Movies for Readers: Herman Koch’s “The Dinner”

15797938This week’s Movie for Readers is based upon the 2009 novel from Dutch writer Herman Koch that largely introduced the author’s work to an American audience.  The novel was already well known and successful in much of the world by the time it was finally translated into English by Sam Garrett and published here in 2012.

The Dinner has one of those plot twists that kind of sneak up on you, a twist that suddenly has you questioning your understanding of everything that preceded it.  It is impossible to tell from this trailer whether that set-up and twist is part of the movie script, but I really hope that the film pulls it off nearly as well as the book did.

The movie starring Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, and Rebecca Hall is set for its national release on May 5, 2017.  Oren Moverman, who wrote the screenplay for The Dinner, also directed it.

I should add that, although I really enjoyed the novel and have read other of Koch’s novels since discovering his work (unfortunately, not all of it is available in translation) that the movie trailer alone would probably not be enough to get me to see the film.  The trailer just doesn’t set the proper tone for Koch’s story.  Here’s hoping that the movie itself does a much better job.

Movies for Readers: Lion (based upon the memoir A Long Way Home)

unknownThis week’s Movies for Readers was released in the U.S. last November and should be relatively easy to find now. Lion is based upon Saroo Brierley’s 2014 memoir A Long Way Home in which the author tells his story of becoming lost as a five-year-old and making the terrible mistake of climbing into an empty train car to rest.  Two days and 1800 miles later, the boy found himself wandering the streets of Calcutta unable to remember the name of his hometown – or even his own surname.  Within a few weeks, he had been rescued from the streets by the agency that eventually adopted him out to an Australian couple.

Twenty-five years later Saroo would experience flashbacks in which he could picture his original family and home.  The movie and the book recount his remarkable quest to find  those left behind.

The film stars Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman (as his adoptive mother), David Wenham (as his adoptive father), and Rooney Mara (as his girlfriend).  It was directed by Garth Davis and received numerous Golden Globe, Oscar, BAFTA, SAG, and Critics Choice award nominations.

Saroo Brierley with his Australian and Indian families:

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Movies for Readers: “My Life as a Zucchini”

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This week’s Movie for Readers is based on French writer Giles Paris’s book Autobiographie d’une Courgette (Autobiography of a Zucchini), although both the English and French versions of the movie have been rechristened with the more memorable title My Life as a Zucchini. The movie has received such high marks from critics and the general audience that it has recently been nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Animated Feature Film.

ma_vie_de_courgette_ver2The movie tells the story of a nine-year-old orphan and what happens to him when he moves into an orphanage for the first time. The original French dialogue has been overdubbed by English dialogue that (at least in the attached movie trailer) does not seem to be at all annoying.

The 2016 movie will be released in the United States for the first time on February 24, 2017.  The film does appear to be a little dark, so parents may want to consider whether or not their children are quite ready for it.  I did get a bit of a kick when I saw that My Life as a Zucchini is coming with a warning label from the movie industry that it contains “partial nudity” as the result of a scene in which several children lower their shorts a little and expose the upper portions of their “butt cracks.”  OK…

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“A Series of Unfortunate Events” Is Not Quite Doing It for Me. A Little help?

I’ve been searching for a series to watch after I finish up with the fourth season of Sherlock, but I haven’t found one yet that really grabs me. I have watched the first two episodes of A Series of Unfortunate Events (which is based upon books written by Daniel Handler under the pen name Lemony Snicket) and while there are numerous clever moments in the show, there are just as many moments that seem a little flat or over obvious to me. Maybe the series is more sharply focused to fit the taste of young viewers, I don’t know. I can tell you that my fourteen-year-old grandson has watched the whole series and that he really loved it.

So…any suggestions out there? I tend to favor British police detective series or those featuring some of the more subtle style of British humor (think the polar opposite of Benny Hill’s style).

For those of you not familiar with the Netflix series, here’s a quick look:


The shows stars Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, K. Todd Freeman, and Presley Smith. The entire first season, all eight episodes of it, has been available on Netflix since January 13 and it’s one of the Netflix series that was produced in the new 4K (Ultra HD) with High Dynamic Range format. I purchased a wide-screen 4K TV in early December, and true 4K TV can be so spectacular at times that I’m always looking for something shot in that format.

Anyway, guys, if you have any particular favorites, I’m looking for suggestions again, so thanks in advance for chipping in.

On My Fascination with the Sherlock BBC Series

It is no accident that I am always a latecomer to successful new television series. I plan it that way – much preferring to let a series get two or three successful seasons under its belt (proving its legs and its chops at the same time) before I begin to watch. I am impatient by nature, so I can’t even imagine anymore waiting like we all used to do a whole week for the next episode to become available. I have come to love watching one series at a time, all the way through, before moving on to a new one. That way all the details are fresh from episode to episode and I pick up on connections and relationships I may well have missed otherwise.

Anyway, all of that is to lead up to my current fascination with the BBC series Sherlock. The BBC has completed four seasons of Sherlock now, but from what I read, if there is to be a fifth series it may not happen for several years. Each of the four seasons completed encompasses three episodes of almost ninety minutes in length, for a total of twelve regular season episodes in all. A thirteenth episode, a throwback of sorts in which the cast is placed in Victorian England rather than twenty-first century England, was broadcast between the end of the third season and the beginning of the fourth.

Trailer for Series Two

Season One was broadcast in the summer of 2010, Season Two in January 2012, Season Three in January 2014, the special episode in January 2016, and Season Four in January 2017. So you can see that a delay between series of two or more years is not all that unusual in this case. Since the first of the year, I’ve watched the first three seasons and part of the special episode – and luckily enough, I automatically recorded Season Four because I have my DVR set to record pretty much everything shown on Masterpiece Theater anyway.

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Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

And Sherlock is, I think, a masterpiece. It is so good that it has renewed my interest in the original Sherlock Holmes stories that Arthur Conan Doyle started writing in 1887. I haven’t read any of those stories since I was a kid, but the BBC series has reminded me about just how much I used to love them, and now I wonder if they contained the kind of subtle and ironic humor that the television series does so well. I’m so hooked on Sherlock again that I even bought a book today called “In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon.” I figure that with stories by Sara Paretsky, Harlan Ellison, Michael Dirda, and Michael Connelly, among others, I can’t go wrong (especially since I found the book marked down to three bucks).

The series stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson, respectively, and both of them are perfect for the role. Probably because Martin Freeman is a favorite actor of mine, I think that he generally steals the show as Watson, but I can’t imagine a better choice to play Holmes than Cumberbatch. The supporting cast is equally wonderful: Mark Gattis as Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, Una Stubbs as landlady Mrs. Hudson, Louise Brealey as Molly Hooper, Rupert Graves as Inspector Lestrade, Amanda Abbington as Mary (Watson’s eventual wife), and Andrew Scott as one of my favorite villains of all time Professor Moriarty – Scott is so good in this role that he absolutely steals every scene he is in.

And now for my favorite villain in a long time: Professor Moriarty

Movies for Readers: Julian Barnes’s “The Sense of an Ending”

the-sense-of-an-ending1This week’s Movie for Readers is based on the 2011 novel by Britain’s Julian Barnes. The slim little novel (the ARC was only 163 pages long) was the winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize despite the usual expressions of surprise when the prize was announced that year.  The story largely takes place inside the head of its main character,  sixty-something-year-old Tony Webster, who is forced to rethink the truth of what he remembers about his school days after an old girlfriend dies and leaves him her diary.  It is at times a frustratingly vague novel, and even after watching this trailer a couple of times, I’m wondering how well it translates to film.

“What you end up remembering isn’t always what you actually witnessed.”  Tony Webster now has to reconcile the two.

The film is set for a March 2017 release and it stars one of my favorite actors, Jim Broadbent as Tony Webster, along with Emily Mortimer, Michelle Dockery, and the always wonderful Charlotte Rampling.

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Julian Barnes

Hulu’s New Adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale Coming Soon

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Anna and Elena Balbusso for The Folio Society

I am not a Hulu subscriber, and have not paid a whole lot of attention to the video service because there are just too many of those to keep track of these days.  And now that so many of them have taken to creating or funding their own programming, they all blend together in my mind more than ever.  But, probably because of the great visuals associated with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this promotional teaser caught my eye – and held my attention.  I won’t be subscribing to Hulu in order to watch the new ten-part series when it debuts, but I can’t say that I’m not tempted to do so.

 

Trailer for Hulu production of The Handmaid’s Tale

The series stars Elizabeth Moss, Jordana Blake, Alexis Biedel, Joseph Fiennes, and O.T. Fagbenie who appear in all ten episodes.  It appears that Margaret Atwood was actively involved in the series, too, because she shares in the writing credits of each episode and is listed as a “consulting producer.”  Hulu will debut the series on April 26 (I don’t know whether or not Hulu will release all episodes of the new series on the same day like Netflix and Amazon do for their binge-watchers).

Looks like a good one, so if anyone out there watches The Handmaid’s Tale, please do let me know what I’m missing.

Movies for Readers: The Soloist by Steve Lopez

2176660This week’s Movie for Readers is 2009’s The Soloist starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.  The film is based on the 2008 Steve Lopez book of the same title, Lopez’s nonfiction account of the friendship that developed between him and the talented musician he discovered living on the streets of Los Angeles.

Steve Lopez was a Los Angeles Times reporter when he first encountered Nathaniel Ayers, a one-time Juilliard School of Music student who has suffered from schizophrenia most of his life.  Such a bond developed between the two men that Lopez was able to get Ayers to move into an apartment while he searched for a longterm solution that would allow Ayers to one day share his god-given musical talent with others.

Movie Trailer for The Soloist

The Soloist is the story of two remarkable men and how each positively changed the life of the other.  Particularly impressive are the performances of Jamie Fox and Robert Downey Jr.  (below, are photos of the two men portrayed in the movie by the two actors).

04/20/2009 - Nathaniel Ayers - "The Soloist" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals - Paramount Theatre - Hollywood, CA, USA - Keywords: - 0 - - Photo Credit: Chris Hatcher / PR Photos - Contact (1-866-551-7827)

Nathaniel Ayers

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Steve Lopez

 

 

Movies for Readers: The Zookeeper’s Wife

the_zookeepers_wifeThis week’s Movies for Readers is The Zookeeper’s Wife, based on Diane Ackerman’s 2007 nonfiction book about how the wife of a Warsaw zookeeper (along with her husband) used the cover of the zoo to save the lives of approximately 300 Jews during the World War II Nazi occupation of Poland.  The book, and thus the movie, are based upon the unpublished diary of Antonina Żabińska, the wife of Jan Żabińska who was director of the Warsaw Zoo at the time of the German invasion of Poland (September 1, 1939).

 

Movie Trailer: The Zookeeper’s Wife

The movie stars Jessica Chastain, Daniel Brühl, Johan Heldenbergh, and Michael McElhatton and is scheduled for a March 17, 2017 release.  The book was both a popular and a critical success, so I’m hoping that the movie does it justice – the trailer makes me think that it likely did so.

Movies for Readers: Live by Night

This week’s Movies for Readers is especially for all the Dennis Lehane fans out there who remember Lehane’s 2012 novel Live by Night upon which the movie of the same name is based.  The novel is set in the 1920s and 1930s and explores how the son of a Boston police captain moves to Florida where he becomes a major crime figure involved in bootlegging and rum-running.

Official Trailer for Live by Night

It should be noted that this is very much a Ben Affleck project, as Affleck not only plays the film’s main character but was also its director and screenplay author.  Shooting on the film, which was completed in February 2016, largely took place in Georgia (Brunswick, Savannah, and Fort Pulaski National Monument) with additional scenes shot in California and Massachusetts.

The movie will see a limited release on Christmas day with wide release following on January 13, 2017.

Indian Summers, Season Two: It’s Over Way too Soon

indian-summersDespite my good intentions, I never did get around to composing a new post yesterday – and I blame that entirely on the second season of the wonderful Channel 4/PBS series Indian Summers. Sadly, although I didn’t know it until this morning, there will be no third season for the series because the U.K.’s Channel 4 has decided against commissioning more episodes of the 1930s period drama.

None of my television viewing is done “live,” as I much prefer to record the programs for later viewing at my leisure, along with the added advantage of being able to fast-forward my way through the commercials that generally take up about 25% of the time it takes to watch anything on commercial television these days.

Those of you not familiar with Indian Summers should know that it is set in 1930s India during the critical years that a move for independence was growing among the general population of that country. Gandhi is mentioned several times in the second series, although I don’t recall him actually being portrayed on screen (I could easily be mistaken about that). The series did a good job of portraying the events of the day through the eyes of the British administrators, pro-British Indians, Indians who worked for the British strictly out of necessity, and Indians who were willing, at the end, to die for their country’s independence. The last episode of the series also ventured into the volatile split between the Muslim and Farsi populations of the country.

Because my home team did not play football yesterday, I had time to catch up on the two episodes I still hadn’t seen – and then when I realized that another episode was being recorded as I was finishing the second catch-up episode, I started watching it – not realizing that it was actually the final episode of this second season. But as it ended, I realized how perfect a spot in the continuing story it would be to use it as a lead-in to a third season and wondered it that was going to be the case. For that reason, the news this morning that the drama has been cancelled is really disappointing.

Let me recommend to those who haven’t seen it, that they fix that oversight as soon as they can. The acting is superb all the way through, from the principle players right down to those actors who have tiny parts. The cinematography is stunning throughout, the costumes are authentic, colorful, and eye-catching, and the locations (actually Malaysia’s Penang Island) are stunningly beautiful.

Season Two Trailer

So, to get back to my original point, the time that I would have used to work up a Book Chase post yesterday was consumed by the three hours I spent in fictional, 1930s India with the British as they saw their world change faster than they ever imagined it might. I do consider it time well spent, though, and I really hate the idea that Indian Summers is done now. A little window on the past has closed to me before I was ready to lose the view – and that makes me sad.

More please, Channel 4?

Movies for Readers: The Little Prince

I took a relaxing break this evening to watch a movie on Netflix with one of my grandsons, 2015’s The Little Prince.  It was just the thing to remind me how much beauty and innocence there still is in the world despite all the ugly divisiveness that makes up the evening news  and the 24-hour cable news cycle.  The movie is beautifully animated, and I think that I enjoyed it as much as the boy did.

By the way, Jeff Bridges fans will particularly enjoy his voiceover as one of the story’s main characters, the elderly aviator.

The Little Prince Movie Trailer

This just might be the perfect antidote to all the negativity of the times.  Enjoy.

Movies for Readers: The Commitments

thecommitmentsI drove around the U.K. for about three weeks back in 1991 and somehow (after an aborted two-day stay in Belfast) found myself wandering the streets of Dublin one Saturday afternoon. To this day, I’m not sure what part of the city I was in but I spotted a movie theater that had a long line out front and my curiosity got the best of me. As it turned out, the locals were in line to see a new movie shot in Dublin called The Commitments. From what I could tell, it appeared to be one of those “let’s put a band together and see what happens” movies, and I love those things so much that I joined the line.

I watched the movie twice that afternoon, as did most of the crowd. I was reminded of how much fun the movie is when I stumbled upon it on Netflix just last week and watched it for the first time since 1991. And the best part? It’s a movie based on a book, so it’s perfect for this week’s Movies for Readers segment. The book in question, also titled The Commitments, was published in 1987 by Irish author Roddy Doyle.

Original Movie Trailer: The Commitments

From what I remember, the movie was largely cast with unknowns who could actually sing and play their own instruments when the band was performing. The only member of the band who could not play an instrument was the trumpet player, an older man who had a key role in shaping the band’s sound. Alan Parker directed the film and has a minor role in it as a record label executive.

If you like the 1960s soul sound, you are going to love this movie. I’ve never read the book, but I’m hoping to fix that soon.

Movies for Readers: Hidden Figures

the_official_poster_for_the_film_hidden_figures_2016This week’s Movie for Readers is Hidden Figures, the story of African American mathematician, physicist, and space scientist Katherine Johnson who did critical work for NASA by calculating flight trajectories for both Project Mercury and for the 1969 flight to the moon by Apollo 11. The movie is based on a recent nonfiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly.

Hidden Figures is scheduled for a limited release on Christmas Day with a wide release to follow on January 6, 2017.

Hidden Figures Movie Trailer:

imagesConsidering the times, the fact that Johnson was female was probably a bit of a shock to most NASA employees – but that she was African American had to be absolutely stunning to them. Hidden Figures stars Taraji P. Henson in the lead role as Katherine Johnson. The film also stars Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe. It is directed by Theodore Melfi.

The trailer indicates that the film focuses as much on the social issues of the day as it does to the work done at NASA.  It should be interesting.

 

Movies for Readers: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

516ijhaacbl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, published in May 2012 won several awards, including the National Book Critics Award for Fiction and a movie version starring Ethan Hawke and Paul Giamatti is being released in November 2016.

Neal Thompson describes it this way:

“Billy Lynn and his Bravo squad mates have become heroes thanks to an embedded Fox News crew’s footage of their firefight against Iraqi insurgents. During one day of their bizarre Victory Tour, set mostly at a Thanksgiving Day football game at Texas Stadium, they’re wooed by Hollywood producers, smitten by Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, and share a stage at halftime with Beyonce. Guzzling Jack and Cokes and scuffling with fans, the Bravos are conflicted soldiers. “Okay, so maybe they aren’t the greatest generation,” writes debut author (!) Ben Fountain, who manages a sly feat: giving us a maddening and believable cast of characters who make us feel what it must be like to go to war. Veering from euphoria to dread to hope, Billy Lynn is a propulsive story that feels real and true. With fierce and fearless writing, Fountain is a writer worth every accolade about to come his way.” –Neal Thompson

I have had this one in my electronic TBR stack for quite a while but have not convinced myself that it is something I will enjoy, so it just sits there – and the fact that it is an e-book makes it very much easier for me just to forget about it.  Even the trailer does not do the trick and make me want to read the novel before seeing the movie…can’t explain why.

What do you think?

Movies for Readers: A Man Called Ove

imagesThis week’s “Movie for Readers” is a Swedish import based on a popular book of the same title, A Man Called Ove.  The Fredrik Backman novel was a bestseller in Sweden and did quite well in the U.S. when published here in 2014, spending some time on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Publisher Simon & Schuster characterizes the book this way:

    “Ove is getting older. He’s the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People in Ove’s neighborhood call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But behind Ove’s cranky exterior lies a story and a sadness. When an accident-prone young couple with two young daughters moves in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox one November morning, overturning his well-ordered routine, it is the spark in a surprising, enlivening chain of events—featuring unkempt cats, unexpected friendships, arrogant bureaucrats, several trips to the hospital, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. Swept along in the tide, Ove is forced to change and learn to understand his neighbors and the modern times into which he has been grudgingly dragged. But as his neighbors learn more about the reasons behind Ove’s grumpy façade, they must also band together to protect each other and their neighborhood in a struggle that will leave no one, including Ove, unchanged.”

Just how closely, of course, the movie follows the book, remains to be seen.  A Man Called Ove was released on August 26 and should still be in theaters.

As you will see from the official trailer, below, this one is in Swedish with English subtitles.

A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans

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This week’s “Movies for Readers” is the upcoming film based on W. Bruce Cameron’s 2010 book A Dog’s Purpose.  The movie stars Peggy Lipton, Britt Robertson, Josh Gad, and Dennis Quaid.  It will be opening on January 27, 2017 and seems to be quite the tearjerker.

I checked Amazon to see what readers thought of the book since it’s not one that I’ve read for myself, and was impressed by its overall rating and number of reviews: 4.8 out of 5.0 stars and almost 2900 total reviews.  Looks like this one did really well for its author.

Best of all, it’s a family movie that doesn’t involve Pokemon creatures, comic book superheroes, cartoons, or Star Wars.  Take a look at the trailer because you might want to put this one on the calendar to enjoy with your kids or grandkids after Christmas.

Movies for Readers: In Dubious Battle

inbattlebookThis is the official trailer for the soon to be released film version of John Steinbeck’s In Dubious Battle.  The movie stars Robert Duvall, James Franco, Selena Gomez, Bryan Cranston, and Ed Harris, among others.  It, of course, recounts Steinbeck’s tale of a violent clash between California fruit-pickers and orchard owners sometime during the 1930s.  In Dubious Battle is scheduled to make its world premier at the Venice Film Festival on September 3.  This is very much a James Franco project, as the actor not only stars in the film, but is its director and one of its producers.  Interestingly, the film was largely shot in Atlanta and Bostwick, Georgia, and in Yakima, Washington.

 

Movies for Readers: The Light Between Oceans

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The Light Between Oceans is an Australian novel published in that country early in 2012 and in the United States in August of that same year.  USA Today called it a novel “tough to shake off” and it was an Amazon Book of the Month upon its release.  The novel was also very popular with book clubs, and had to be one of the most successful debut novels of 2012.

The movie version of The Light Between Oceans is scheduled to be released in the U.S. this September 2 and in the U.K. on November 4.  It stars Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander as the Australian couple living in an isolated lighthouse who decide to keep the baby girl who washes up on the beach one day not long after the sudden death of their own baby daughter.  I haven’t read this one – I was a bit put off at the time by all the hype – but it looks like a real tearjerker and a beautiful film.

 

Movies for Readers: Milton’s Secret

51sK6qy4fKLI should probably call this “Movie for Readers” a “Movie for Parents Who Read with Their Kids” because it is based on a children’s book by Eckhart Tolle and Robert S. Friedman called Milton’s Secret.  The book is about an eight-year-old boy who is being bullied so badly at school by another student that he has come to dread getting up in the morning to go to school. Sadly, this is an all too common story in the lives of tens of thousands of schoolchildren around the world…and it’s all cranking up for another sad cycle as a new school year begins.

So what could be better than a book and a movie to help your kids learn to cope better with their own bullies…be they in the school yard or in the neighborhood.

Here’s a look at the movie via its official trailer.  Donald Sutherland, as usual, appears to have nailed his role – of the boy’s grandfather – and the child actor is also superb.