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Four Movies Worth Reading, Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

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Hollywood regularly pulls story ideas off the shelves of libraries, and four of the upcoming literary adaptations for the screen are the must-read/must-see events of the 2012 season. Reading the source first invariably gives the popcorn-eating viewer essential back-story and insights to the inner lives of the characters that can make a great movie even better. Here are the upcoming 2012 movies in that ‘not-to-miss’ category:

Cloud Atlas is based on David Mitchell’s Booker Prize shortlisted novel, published in 2004, of six interwoven tales, a storyline that will have Tom Hanks playing three roles from three different time periods. Hanks is one of the many actors in interchanging roles for this movie, and the underlying theme of the story is the interconnectedness of all things. It was co-directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski, directors of The Matrix trilogy, and Tom Twyker of Run, Lola, Run fame. You’ll find me running for a ticket on opening day – October 26th.

The actress Keira Knightly and director Joe Wright collaborated in the past to bring forth the screen adaptations of Ian McEwan’s majestic novel Atonement as well as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and based on the lavish praise after early screenings of their new collaboration, Anna Karenina, this film will be worth the price of the book and the seat. This is not the first time this story has been brought to the silver screen, but it could be the best yet. Leo Tolstoy’s sprawling novel will take your breath away, and stay with you for years. I heartily recommend the Penguin Classics fresh translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, two translators working to bring the English-reading world many of the canon’s masterpieces. I recommend checking out the other books these two have published, and, on November 16th, the day Anna Karenina is released, I’ll see you at the Cineplex.

Life of Pi will light up the screen on Nov. 21st, and this Ang Lee-directed film stars Suraj Sharma and Irrfan Khan (from Slumdog Millionaire). Yann Martel won the Man Booker Prize (Britain’s Pulitzer) for this story of an Indian boy at sea in a boat with a Bengal tiger. Presented in 3-D, this story of faith and survival while being stranded for seven months in the Pacific Ocean is sure to win the hearts of audiences. The director of diverse titles such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, and The Ice Storm, this Taiwanese filmmaker’s new movie is sure to please.

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien’s prelude to The Lord of the Rings trilogy and a literary tour de force by itself, comes our way on Dec. 14th. Peter Jackson, the director of T.L.O.R. trilogy, after years of uncertainty, finally took the reign of this production and, with a reported budget of a half billion dollars, Jackson decided to make this a trilogy for the screen as well. Starring, along with many others, Martin Freeman and Ian McKellan, this trilogy will be spread out over a few years and give readers a chance to absorb the quick read.

Both the Tolkien and Martell novels are not as long as the door-stop Tolstoy, or as dense as the time-traveling mind-warp from Mitchell, but all four make for wonderful excursions into the imagination. Seeing movies on the theater’s big screen with its big sound while sharing that large space with others is the way movies are intended to be experienced. When films are based on literary works, knowing the back-story and the inner lives of the characters adds immensely to our overall enjoyment. And though it is true that you can’t judge a book by its movie, you can truly enjoy a movie by its book.

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