Repackaged TV shows, comic books (too often, it seems) and even board games (yes, really). It certainly seems like anything can be fodder for movies these days, but far too often the most obvious source gets overlooked: Good, old-fashioned books.
This year, three books that I've enjoyed to varying degrees are coming to the big screen, and it starts this week with "Water for Elephants."
On paper at least, Sara Gruen's popular novel, being directed by Richard Lawrence (director of "I Am Legend" and a whole lot of music videos before that), seems like it would be a hard one to screw up in movie form, because the story is just so naturally epic. And with Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, Christoph Waltz and the great Hal Holbrook, it features a first rate cast, too, so here's hoping it all works out.
Another wildly popular book that is making the leap to movies this year is Kathryn Stockett's "The Help," but in this case, I'm hoping the flick will be a lot better than the novel. While I didn't hate Stockett's work, I found it to be full of stock characters drawn in broad strokes of black and white (and that, despite the book's subject matter, has nothing to with race). As a movie, however, it has great potential.
In this case, too, the story of a young Southern woman who led a group of black maids to find the voice for their grievances has a perfect cast, led by solidly funny lady Emma Stone in the main role of Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan and Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, the leader of the maids. Keep an eye out for this as counter programming to all the super hero flicks and late summer comedies Aug. 12. Here's the first trailer I know of for it:
And finally, from a book intended for readers much younger than me that nonetheless managed to thoroughly engross me, Martin Scorsese will bring Brian Selznick's young adult novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" to the big screen Nov. 23 as the shortened "Hugo Cabret" (and, unfortunately, in 3-D, but I think I've lost that battle already).
The magical story is about a boy who lives a secret life inside the walls of a Paris train station. There, he discovers one of French filmmaker George Méliès' automatons, which were mechanical, wind-up figures, and that's when the tale really gets fun.
For the movie, young Hugo is played by Asa Butterfield, with his friend Isabelle being played by Chloe Moretz (a Georgian and the unforgettable Hit-Girl from "Kick-Ass") and the station inspector being played by Sacha Baron Cohen. Even in awful 3-D, I really can't see anyway that Scorsese can make this into anything but a completely fun holiday flick.
I always try to picture the books I'm reading as movies (Williams Boyd's spy saga "Restless" would make a great one, but no one's jumped on that yet), so here's hoping they can continue to inspire great filmmakers in this increasingly digital world. Peace out.