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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Books

Which Ray Bradbury title merits a 21st century film? [Poll]

June 6, 2012 |  3:56 pm

1980 "Martian Chronicles" scene
Over his half-century career, Ray Bradbury had a host of stories and novels produced for the big screen. He also had numerous properties in development at Hollywood studios — many of them put there not that long ago, relatively speaking.

Including “The Illustrated Man” (in development at Warner Bros. with Zack Snyder and Frank Darabont) and “The Martian Chronicles” (in development at Paramount with producer John Davis), no fewer than four Bradbury pieces currently sit in the feature-film pipeline waiting for a push from the right producer or executive. Which piece of material would you most like to see make a return (or first) engagement on the big screen? Mull, then vote in our poll below.




Author Ray Bradbury dies at 91

Hero Complex: Ray Bradbury a 'sci-fi' writer?

PHOTOS: Ray Bradbury's influence on TV and film

Ray Bradbury was a huge influence on the film world too

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: A scene from the 1980 Rock Hudson miniseries "The Martian Chronicles." Credit: NBC.

Ray Bradbury was a huge influence on the film world too

June 6, 2012 |  9:03 am

The death of Ray Bradbury Tuesday night at the age of 91 throws into relief not only his literary legacy but his abundant influence on the movie world.

Starting with the Jack Arnold-directed "It Came From Outer Space," about the crash-landing of a mysterious craft in the Arizona desert, in 1953, Bradbury's work has formed the basis of numerous films.

Rod Steiger starred in a 1969 adaptation of his futuristic short-story collection "The Illustrated Man." In 1983, Jason Robards took on Bradbury's horror novel, "Something Wicked This Way Comes," about a pair of teenage boys who experience nightmares when a carnival comes to town.

PHOTOS: Ray Bradbury | 1920 - 2012

And in perhaps the most notable big-screen spin on Bradbury's work, French New Wave pioneer Francois Truffaut helmed a version of Bradbury's dystopian book-burning classic "Fahrenheit 451" in 1966.

Bradbury's stories and novels also yielded many television adaptations, with the author also writing and creating the cable series "The Ray Bradbury Theater," a collection of standalone science-fiction and fantasy episodes.

In perhaps the most unusual collaboration between Bradbury and Hollywood, the author wrote the screenplay for the 1956 adaptation of "Moby Dick," which was directed by John Huston and starred Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab.

 New versions of Bradbury's work are scattered around Hollywood in various stages of development--a "Martian Chronicles" at Paramount, a "Farenheit 451" at Universal, an "illustrated Man" at Warner Bros.

FULL COVERAGE: Ray Bradbury | 1920 - 2012

Maybe more important than any particular film adaptation, however, is how Bradbury's aesthetic influenced a filmmaking zetigeist we now take for granted.

In print, he is often credited with elevating a genre from pulp to literature. His work had a similar effect on the movies, paving the way for the creation and broad popular acceptance of humanity-infused science-fiction hits ranging from "Star Wars" to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" to "Avatar."

[Updated at 9:56 a.m., June 6: "Close Encounters" director and science-fiction maestro Steven Spielberg released a statement calling Bradbury "my muse for the better part of my sci-fi career.... On the world of science fiction and fantasy and imagination he is immortal."]

Bradbury also left his mark on the fantasy genre, broadly defined, that would eventually yield "Harry Potter" and a host of other cultural landmarks. (Bradbury himself preferred the fantasy designation. “I'm not a science fiction writer,” he once said, “I've written only one book of science fiction [“Fahrenheit 451”]. All the others are fantasy. Fantasies are things that can't happen, and science fiction is about things that can happen.”)

It's perhaps fitting that Ridley Scott's "Prometheus," emerging as the science fiction-fantasy hit of the summer, opens in the U.S. in the same week that Bradbury has died. It's hard to imagine it, or so many other high-profile films, without him.


Author Ray Bradbury dies at 91

PHOTOS: Ray Bradbury's influence on TV and film

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Fahrenheit 451." Credit: Universal Pictures

'Snow White's' Kristen Stewart still wants new 'East of Eden' pic

June 1, 2012 |  2:26 pm

With “East of Eden” often mentioned by Kristen Stewart among her favorite reads, the actress' fans have long clamored for the "Twilight" heroine to star in a reboot of the John Steinbeck classic.

That reboot, announced more than three years ago with Tom Hooper and Imagine Entertainment, has been perpetually stuck in development. But Stewart still feels strongly that the Cain-and-Abel story -- of course originally brought to celluloid by Elia Kazan and James Dean in 1955 -- could use another go-round on the big screen.

"Obviously ‘East of Eden’ is a really great movie," Stewart told 24 Frames when asked what book she'd most like to see adapted to film. "But it’s the last chapter of the ... book."

The Kazan film focuses only on the latter sections of the novel, particularly the dysfunction and adventures of a pair of brothers in California’s Salinas Valley around the time of World War I. Stewart said that a new film could take the scope of Steinbeck's epic, which goes back a previous generation and even flashes back to the Civil War, and make a more faithful adaptation.

"That really is much more of a saga. It's so long; there is so much to take," she said. 

The actress didn't say anything about starring as the Cathy/Kate character, as many KStew fans have been pulling for. (Cathy/Kate is the lead female character, a conniving and murderous operator who gets involved with several male characters.)

Stewart did, however, say she was relieved about the development progress of a different book that has struggled to make its way through Hollywood — John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces," to which Zach Galifianakis has just signed on as the bumblingly iconic Ignatius Reilly.

"Finally, they're going to get that made," she said, breathing a sigh of relief.

In addition to starring in a new spin on a Brothers Grimm tale with this weekend's "Snow White and the Huntsman," the Bella-fied one appears in another adaptation of a classic text -- "On the Road," the film version of the Jack Kerouac tome that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and opens in December.

Garrett Hedlund, one of her costars in that film, has strong feelings himself about a book that could use a big-screen treatment. In contrast to "East of Eden," however, this one is older, longer and more French.

“There’s something about ‘Swann’s Way,'" Hedlund said, alluding to the first volume in Marcel Proust’s seven-part opus “Remembrance of Things Past," "something so Gatsby-ish, so wackily period, with so much substance."

He addded, “One of the things I loved about Marcel Proust is just the writing style. There’s like three periods and 150 commas in the opening pages. It’s amazing.”


"Snow White and the Huntsman" is a tale darkly told, critics say

Cannes 2012: Kristen Stewart says Jack Kerouac changed her life

Kristen Stewart: I'm not trying to distance myself from Twilight Saga

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Kristen Stewart at a screening of "Snow White and the Huntsman" in Los Angeles. Credit: Kevin Winter / Getty Images

'Hugo' author's movie companion illuminates film world for youths

November 2, 2011 |  1:23 pm

Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz in

Characters in movies like this summer’s “Super 8” and the recent British comedy “Son of Rambow”  remind us that even youngsters can fill the director’s chair. But ask a child if he knows what a second unit director or a 3-D stereographer does and you probably wouldn’t expect him to have the answer.

Author Brian Selznick set out to change that with “The Hugo Movie Companion,” which hit shelves Tuesday. The book takes a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Martin Scorsese’s upcoming “Hugo,” which is based on Selznick's children’s novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Unlike the typical official movie companions that studios release with new films, this one is geared toward a younger audience, like the movie itself.

“I interviewed 40 people from Scorsese to the dog trainer and asked everybody to define their jobs for children, which is something I don’t think Scorsese had been asked before,” Selznick said.

The Academy Award-winning director may be more accustomed to darker fare like “The Departed” and “Taxi Driver,” but he supplied Selznick with a poetic answer for his young audience:

“[The director’s job is] the same thing that children do when they play … make up stories, give people parts to play, and figure out where they go and what they do,” Scorsese said in Selznick’s book.

The cover of Brian Selznick's The Hugo Movie CompanionThe young and the young-at-heart stay prevalent in the book. Selznick interviewed the filmmakers about their favorite films when they were children. A photo of a miniature train is accompanied by an anecdote about a 12-year-old boy visiting the set who got to call “Action!” for the take, sending the train crashing through the window of a miniature set.

Featuring other key players, from the cast to the dialect coach to the set decorator, “The Hugo Movie Companion” also includes photos from the London set built at Shepperton Studios, annotated pages of the script, storyboards, concept art and Selznick’s illustrations from the novel.

In the book’s last chapter, Selznick describes the making of one scene in the film where all the people he interviewed play a part –- including the author himself in his own cameo.

“It was really fun to interview everybody and get to look at how a movie really gets made, because there’ll be a lot of jobs that kids didn’t even know existed until they read this book,” Selznick said.

“The Hugo Movie Companion” is published by Scholastic Press. “Hugo” opens in theaters Nov. 23.


Martin Scorsese winds up 'Hugo' [Trailer]

Martin Scorsese's 'Hugo' not just a kids' movie [Trailer]

Scorsese's unfinished 'Hugo' shows 3-D's promise for NYFF crowd

–- Emily Rome

Photos, from top: Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz in "Hugo"; cover of "The Hugo Movie Companion." Credits: Paramount Pictures; Scholastic Press

Live chat with 'The Lucky One's' Nicholas Sparks on Oct. 13

October 7, 2011 |  6:30 am

Live chat with Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks, whose book "The Lucky One" is getting the big-screen treatment in April, will be joining us for a live online chat on Thursday, Oct. 13, starting at 10 a.m. PDT.

Sparks is a popular and prolific author with more than a dozen novels to his name, the latest of which, "The Best of Me," hits shelves Oct. 11. His previous titles include "The Notebook," "A Walk to Remember," "Dear John" and "The Last Song." The upcoming adaptation of "The Lucky One," starring Zac Efron as a Marine trying to find a mystery woman who he believes was his good luck charm during the war in Iraq, is Sparks' seventh book to be made into a movie.

Warner Bros. has also bought film rights to "The Best of Me," a tear-inducing tale of former high school sweethearts who reunite 25 years later. Sparks is co-producing the movie with Denise DiNovi, who produced "The Lucky One," and filming is scheduled to start in 2012.

To schedule a reminder for the chat, just fill out the form below. And be sure to join us Thursday.


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— Noelene Clark

Photo: Nicholas Sparks in 2010. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times.

Is 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' the 'film to beat' at Venice?

September 6, 2011 |  6:42 am

Colin Firth Gary Oldman Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Unlike many of the movies that debuted at the Venice Film Festival in recent days, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" isn't making a quick leap across the Atlantic to another cinematic gathering in, say, Toronto or New York.

The film is set to soon begin a slow rollout in Europe, but U.S. fans of the John Le Carre espionage novel (or 1970s miniseries) will have to wait until December to see Swedish director's Tomas Alfredson's take on the tale of George Smiley and his hunt for a mole within British spy agency MI6. But early reviews out of Venice indicate that their patience will be rewarded.

Leslie Felperin, writing for Variety, says the film –- starring Gary Oldman as Smiley -- is an "inventive, meaty distillation" of the book and offers "an incisive examination of Cold War ethics, rich in both contempo resonance and elegiac melancholy." Felperin adds that just as Le Carre's novel captured the mid-1970s zeitgeist of disillusionment with politicians and those in power, coming as it did after Watergate, the Vietnam War and the fall of the Shah in Iran, this remake "catches the newest wave of disillusionment and anxiety. It may be a period piece, right down to the slacks flared just so and the vintage wallpaper, but it feels painfully apt now to revisit the early-to-mid-1970s, when things were just about to fall apart.”

Alfredson may be best known to Americans for his Nordic vampire tale "Let the Right One In," which was remade last year into the English-language "Let Me In."  Besides Oldman, "Tinker, Tailor" offers the chance to see Colin Firth off his Oscar-winning role in "The King's Speech." The cast also includes John Hurt, Ciaran Hinds and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Deborah Young says in the Hollywood Reporter that the film "shows a faithfulness that should fully meet the expectations of the writer's fans" and says it's "visually absorbing" and "a solid piece of thinking-man's entertainment for upmarket thriller audiences."

Xan Brooks of the Guardian called the movie "the film to beat" at Venice. We'll see shortly: The Golden Lion will be handed out Saturday.


Hot films up for grabs at the Toronto Film Festival

Telluride: Michael Fassbender exposes more than skin in "Shame"

Venice Film Fest: Buzz (good and bad) for Keira Knightley in "A Dangerous Method"

-- Julie Makinen

Photo: Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch and John Hurt arrive for the premiere of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" at the Venice Film Festival on Monday. Credit: Joel Ryan  / Associated Press

Young-girl sensation 'Judy Moody' heading to theaters this summer

February 1, 2011 |  2:30 pm

We're not especially up on just what is cool among third-graders these days. But those who are — or at least who have kids who are — extol the Judy Moody children's book series and its popularity among the schoolkids. Which we suppose makes it good news for said kids, and parents, that an independent movie based on the character is coming to theaters.

Nascent distribution label Relativity Media announced today that it had acquired rights to "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" and will put it in theaters this summer. The film, which is currently in production, is a new set of adventures based on Megan McDonald's precocious third-grade title character. (There are about 10 previously published books, as well as a handful of spinoffs involving Stink, Judy's brother.) According to a Relativity release, the film "chronicles Judy Moody's adventures, in which she sets out to have the most thrilling summer of her life with the help of her little brother Stink and fun-loving Aunt Opal." 

We, however, prefer the patois-heavy product description on Amazon: "Roar! It’s not bad enough that Mom and Dad are heading to California, leaving Judy and Stink with Aunt Awful (er, Opal), but now Judy’s two best friends are going Splitsville, too. Just when it looks like her summer is going to be BOR-ing - eureka! - Judy comes up with the most thrill-a-delic plan ever." McDonald herself wrote the screenplay, taking her characters in new directions; Heather Graham stars as Opal. (Aussie newcomer Jordana Beatty plays the young heroine.)

Maybe most eye-catching: The film is being produced by the team that brought us "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."

Movies based on young-girl properties ("American Girl," "Ramona and Beezus") have a checkered history on the big screen. But if you're bringing out a new movie, a hugely popular book series isn't a bad place to start.

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo:A Peter Reynolds illustration for 'Judy Moody.' Credit: Candlewick Press.

Why is everyone so on Baz Luhrmann for a 3-D 'Great Gatsby'?

January 10, 2011 |  5:43 pm

To believe the angry calls for his head on Twitter, you'd think Baz Luhrmann suggested reinventing Shakespeare as a set of pop-music videos or something.

Oops, too late for that. But the fact that he's already done that in "Romeo + Juliet" -- and took nearly as many liberties with that movie's spiritual cousin, "Moulin Rouge" -- should make his statement that he's thinking of shooting his adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" in 3-D a lot less shocking.

As the Aussie provocateur said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas -- at a panel moderated by our colleague Geoff Boucher; you can watch a video clip here -- the director is debating shooting his F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation using that Z-axis. The logic, as recalled by Boucher (who spoke to Luhrmann at length about the issue), is that when we see a drama on the stage, we're able to observe various levels of detail through the use of foreground and background. The 3-D format simply allows for the same experience on the screen.
Luhrmann is always shaking up the status quo, so it shouldn't surprise us that he might try to marry a classic 20th century story with a 21st century format. He also seems to thrive on the negative reaction (which makes the irate, can-he-be-stopped reactions more than a little funny.)

And he clearly loves the grandiose; when we interviewed him about this project a few years ago he said (with appropriate grandiosity) that his ambition was nothing less than a movie that spoke for our gilded age. ("People will need an explanation of where we are and where we've been, and 'The Great Gatsby' can provide that explanation," he said.) What better way to make that kind of grand statement than to have Nick Carraway and Daisy Buchanan in three dimensions?

Besides, the whole idea of new technology is to aid the storytelling. The use of color had all sorts of thematic importance in "The Wizard of Oz" (by contrasting it to Dorothy's dreary life back in Kansas, etc).  Couldn't a third dimension do the same for the opulence of West Egg?

And it's not like Luhrmann is the first high-end director shooting a beloved book in 3-D -- Ang Lee is currently doing the same with "Life of Pi" (a point that Luhrmann, incidentally, is happy to make).

Upon hearing the news, one bookstore operator wrote on Twitter that "We have plenty of copies of 'The Great Gatsby' in all our shops. The text is printed in 2D. We find them to be more than sufficient." Sure, but then by that logic you don't need a director, actor or a script either. Once you're making a movie based on a classic book, the extra dimension doesn't seem like a big deal.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Baz Luhrmann. Credit: Reuters


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Young-adult sensation 'The Maze Runner' gets ready to run the movie gantlet [Updated]

January 4, 2011 |  2:03 pm

Fans of young-adult fiction -- or anyone with young adults in their lives -- probably are familiar with "The Maze Runner," James Dashner's fantasy tale.

The first book in Dashner's planned trilogy -- about a group of boys, and one girl, who are trapped in an alternative universe called The Glade and must navigate an entity known as The Maze to escape -- has been on the New York Times paperback bestseller list for nearly three months after coming out in hardcover in the fall of 2009. The second book, "The Scorch Trials," was released this past fall and has just completed a one-month run on the newspaper's hardcover list.

MazeruLike Suzanne Collins' ultra-popular "The Hunger Games" novels and other young-adult publishing phenomena, Dashner's books use genre conventions to explore the vagaries of growing up. And like "Hunger Games," Dasher's stories are poised to make the leap to the big screen.

A film version is set up at Fox, and "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke signed on a month ago to direct the adaptation. Now a source close to the film says the project has hired a screenwriter, and he's an interesting choice: Noah Oppenheim. 

Although he's not written any young-adult films to date, Oppenheim has some A-list credits. A former "Today" show producer, he's writing the  English-language version of the Swedish thriller "Snabba Cash" for Zac Efron. He also created a stir when his story about Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of the JFK assassination, set up at Fox Searchlight, caught the eye of Steven Spielberg.

Of course, it's not easy taking a young-adult publishing hit and turning it into a successful movie, something that movies such as "Lemony Snicket" and "The Golden Compass" learned the hard way. Studios these days want to know there's not only a built-in fan base but a viable way to tell the stories cinematically (and on a reasonable budget).

Then again, studios these days also can't resist a franchise...

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: The Maze Runner. Credit: Delacorte Books


Zac Efron, Jackie Kennedy and a Swedish phenomenon get linked

[For the record, 12:10 p.m: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the story about Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of the JFK assassination was set up at HBO.]


'Life of Pi' suffers another blow

May 27, 2010 |  7:12 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Speaking of difficult books and the development challenges that accompany them, here comes another example, and it's a high-profile one.

Pi"Life of Pi," Yann Martel's bestselling Booker Prize winner that has had more development go-rounds than a male Bengal tiger has mates, may  be on its way back to the development cage. Eclectic director Ang Lee had been set to shoot the movie, possibly even  in 3-D, but budget concerns appear to be putting the project on hold.

Lee and producer Gil Netter have returned to Fox 2000 with a budget that sources say is too high for the studio division. (A recent Indiewire piece  put it in the $70 million range.)

The filmmakers can still reconfigure the budget, but until they do, the film isn't moving forward. (Netter didn't immediately return a call for comment.)

That the project remains active at all is at least partly thanks to the devotion of  Fox 2000 chief Elizabeth Gabler, who has been hugely keen on a “Pi” film.

Gabler has a fair amount of clout within Fox, and Fox 2000 has been highly profitable for the studio with other mid-budget book-based movies, such as "Marley & Me" and "The Devil Wears Prada." But those films, of course, had commercial hooks. This one, about a boy named Pi who finds himself trapped on a boat with a tiger after a shipwreck that sees many other animals meet their end, could be difficult to market (and, it should be noted, difficult to film).

If the Lee version doesn't work out, it wouldn't be the first time a name-brand director took on, then wound up separating from, a "Pi" adaptation.

Genre notables like M. Night Shyamalan and Alfonso Cuaron, along with French auteur Jean-Pierre Jeunet, have all been on board to direct a version of the film at some point. Fox is generally cost-conscious, and the fact that this movie, despite its bestseller status, can be a tricky shoot has them especially concerned -- particularly given the high number of CG creatures, as well as the water-bound location, which tends to drive up budgets in general.  On top of all that, "Pi" is exactly the kind of specialized, non-tentpole movie that nearly all studios are staying away from these days.

The title character in "Life of Pi" survived a difficult 227 days on a raft floating through dangerous waters. The film project may have to endure even more.

-- Steven Zeitchik and John Horn



Photo: "Life of Pi" book jacket. Credit: Canongate Books

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