production company behind this year's acclaimed Tree of Life film as well as Brokeback Mountain and Into the Wild (what a story!) among others.
All this for a novel that Walker wrote in part on her subway ride to and from work. JK Rowling move over!
Here's the blurb for the upcoming book
"On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues."
So remember, June 21st. Save the date!
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