> Chapter1-Take1: August 2014

A Most Wanted Man starring Philip Seymour Hoffman: Anatomy of a Scene via The New York Times

I finally saw A Most Wanted Man starring Philip Seymour Hoffman in what would turn out to be his final role. What an amazing finale for a lifetime of powerful performances. My son Russell and I saw the film together - it was a sold-out Saturday matinee which is fairly remarkable when you consider the movie has been out for a solid month - and we both came away with similar feelings. It was an extremely taut and gripping film worthy of a posthumous Oscar nod to the great Hoffman but the handheld camera use was often too intrusive. Employed by the director to help create intimacy and tension, there were moments when I felt a little physically ill. 

For today's Sunday Slacker post I've snagged the New York Times 'Anatomy of a Scene' video where the director Anton Corbijn talks about the use of the handheld camera throughout. I'll work on getting my thoughts down after the holiday weekend; in the meantime here are the director's thoughts on the chase scene from the film. Enjoy!


Al Pacino loses his magic in The Humbling based on Philip Roth's novel #book2movies

UPDATE: 10/20/2014 ... the trailer has landed, scroll down to watch. In the words of Scott Myers at Go Into the Story, it's ACIDULOUS!

Ooof! Did Philip Roth write this novel so it could be adapted as a tour de force role for Al Pacino? Age brings a certain amount of 'humbling' for all of us but the idea of seeing Pacino as Simon Axler is especially potent. Check out the way the character is described in the overview of the book, below.

Everything is over for Simon Axler, the protagonist of Philip Roth's startling new book. One of the leading American stage actors of his generation, now in his sixties, he has lost his magic, his talent, and his assurance. His Falstaff and Peer Gynt and Vanya, all his great roles, "are melted into air, into thin air." When he goes onstage he feels like a lunatic and looks like an idiot. His confidence in his powers has drained away; he imagines people laughing at him; he can no longer pretend to be someone else. "Something fundamental has vanished." His wife has gone, his audience has left him, his agent can't persuade him to make a comeback.
Into this shattering account of inexplicable and terrifying self-evacuation bursts a counterplot of unusual erotic desire, a consolation for a bereft life so risky and aberrant that it points not toward comfort and gratification but to a yet darker and more shocking end. In this long day's journey into night, told with Roth s inimitable urgency, bravura, and gravity, all the ways that we convince ourselves of our solidity, all our life's performances talent, love, sex, hope, energy, reputation are stripped off.
Buck Henry and Michal Zebede wrote the screenplay while Barry Levinson directed what Scott Foundas in Variety calls a 'quirky take' on Roth's novel. 
"Fronted by a vibrant, deeply committed Al Pacino performance and very fine support from Greta Gerwig, this uneven but captivating film deserves to find its own audience, though doing so will surely prove to be an uphill climb."
Foundas makes the point that The Humbling - [just the title is enough to make me sigh with sympathy] like Birdman does for Michael Keaton - rings true in a very Meta way.

Sounds like my kind of movie, the only problem being that besides the debut at the Venice Film Festival, and an appearance at TIFF next month, the film doesn't seem to have a regular release date yet. In addition to Pacino and Greta Gerwig, the cast includes Kyra Sedgewick, Dianne Wiest, Dan Hedaya and Charles Grodin.

Wouldn't you love to take a peek at the trailer? Me too but it hasn't been made public yet. And here it is!

The Drop starring James Gandolfini and Tom Hardy is based on Dennis Lehane's short story Animal Rescue

You can't miss the commercials for The Drop but I completely missed the fact that the film was based on a book. Okay, not exactly a book, but a piece of fiction. A short story by  Dennis Lehane who wrote the script based on his own Animal Rescue which appears in the Dennis Lehane edited collection Boston Noir. 

And don't be confused by the sudden appearance of The Drop in your local bookstore. It's not a new novel from Lehane, it's a novelization based on the film. The whole concept of novelizations isn't one I care much for but I suppose if it's the author novelizing a screenplay based on his own short story it doesn't quite reach the same level of ticky tack. But really, Mister Lehane, you need the additional bucks that badly??

The movie hits your local theater September 12. While The Drop has a terrific cast including Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Mattias Schoenhart, the movie is also notable because it's James Gandolfini's final film. (I'm saddened at just how often I've had to write similar sentences this past year)

Here's the story:
Bob Saginowski finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood's past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living - no matter the cost.

Frankly I don't quite get the comparisons some make between Hardy and the legendary Marlon Brando. I see the physical similarities, of course - the thick, sensual lips, the strong nose, the bulky physique; and the character here is the same lower working class type played by Brando as Terry in Elia Kazan's masterpiece On the Waterfront, but while Hardy is talented, I'm not at all ready to crown him the greatest actor of all time, a claim many aficionados make about Brando. 

Here's the trailer, take a lookey loo. 

The Emmy Awards: Sexism isn't Gone Girl

Did you watch the Emmy's? Well that's three hours of your life, gone. There were a few laughs - Lena Dunham's ridiculous outfit - and a few tears - this year's In Memoriam including Billy Crystal's extremely moving tribute to Robin Williams and a bit of controversy swirling around the blatantly sexist use of Sofia Vergara spinning on a pedestal as the television academy president droned on about something. The idea being that they always give the viewer 'something compelling to watch.' Sigh.

The way I see it, putting the cartoonish Modern Family actress with the Jessica Rabbit body on display for us to stare at instead of the boring non-star (clearly, if you're not an actor we can't be expected to watch little, old, boring you) was at least an out in the open, tongue-in-cheek display of the type of sexual exploitation that's a day-in, day-out part of television, film and our modern culture, in which many of today's young women seem to be complicit  Did you see the VMA awards? I didn't but I did see snaps of the female artists dressed in practically nothing pushing their booties in the air. That's their right, but we do have something to offer in addition to tits and ass, don't we? Nothing new about it, sex sells. 

Was it hilarious? Not really. Would the bit have worked if instead of Vergara, there was a gorgeous male actor twirling around and around, flexing his muscles, coyly drawing attention to his genitals?  My answer is a resounding yes! Can we turn this around with a bit of reverse sexism? Which male star would you put up on the pedestal? 

Anyway, speaking of three hours of your life being gone, did you catch the latest Gone Girl TV spot? That's what I really wanted to share with you and here it is, with a fresh take on the beginnings of their romance. 

Gone Girl, based on Gillian Flynn's thriller, directed by David Fincher and starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris and Scoot McNairy opens October 3. 

Martin Scorsese and Dennis Lehane bringing Shutter Island prequel to HBO

TV just keeps getting better and better. I woke up this morning to read the news that Martin Scorsese, Dennis Lehane and Paramount are teaming up to bring a series based on the film Shutter Island to HBO. 

The series is tentatively titled Ashecliffe, the name of the mental institution creepily located on that isolated island location. Scorsese would serve as one of the exec producers as well as directing the pilot episode, thereby shaping the series which predates the action of the movie. So you can stop your fantasizing about seeing Leo and Mark Ruffalo on your flatscreen every week. Sigh. Instead the prequel's focus would be on the hospital's past and all the misdeeds perpetuated on the mentally ill patients by the founders and staff. The head of Paramount's TV division, Amy Powell, apparently came up with the idea and brought it to Scorsese and the producers of the film Shutter Island and they brought in author Dennis Lehane who enthusiastically agreed to pen the script!

The whole thing sounds good to me with WHEN? being the only question. Because supposedly Scorsese is first - and finally - going to make his long-awaited passion project, the adaptation of Shusako Endo's Silence. That's also a Paramount project with production slated to begin early in 2015 in Taiwan. We've been talking about Silence for such a long time; hard to believe it's really happening.

Gayle Forman on the Movie Adaptation of If I Stay

I posted the prologue trailer for If I Stay, the movie based on Gayle Forman's tearjerker back in June, and that's been about it for me on the subject.

I know this is awful of me but I've been seeing tweets from the movie's female lead, Chloe Grace Moretz, commanding her followers to 'Go see @IfIStay in theaters now and tweet me your reactions!!!" No 'please' involved. I guess I am an old-fashioned grinch and that self-promoting stuff just ticks me off. 

But who am I kidding, I wasn't going to see it anyway. It's not about whether it's a bad or good movie although I did see a comparison to The Fault in Our Stars with the reviewer saying stars Chloe Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley are no Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. And frankly I'm thrilled that Hollywood is finally realizing that females can be a driving force at the box office but at my age it starts to feel creepy going to the movies and seeing teenage love stories. What can I tell you? I'm old and I prefer material geared to slightly older concerns. The love story element in The Hundred Foot Journey for example; the couple was younger - granted they weren't teenagers - but there was more going on than just their love story. There was an entire world going on in that film. I know, I know. Her whole family dies in If I Stay and then there's the whole aspirational aspect of the film about the cellist striving to get into Juilliard. I know. Not having read the book, or planning on seeing the movie, If I Stay seems just a bit too young for me, and too schmaltzy even for me, lover of a good cry that I am. Anyway, I'm not going to belabor the point but I'm just not that interested. 

Instead I offer you this interview with Forman and Sona Charaipotra at Parade. Best I can do. The trailer is at the bottom of the page. 

If you need a good cry this weekend, you’re in luck. Today marks the opening of the big screen adaptation of Gayle Forman’s cathartic tearjerker of a YA novel, If I Stay. And definitely bring the tissues: The film—which stars Chloe Grace Moretz and heartthrob-in-training Jamie Blackley—is a two-box affair.

We caught up with Forman to talk about the adaptation, playing producer, parents in YA, and, of course, what she’ll be working on next.

I read on your Twitter feed that your daughter is reading the book now. How weird is that?
I mean, she knows the story so well and she’s seen the movie preview so many times that she actually had it memorized—like down to the music. She’ll hum the cello bits and then start singing. So I’m not concerned really, not even about the sexy bits. But the family stuff worries me a bit. It’s going to be sad. It’s going to be hard. We’re all going to go see it together—we’re going out to California to visit grandparents, and on that last Sunday, we’ll all go see it together. And there will be crying.

Well, I have to tell you I sobbed during the movie.
You are not alone. There’s all these forty-something men who are like, “You know this movie’s not for me.” And then they come out and they’re like, “Okay, I cried.” Thank you for that admission, and you’re not the only one. Don’t worry about it.

Is it the same kind of visceral experience for you, seeing it come to life like that? Are you crying at the same moments everyone else is crying at?
I cry at all kinds of different moments. I can hear the sniffles, and I think I cry at those points. But I have a personal connection to the story, so I cry at little things that hit me. The leather jacket that Joshua Leonard wears in parts of the film—it actually belongs to the person on whom his character is based. So I see that and I cry. I cried during that scene every time early on when his character, the dad, is watching a young Mia play cello and she’s really horrible in the beginning. Just that little moment where he’s transforming his life for his child. It’s so quiet and beautiful.

The book is based on a remembrance of people you know. How did it come about?
Their accident had happened many years before—and I had no intention of writing about it. There were these friends of ours, a family, in a car accident a lot like the one in the book. And one of the children lived longer than the rest of his family. He was medevaced, and he lived for a bit. I loved this little boy, and I just always wondered. The thought of him alone, in that medical chopper, played over and over in my head. I kept thinking: did he know that the rest of his family was gone? And did he choose to go with them? That was part of my grieving process. But it’s not a question I could ever really answer. And seven years later, I woke up one morning—and at this point I’m not thinking about them every day, the hurt kind of softened as the loss became integrated into my life. But I woke up one morning, and there was this character in my head, and she was 17, this old soul, she played cello and had this worldly wisdom about her. And I knew she was going to answer that question, but in a way that it pertained to her. So some of the characters are based on bits and pieces of my friends—the family dynamic, the setup of the accident.

This is one of the few YA books recently where the parents are very present. A lot of the time parents are just MIA.
Maybe it’s because I’m a parent and I started writing YA after becoming a parent. But I also identify as a teenager. So I live in that dual Gemini role. Maybe that’s why I refuse to shove the parents off the page. But also, when you’re a teenager, who’s a bigger part of your life than your parents? They’re a huge part of your life, even if you can’t stand them. It’s like, “I hate you, go away. But first can you drive me to the mall?” That’s not Mia’s relationship with her parents, but as a teenager, you so define yourself against your parents. And I like having the parents in the story.

On this adaptation, you were an executive producer. How would you define that role? It seems to be shifting these days—with the writer getting more respect and input.
John Green was on the set of The Fault In Our Stars the entire time, which is amazing! Wouldn’t you want John Green on set the entire time? John Green can come hang on the set of my movie the entire time! It was so beyond my expectations. I thought I’d be lucky to get to go to the premiere. But I couldn’t believe it was actually happening, for the longest time. It took so long to get off the ground. But then the screenwriter got in touch, and the producer reached out. And when it landed in RJ Cutler, the director’s lap, that was the critical moment. I kind of knew immediately that he was the one. Not to make it sound too grandiose, but he was the right person to make the film. And at that point, it felt real, like it was actually going to get made. And it turned out to be true. I had such immediate trust in him, and I was kind of able to let go. But then he was interested in being collaborative—so that’s when I came on as an executive producer. It’s just the nature of how RJ and the producer, Alison, worked. They were collaborative.

With E. Lockhart and Rainbow Rowell penning scripts for their adaptations, do you think there’s a shift in the way people view the writer?
I do think there is a shift. You see it with books that really have a passionate following. It’s not like they want the writer to come in and tell them how to make the film. Most writers have no idea how to make a film. It’s a totally different skill set. Nor is it just to translate exactly what’s on the page directly on to the screen—because that would be terrible. It would be five hours long and the structure would be a mess. But the writers know the characters and the story. With film, you’re making a different thing, and telling its own emotional truth. But the great thing about having the book is, it’s like a focus group: we know what people really love, the characters or lines that the fans really feel strongly about. But the book and the film are two different animals. The readership is so passionate and so invested, it’s important to make sure the spirit remains intact—and that’s where the writer comes in. Filmmakers are definitely thinking about the readers—but they’re also thinking about the piece of work that they’re making, and the emotional truths. That’s what we hope will translate, the spirit of it.

So what’s next for you?
I’m in crazytown in my life right now. I have a new book coming out in January called I Was Here. I’m bringing the page proofs with me on the plane. And in the fall, whatever’s next will start to percolate.

A lot of times when a book is so successful, people chime in with the words “overnight success.” But that’s not you. Can you talk about that a bit?
People often call If I Stay my baby novel, and I have to correct them. It’s not my first book. It’s just the first one anybody paid attention to. My first YA novel, not many people have read. It’s a fickle business. There’s a degree of timing and luck involved. This book has been out since 2009, and now it’s reaching this huge audience. I’m glad it has really connected with people.

Does that level of success change the level of pressure you feel with each new book?
I did feel a lot of pressure right after If I Stay, and I wasn’t even planning to write Where She Went. I was planning to write this whole other book. But Adam and Mia kept waking me up in the middle of the night and saying, “Where have you left us?” And I kept thinking about where I had abandoned them. They had a sad couple of years ahead of them, which is why I skipped ahead three years. Writing Where She Went, I felt a lot of pressure. People wanted to know what happened. And they had their own ideas, too. So I felt a big responsibility. I get all these emails asking if I’m going to write a third one. I’m not. I’m happy with where it ended. I’m happy where they are. They’re happy where they are. We’re done.

Will we see a movie version of Where She Went?
Nothing at the moment. Ask me again next week! I might have a different answer!

This Is Where I Leave You: My take on the book behind the movie starring Jane Fonda & Jason Bateman #book2movie

I adored this book and quoted it constantly to my husband. "You've got to hear this!" So I was very very happy, one, that it was going to be made into a movie, and two, who was going to be playing the Foxman clan in that movie. Actually they've changed the family name from Foxman to Altman for the big screen version of the story about a family coming together when their father dies for the traditional week long mourning period known as sitting Shiva. 

Sad stuff, right? Nope. It's hilarious. 

Tropper's characters are a crazy gathering of siblings who each bring their own baggage, plenty of their own baggage, into their parents' house. Their mother - Jane Fonda plays Hilary, the widow - is a celebrity childcare expert trying to honor her dead husband's final wishes. She's got a secret but it's not her massive boob job; to her kids' embarrassment, she rocks her new breasts with abandon. Judd, the eldest son (Jason Bateman) has a secret too, he's just been ditched by his wife in favor of his boss (Dax Shepard) while Wendy (Tina Fey) is the snarky and unhappily married sister who still feels something for her old neighborhood boyfriend, the brain-damaged Horry, played by Timothy Olyphant. Adam Driver is Phillip, the irresponsible and bratty baby brother who is desperately trying not to grow up; he's dating an older woman (Connie Britten) who allows him to treat her like shit. And then there's Paul, played by Corey Stoll, he was the congressman who got bumped off in House of Cards and Hemmingway in Midnight in Paris. Paul is married to Alice (Katherine Hahn) and the two just can not get pregnant. What Alice does out of her desperation to conceive is on the kookalooka side but hey, her biological clock was clearly ticking wildly. 

And then there's Penny, the woman Bateman --er, Foxman - crushed on back in high school. Rose Byrne is Penny in the film and based on the tv spot, I'm a little wary about how that relationship is handled. The book was NOT a lightweight rom-com; if I had to label it I'd call it a dramedy, a funny, poignant and insightful look at a dysfunctional family trying to hide their flaws and frailties from each other - and themselves - while still struggling to find their grown-up selves and their place in the world. I am a teensy bit worried that what I see in the tv spot [posted separately] spends too much of its capital on the Judd/Penny storyline, although it is Judd's arc we follow most closely.
That being said, I loved Tropper's novel and highly recommend it. I loved it so much I lent it to my bff and haven't seen it since, hence the lack of specificity in this so-called 'review'.  My rom-com concerns aside I'm absolutely psyched to see the movie which should be in theaters here in the states on September 12th.

What do you think of the posters which I've been seeing around L.A., all beginning with THIS IS WHERE ... but instead of "I LEAVE YOU" finish off with a few warm and fuzzy pronouncements? Can you think of any other THIS IS WHERE scenarios based on your reading of the book? Like THIS IS WHERE WE ACT LIKE CHILDREN? 



Here in the states, This Is Where I Leave You is slated for release on September 12, with the September 18th date for the UK.

Jojo Moyes to Script 'One Plus One' Movie

I'm still waiting for more news on the screen adaptation of Jojo Moyes poignant and funny Me Before You; outside of the assignment of a director [Thea Sharrock] and the screenwriting pair of Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter, there hasn't been any new news since the announcement of the August 21, 2015 release date. 

But big news broke today on another Jojo Moyes project as we're learning that not only has Moyes most recent novel, One Plus One, already been optioned by Hollywood BUT the author will be writing the screenplay herself. Very good news for those of us in the Moyes fan club! 

Have you read One Plus One yet because I haven't had the time or the cashola to check it out, and people seem to be loving it. God, I wish publishers would send me free copies like they do a lot of the book bloggers. [Shameless hint, hint]

Here's how the publisher describes the book, pulled from Jojo Moyes website
Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever. One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.
That's all I need to know! How about you all, any casting suggestions from the One Plus One book fans out there? 

Benedict Cumberbatch VS Idris Elba: It's a Shere Khan Voice Off

Between you and me, I'm not a fan of how Disney has appropriated classic tales like Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan, rebranding them as Disney's this and Disney's that. So the fact that Warner Bros is prepping an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book while Disney has its own adaptation in the works doesn't bother me one bit. 

Idris Elba is going to voice Shere Khan in Disney's star-studded take - Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyongo, Bill Murray and Christopher Walken are all onboard - being directed by Jon Favreau while the Warner Bros reimagining of the tale of a boy raised by jungle animals is just getting cast now. Exciting news for the Cumberbatch contingent, Benedict Cumberbatch, the first to be cast, will be the voice of that same villainous man-eating tiger in the WB version. 

Andy Serkis who rose to fame as the man behind the motion-captured character Gollum is making his directorial debut with the so-called 'competing' take slated for release in 2016. The truth is Favreau's version comes out in 2015 while Serkin's version won't be released until 2016, so the two won't really compete. 

Cumberbatch? Elba? I see no reason to choose between the two Brits and their deep, delicious voices. 

Costume Design: Kirsten Dunst looks like money in "The Two Faces of January" Costume Design Featurette

I'm on page 186 of Patricia Highsmith's 313 page The Two Faces of January; I'm hoping to finish my reading and get my take on the book up before the film adaptation gets its release on August 28th. My feelings so far? It's delicious.  The story, a beautiful, young woman and her rather unsavory older husband, 'vacationing' in Greece, are thrown together with an opportunistic young expat who offers to help them out of a very dire pickle. It's suspenseful and full of sexual tension that I can't wait to see translated on screen, with Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst as the husband and wife, "Chester" and Colette, and Oscar Isaac as the attractive young man, Rydal.

Here's how Rydal responds to Colette in Highsmith's book. 

"Where're you from in the States?" she asked.
"Massachusetts," he said. 
"I'm from Louisiana. But so long ago, I haven't any accent, I think."
 She had a faint Southern accent, and Rydal had noticed it. He said nothing, only stared at the back of the armchair by the floor, as if he waited the appearance of her black suede pumps and her shapely but quite solid ankles there. Then they appeared, and Rydal's eyes moved upward from the ankles to her calves, to the swell of her hips, her breasts, and fastened on her eyes, as Chester opened the door.
Chester looked from one to the other of them, then set the suitcase on the floor with a thud. His hand was full of new green bills. "So--here we are," he said. "

I took a look at some of the costume choices in my first post on the movie back in May.  Rydal(Oscar Isaacs) tells "Chester"(Viggo Mortensen)  and Colette(Kirsten Dunst) their clothes look like money; as you can see from this still, they do! For more on the exquisite clothing, check out this featurette on the costume design. 

Part of the pleasure will be the wardrobe and the Greek locations but mostly, it's going to be all about that sexual tension and the notching up of the suspense.

Take another look at the trailer and get thee to a bookstore - or your kindle, nook or whatever - and if you haven't already, read this novel before the movie comes out. 

Gemma Bovary, a reimagining of Madame Bovary to premiere at TIFF

I've never been a reader of graphic novels but I do understand the aspirations, the results, are more in line with those of the novel than with those of a comic book. (Speaking of which, why'd they have to go and kill off Archie?)

The aspirations of Posy Simmonds with her 1999 bilingual graphic novel, Gemma Bovary seem especially literary; the story is a reimagining of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary, I'd say that's a 'literary' as you can get.  And ripe for a screen adaptation. 

Here's the rundown from the publisher -
Is it a coincidence that Gemma Bovery has a name rather like Flaubert’s notorious heroine? Is it by chance that, like Madame Bovary, Gemma is bored, adulterous, and a bad credit risk? Is she inevitably doomed?
Gemma is the pretty second wife of Charlie Bovery, the reluctant stepmother of his children, and the bête noire of his ex-wife. A sudden windfall and Gemma’s distaste for London take them across the Channel to Normandy, where the charms of French country living soon wear off.
Gemma’s neighbor, the intellectual baker Joubert, is consumed by fascination for her. Denying voyeurism but nonetheless noting every change in the fit of Gemma’s jeans, every addition to her wardrobe, all of her love bites and lovers, Joubert——with the help of the heroine’s diaries——follows her path toward ruin.
Adultery and its consequences. Disappointment and deception. Fat and slim. Then and now. Familiar ingredients of the novel are given new life in Gemma Bovery’s unique graphic form.

The news for Francophiles? The screen adaptation from director Anne Fontaine (Adore, Coco Before Chanel) starring British actor Gemma Arterton (well that's convenient!) best known to American audiences for her roles in Quantum of Solace and Clash of the Titans, Fabrice Luchini, Jason Flemyng and Niels Schneider is set to make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this fall. TIFF runs from September 4 - 14th. 

Mon dieu! There's no U.S. release date yet for this one. While we're waiting to see who will pick this one up, let's take a gander at the trailer. Warning: It's in French. Which I don't speak. If any of you visiting via Dreaming of France have the language skills and the time to provide a loose translation, that would be magnifique.

Lois Lowry on Meryl Streep as The Chief Elder in The Giver

The Giver is out in theaters stirring up fans with the changes the filmmakers made to the book. Love it? Hate it? Depending on where you stand in this particular book vs movie debate, you may or may not find comfort and joy in this Sunday Slacker collection of video clips. 

Don't miss the last clip, the one with the film's director Phillip Noyce [The Bone Collector, Patriot Games] and the author in which Lois Lowry talks about the expanded role of the Chief Elder played by Meryl Streep. Lowry actually says she wishes she could go back and put that expanded part in the book because it's brilliant! Are you with her or has the author been abducted by aliens?

Poster for Before I Go to Sleep starring Nicole Kidman asks WHO DO YOU TRUST?

A new poster for Before I Go To Sleep is now online. The red palette is in stark contrast to the cool blue poster we saw previously and asks the question WHO DO YOU TRUST?  The answer lies in that prior poster: DON'T. TRUST. ANYONE.

I'm excited about this one and while I had a few quibbles with S.J. Watson's novel, like Dennis Lehane, I found it to be an exceptional thriller. 
The movie comes out October 31st here in the states - a legitimate excuse to skip handing out the Halloween treats?  Many of you in other places around the world will see it long before I will - you Kiwis and Kuwaitis get it on September 4th, it opens in the UK and Ireland on the 5th, followed by Taiwan, South Africa and Poland on the 12th. Check out this link to see when it opens in a theatre near you. Aussie pals, you're getting it a couple of earlier than us, on October 16th.

Before I Go To Sleep stars Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong and is directed by the acclaimed theatre director Rowan Jaffe. Let's watch the trailer. 

The Giver; I don't want to spoil the party but ...

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. The Giver, out in theaters today, may be a good movie, but if you're looking for the movie to be true to the book, this probably isn't it  Our first clue that the film would twist Lois Lowry's story was the casting of twenty-something Brenton Thwaites as the twelve year old Jonas. In the movie Jonas has been aged to sixteen and those four years make all the difference. I bitched about that difference a year ago - as did many readers. Today Kevin Pollan writes about that difference in The Daily Beast ...

But aging Jonas also has the perhaps unintended effect of making his naiveté seem slightly imbecilic. Jonas is our window into this community where no one ever questions why everyone and everything is the same, and where everyone isn’t just complacent in their flatlined existence, but embraces it. Though none of the characters questions this state of being, it’s easier for us to understand why a 12-year-old never would. When a 16-year-old takes on that wide-eyed, touched-for-the-very-first-time role, it all comes off as a tad more…juvenile. Perhaps even silly.
Your heart bleeds for a 12-year-old who sulks after discovering the cruel realities of humanity. When it’s a 16-year-old, you can’t help but think, “Man up.”
But it's more than that, of course. In my post last August I talked about the whole notion of trying to cash in on The Hunger Games/Divergent action train, quoting Hilary Busis at Entertainment Weekly. 
"This casting also indicates that the screen Giver may try to ape The Hunger Games and co. by inserting unnecessary action setpieces that allow Jonas to play a Katniss-style badass hero. If that happens, The Giver will no longer be a gentle tale that’s more parable than plot-driven narrative; instead, it’ll transform into a generic adventure story, an imitation of the book’s own imitators."
While Busis makes an impassioned case, saying "an interpretation that warps and disregards the core of Lowry’s masterpiece is worse than no movie at all" that seems to be exactly what happened. 

In addition to the addition of plenty of action, Jonas' crush or feeling of 'stirrings' for Fiona have been morphed into a full-blown romance, clearly a sexualization of the character designed to make the book Hollywood-friendly. And that's something Lowry expressly objected to. The author told Jessica Gross in her interview in The New York Times 
"I remember seeing the costume designs for the female lead, Fiona[Odeya Rush] — in the book she’s 12, and in the movie she’s 16. I advised them that some of the costumes were too sexy. And so the hem was dropped a little bit. I asked them: “Please don’t turn this into a teenage romance.”
Which of course, they did. A teenage romance with plenty of adrenaline-fueled action which may make for a good, or even a fantastic film. Just don't be disappointed if it's not the same 'film' you saw in your head when you read the book. As the author herself revealed in her new forward to the book - 
"A movie, by its nature, puts it all out there, makes it visual. It's what I love about film, actually: the composition of each scene, the lighting, the color... or lack of color. But film must incorporate details that a reader might have pictured in another way. A costume designer decided what little Gabriel -- and all the other infants in the Nurturing Center -- wear. Maybe you had dressed them differently in your mind. A set designer created the plans for the dwellings in which Jonas and Fiona and all the other members of the community live. If you imagined a different kind of dwelling, as I did, then you have to adjust your thinking. The landscape through which Jonas travels with the kidnapped baby is not the landscape I saw inside my head; the cinematographer gives us something vaster, more magnificent, and infinitely more hostile to a desperate boy trying to save an infant and the whole world.
The important thing is that a film doesn't obliterate a book. The movie is here now. But the book hasn't gone away. It has simply grown up, grown larger, and begun to glisten in a new way."
It seems to me that you and I will have to decide for ourselves whether The Giver glistens. If you head out to the theatre this weekend, I'd love to hear if it glistens for you.

Lauren Bacall, Rest in Peace

Lauren Bacall September 16, 1924 - August 12, 2014

In contrast to Robin Williams' shocking and heartbreaking death by suicide at 63, comes the news that Lauren Bacall has died of natural causes at the age of 89. 
RIP to the legendary Bacall who, despite a long and illustrious career of her own, will always be remembered for the dame with the sultry voice who taught Bogey how to whistle. 
Below, thanks to Layla Ramanova, some of Bacall's best lines from To Have and Have Not.  Ms. Bacall was just 19 years old. 

Robin Williams, Rest in Peace

Robin Williams
July 21, 1951 - August 11, 2014

In this clip from the Johnny Carson show in 1991 the comic genius riffs on Shakespeare.  

With thanks for the lifetime of laughter you gave us.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Williams.

The Hundred-Foot Journey video interview with star Manish Dayal [video]

Welcome to another Slacker Sunday. Yesterday I told you how much I Loved The Hundred-Foot Journey and its up and coming star, Manish Dayal. Today I've found a video interview over at the Huffington Post. The host, Nancy Reddit is a tad giggly and asked some silly questions but the 15 minute Q&A with Dayal, a mostly unknown actor on the cusp of fame, has some fun and revealing moments you might find interesting. Like the fact that producer Steven Spielberg was very creatively involved, giving Lasse Halstrom suggestions on set and in the editing room. 

The Hundred-Foot Journey stars Helen Mirren, Manish Dayal, Om Puri and Charlotte LeBon and is playing in theatres now. 

Read my take on the movie.

The Hundred Foot Journey: My take on the movie starring Helen Mirren and dishy Manish Dayal

Take this delicious trip to France while it's in theaters!

You know that feeling when you've finished sharing a really good meal with good friends, and after dinner you linger for ages over coffee or wine or both - and at some point you look around at the faces, smiling and familiar, chatting happily and you think to yourself, 'hold on to this moment because this is it, this is happiness.' That's how I feel having just seen The Hundred Foot Journey. So happy! Especially since I've been following the making of this movie based on the Richard C. Morais novel and sharing the posts of Sally Tharpe Rowles who saw some of the scenes being shot in the French village where she summers. I can only imagine her pleasure when she sees the town square, replicated on film with all its distinct gallic charm intact.

The film is simply a joyous celebration, a celebration of food certainly; foodies will salivate over scenes depicting the preparation of classic French cuisine with its five classic sauces, of fresh goods artfully arrayed in outdoor markets, of wild berries and mushrooms ripe for the picking, of colorful vegetables chopped precisely by a sous chef who is part surgeon part artist, of new, bold flavor combinations, of exotic spices, of the sheer joy of cooking. It's also a warm and sentimental celebration of family, love, friendship, cultures colliding, going for your dreams and finding out what matters, what really matters, to you.  It's an emotional journey and I laughed and loved every minute of it.

Image via Sally's blog Between Here and There

The fact that the movie is set mainly in a breathtakingly beautiful region of France, is the icing on the cake - not to be too ham-fisted about making the food comparison work. Directed by Lasse Halstrom, shot by Linus Sandgren, the movie really is a feast for the eyes but it's more than that. When Hassan, a talented young cook, and his family from Mumbai (I hadn't quite realized Mumbai is the former Bombay), with its mobbed marketplace bursting with riots of color, open a restaurant in a quiet and quite enchanting French village in the mountains, where the world is bathed in soft, lavender light, we see at once that the noisy newcomers are going shake up the restful status quo with their culinary choices, their spices, their music, their vivid decor, and indeed their very beings. Bigotry is alive the world over, France is no exception, and while that aspect is dealt with a tad too easily here, there is heart-swelling satisfaction at seeing the family win over Madame Mallory, the elegant owner of the Michelin Star restaurant across the road - that's the literal part of the 100 foot journey - from the family's rather more boisterous bistro. 

Madame Mallory is played by the regal Helen Mirren and while her French accent worked for me, I'm a non French speaker, so truly, what do I know? Om Puri, a well-known Indian actor, plays the family's Papa; and while his English is occasionally a little difficult to decipher it's lovely to hear the lilt in his warm voice, and to witness the character's determination of spirit. The French won't eat Indian food, he's told, but that doesn't deter him. Whether Steven Knight's script called for Puri to occasionally drop into his native language (the Marathi dialect?) or if it came out of improv, there is no attempt and no need to translate his asides. We know what he's muttering to his kids about the trying situations they find themselves in.

The real star of The Hundred Foot Journey is Manish Dayal, the - may I say - very dishy 31 year old actor who plays Hassan. The American born (South Carolina) actor of Indian descent, got his BA from George Washington University and went on to study acting at the New York Dramatic Conservatory so I assume his beautifully-accented English is a product of his acting technique. His intelligent, thoughtful face is definitely one I'll look forward to seeing again, and I have a feeling, much like his Chef Hassan character, this will be his big break. Charlotte LeBon is beguiling as Marguerite, a sous chef for the formidable Mallory and Hassan's love interest, their chemistry had a nice, gentle simmer to it. Hassan's journey of self-discovery and where his ambitions lead him remind us to be mindful of what really feeds our souls.

When I told my son The Hundred Foot Journey was a great movie, my young writer/director raised his eyebrows skeptically. A 'great movie' to him would be less predictable, the warm and happy storyline less formulaic. "Hmmm", I said. "Okay maybe not great by your standards but remember how much I loved The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Philomena? Great like that."  

The Hundred Foot Journey took me on a trip to France with all its charms, a visit to the home of a warm and wonderful family of Indian immigrants who meet the challenges of adapting to a new culture without losing their own. The French have a saying - 'chacun å son gout'. Basically 'each to his own taste'. A love story on a variety of levels, The Hundred Foot Journey was very much to my own taste, if you love food, love France, love romance, perhaps it will be to yours as well. 

Here's the trailer one more time ... 

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