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Entries in Adaptations (109)

Monday
Feb162015

Review: 50 Shades of Grey

This review originally appeared in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad. It is reprinted here with a couple of minor adjustments.

SPOILER ALERT: Nothing happens in 50 SHADES OF GREY. Nothing at all. The property’s idiot savant genius may be how well it achieves this tabula rasa narrative and aesthetic zen state. Its slate is so blank that the audience is free to project whatever they’d like on to it including the drama. BYOE: Bring Your Own Everything. Perhaps this accounts for its enormous “event” like status at the box office. 

We begin with an embarrassingly botched interview between a young woman who we're supposed to think of as a frumpy plain jane, an unstylish deer in the headlights if you will, and the snappily dressed über intimidating businessperson who will decide her fate. (Think The Devil Wears Prada plus sexual tension minus jokes). Naive and beautiful young Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), her name apparently downloaded from a romance novel generator, has gone to see the young billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) but she's not actually supposed to be there. She's doing it as a favor for her sluttier worldly BFF Karla (think streetwise Kit to impossibly virginal hooker Vivian in Pretty Woman) who happens to be sick on the day of her interview with the college's most successful alumnus/eligible bachelor. 

So our leads meet quite by accident. Is it fate? Will it get kinky? 

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Thursday
Dec182014

Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo to Star in Romantic Drama 'Americanah'

Earlier this year Lupita Nyong'o acquired the rights to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's award-winning 2012 novel Americanah, signing on to star as Nigerian émigré Ifemelu, as well as produce along with Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment. David Oyelowo has also signed on to star as romantic lead Obinze. The book is divine: beautifully written, emotionally complex, swooningly romantic and often bitingly funny. It's also full of razor-sharp insight on immigration and cultural identity, the shifting concept of home, and blackness in America, Nigeria, and Britain.

The project is guaranteed to be a meaty opportunity for Nyong'o and Oyelowo, but is still several steps away from production. Some questions:

1. Should we worry that the project doesn't yet have a script? I'd say no, in part because of my love for the source material, but largely due to the strength of Plan B producing. They've got a respectable filmography, and the last couple years have been a serious hot streak (Moneyball, 12 Years a Slave, Selma). They shouldn't have trouble attracting top-drawer talent. With the right team in place, this could be someone's shot at a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

2. Who should direct? It's only natural that Ava DuVernay's name should come to mind, given her skill with romantic drama and epic political context. It would make hers a 3-for-3 David Oyelowo filmography, and she certainly already has the in with Plan B Entertainment. But since the story is so indivisible from the non-American experience, and so specifically Nigerian in perspective, perhaps a Nollywood director might be a better choice. Perhaps Biyi Bandele, whose adaptation of Adichie's novel Half of a Yellow Sun came out earlier this year to mixed reviews, would be interested in another shot at the author's work?

3. Will Beyoncé help with the movie's PR? When Beyoncé dropped her secret album last year, she gave Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie a major profile boost by sampling her TED talk "Everyone Should Be a Feminist on the song "***Flawless", which sent Americanah rocketing up the Amazon sales charts. (To be honest, that's also how I first heard of the book.) Maybe the movie release can be preceded by a tie-in Beyoncé single that samples dialogue from the movie? Harness the power of Bey and you have the makings of a serious box office hit on your hands.

It's impossible not to admire Lupita Nyong'o's initiative and savvy in carving out her career, snapping up the rights to an interesting project herself and then backing that up by attracting major talent and industry clout. No production date is set; join me in hoping that this moves forward smoothly.

Have you read Americanah? Who else do you think should be brought on to the production?

Sunday
Nov232014

Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Michael C here with what I suppose is part one of my review of Mockingjay.

“I wish she were dead,” says Finnick Odair at the start of the third entry in the Hunger Games series. “I wish they were all dead and we were too,” he adds to include himself, Katniss, and all the tributes that remain in the clutches of the Capitol after the events of Catching Fire

If that seem like a dispiriting way to start an action blockbuster rest assured it perfectly establishes the tone of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, a grim, disjointed film that is short on thrills and long on misery. Francis Lawrence’s sequel progresses from torture to bombs dropped on hospitals to the wreckage of towns strewn with skulls, all of it scrubbed down to a bloodless PG-13. Our big reward for wading through this suffering is to see our beloved Katniss strangled within an inch of her life. 

I expect fans of the series will like it a lot...

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Thursday
Nov062014

Tim's Toons: A history of animated Marvels

Tim here. Tomorrow sees the release of Big Hero 6, the 54th feature made by the Walt Disney Animation Studio canon, and the first time that studio has collaborated with its corporate cousins at Marvel Entertainment. The result is certainly the most prestigious animated project ever based on a Marvel comics title, but far, far from the first. In fact, Marvel superheroes have been showing up in cartoons for almost a half of a century now. I give you a tour of some of them.

The Marvel Super-Heroes (1966)
The very first Marvel TV series, airing 65 episodes in syndication. The first time I ever heard of it was about an hour ago, so I can’t begin to say if it has an kind of rabid fanbase or lingering influence on Marvel writers and artists, but it stands out in my eyes for having extraordinarily cheap animation even by ‘60s syndicated TV standards, basically just waggling still drawings underneath the camera. Seriously, watch that video.

Lasting cultural impact: None, but from now on, if I ever meet Mark Ruffalo, I’m going to chant “watch them change their very shape before your nose!” at him till he punches me in the face.

Classics and new shows alike below the jump!

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Monday
Nov032014

The Honoraries: Maureen O'Hara in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

In "The Honoraries" we're looking at the careers of this year's Honorary Oscar recipients (O'Hara, Miyazaki, Carriere) and the Jean Hersholt winner (Belafonte). Here's Nathaniel...

Sanctuary ! Sanctuary !

You often feel like you've seen the classics, even if you haven't. Victor Hugo published "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" 183 years ago and like most enduring classics, including Hugo's other culturally imposing masterwork "Les Miserables,"  it feels familiar even if you have no first-hand experiences with it. Hunchback, like Les Miz, has been adapted several times but has actually been musicalized more often. I regret to inform that I had never seen the 1939 RKO version starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara until now so the Disney version was my only true cinematic reference point, at first forcing comparisons where I didn't want to see anyway.

The easiest comparison to shake off was Esmeralda, since Maureen O'Hara's fresh faced  breakthrough slipping through crowds and dancing in circles with her tambourine, beats Disney's Gypsy princess voiced by Demi Moore instantaneously. [More...]

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