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A preview of fall book-to-movie adaptations


’Tis the season, once again, for movies to adapt books for prestigious projects. Here are some of the lesser-known books coming to your multiplex before year’s end. (As always, release dates are subject to change.)

The Town

Source Material: Prince of Thieves, by Chuck Hogan

Book Overview: In Boston’s gritty Charlestown neighborhood, bank robber Doug becomes obsessed with the bank manager he and his crew took hostage while disguised. Hogan may not be as sharp as Dennis Lehane at the top of his game, but he proves tremendously effective at conveying a place frozen in time, and a protagonist whose attempt to break away may be doomed.

Book Grade: B

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Writer/ director Ben Affleck showed with Gone Baby Gone that he can nail the working-class world of his native Boston.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: Affleck the leading man (playing Doug) isn’t generally as disarmingly subtle as Affleck the filmmaker.

Film Release Date: Opened Sept. 17

The Movie Pitch: “Mystic River meets Inside Man.”

Legend of the Guardians

Source Material: Guardians of Ga’hoole series, by Kathryn Lasky

Book Overview: In a land of owl kingdoms, one young orphaned owlet is caught in the battle between a mysterious evil and the legendary noble owls of Ga’hoole. Lasky’s basic narrative line is familiar epic-fantasy fodder, but the details are often unexpected. Unfortunately, those unique turns don’t necessarily translate to a story that’s genuinely engrossing.

Book Grade: B-

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Early trailers suggest breathtaking use of 3-D.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: Director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) often seems more interested in visual dazzle than storytelling.

Film Scheduled Release Date: Sept. 24

The Movie Pitch: “The Lord of the Rings meets The Incredible Journey.”

The Social Network

Source Material: The Accidental Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich

Book Overview: The phenomenon that is Facebook began in a Harvard dorm room; exactly how it began is the much-contested question. Mezrich explores the enigmatic computer whiz Mark Zuckerberg and the friends and fellow students who felt that they were part of launching an enterprise that would make them all rich. By conveying his reporting as page-turning narrative nonfiction, the author crafts a character study as stylish as it is informative.

Book Grade: B

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Benjamin Button notwithstanding, David Fincher rocks. Reason for Adaptation Concern: The ongoing dilemma of how to turn sitting in front of a computer screen into compelling drama. Film Scheduled Release Date: Oct. 1

The Movie Pitch: “Rashomon meets Hackers.”

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Source Material: Ned Vizzini’s novel of the same title

Book Overview: Academic and personal challenges send high-achieving Brooklyn 15-year-old Craig into a spiral of depression, leading to suicidal thoughts and a week-long stay in a psych ward. It’s initially difficult getting inside Craig’s head—he does seem like the whiny, privileged kid he’s afraid people will perceive—but eventually Vizzini crafts an effective portrait of a despairing teen looking for a reason to live.

Book Grade: B

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Writer/ directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Half Nelson, Sugar) have made two terrific New York City-set dramas.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: Will it effectively find balance between genuine depression and sanitized uplift?

Film Scheduled Release Date: Oct. 8

The Movie Pitch: “The Breakfast Club meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Love and Other Drugs

Source Material: Hard Sell, by Jamie Reidy

Book Overview: Reidy’s memoir recalls his life as a mid-1990s sales rep for Pfizer, when Viagra became a pharmaceutical phenomenon. Mostly, it’s a self-deprecating, warts-and-all story of a low-ambition guy able to scam the system for years, while also offering funny, startling insights about contemporary health care. If Reidy’s immature hijinks don’t get on your nerves, you’ll find interesting tales of the people who really decide which medications you get.

Book Grade: B

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Narrative requirements might tone down bad-boy anecdotes.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: When I think “lighthearted,” I don’t think of director Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai)

Film Scheduled Release Date: Nov. 24

The Movie Pitch: “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell meets Up in the Air.”

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