May's Books to Film

The Avengers (PG-13) is based on the Marvel comic series by Stan Lee, first published in 1963 and remains a bestseller. A Super Hero team featuring iconic Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow must face an unexpected enemy that threatens global safety and security. With Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (PG-13) follows a group of British retirees who decide to “outsource” their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel and bolstered with visions of a life of leisure, they arrive to find the palace a shell of its former self. Though the new environment is less luxurious than imagined, they are forever transformed by their shared experiences, discovering that life and love can begin again when you let go of the past. The script is based on a novel by Deborah Moggach, previously published in the UK as These Foolish Things.

Starring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson, and Maggie Smith, it is my pick for our girls' night out.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (PG-13) is adapted from Arlene Eisenberg's (written with her daughters Heidi Eisenberg Murkoff and Sandee Eisenberg Hathaway) perennial bestseller. It is a hilarious and heartfelt big screen comedy about five couples whose intertwined lives are turned upside down by the challenges of impending parenthood. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chace Crawford, Brooklyn Decker complete the cast.

Top Ten Movies of All Time

Once a decade Sight and Sound magazine does a poll of critics on their top 10 films of all time. While the 2012 poll is being compiled you can view previous poll results on their website. Roger Ebert has posted his choices for 2012 and explains why he chose them. While most of his choices stayed the same he did replace the Dekalog series with Tree of Life. Here is Roger's full list:

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #326

Absolutely, you won't get an argument from me that Unholy Night is not the first novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, but it is his first departure from zombies and vampires. Good enough reason for me.

Alright, it is another one of his "evolution in dark historical revisionism" but what fun. And thanks to that "brilliant and twisted mind", you will never look at The Nativity the same way again.

Did you ever wonder about the "Three Wise Men"? Who were they? Why the strange gifts? What happened to them? In Grahame-Smith's telling, they were infamous thieves dressed in borrowed finery, led by the charming, elusive and murderous Balthazar as they stumbled upon the Holy family in the famous manger after a daring escape from Herod's prison. Before they could make off with the gifts, Herod's men began to slaughter the first born in Judea, and they cast themselves, reluctantly at best, as the Holy Family's escort in their flight into Egypt. Thus began a heart-stopping, swashbuckling adventure.

The action, danger, intrigue, and humor is palpable but what impressed me most are the ingenious, unexpectedly poignant back stories he has created for the biblical figures - from the young, ambitious and secretly decent Pontius Pilate; Mary, the mouthy, sassy 15 year-old who is tough and surprisingly maternal; to the cruel, mad and diseased King Herod.

Film rights for Unholy sold ($2 million) to Warner Bros. before its publication. Seth Grahame-Smith wrote Tim Burton's film Dark Shadows (being released May 2012) and the screenplay for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a previous novel, in theaters June 2012.

Readalike: Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon ; illustrated by Gary Gianni.

April's Books to Film

Based on Nicholas Sparks' novel The Lucky One (PG-13), it follows U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault as he returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq, with the one thing he credits with keeping him alive --- a photograph he found of a woman he doesn’t even know. Learning her name and where she lives, he shows up at her door.

In Think Like a Man (PG-13) - the film adaptation of Steve Harvey's bestseller Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man : what men really think about love, relationships, intimacy, and commitment, 4 interconnected and diverse men whose love lives are shaken up after the ladies they are pursuing buy Harvey's book and start taking his advice to heart. When the band of brothers realize they have been betrayed by one of their own, they conspire using the book's insider information to turn the tables and teach the women a lesson of their own.

In The Pirates! Band of Misfits (PG), Hugh Grant stars in his first animated role as the luxuriantly bearded Pirate Captain --- a boundlessly enthusiastic, if somewhat less-than-successful, terror of the High Seas. With a rag-tag crew at his side, and seemingly blind to the impossible odds stacked against him, the Captain has one dream: to beat his bitter rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz to the much coveted Pirate Of The Year Award. We have Author Gideon Defoe to thank for his two adventurous tales in The Pirates! Band of Misfits : an adventure with scientists & an adventure with Ahab

In the film The Raven (R) when a serial killer who bases his methods of killing on Edgar Allan Poe’s stories (beginning with The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Pit and the Pendulum and working his way through other stories), Poe joins forces with a young Baltimore detective to solve the crime. The script is based on biographies of Edgar Allan Poe

Spoiler Alert!

John Dies at the End.

But in the beginning, John was alive and well when David Wong’s book started as a free webserial in 2001. It garnered enough popularity (approximately 70,000 fans) to get a more concrete existence and was printed as a paperback in 2007. Now, it has been adapted to film and premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

This comedic horror story centers around two friends, eccentric slacker John and self-deprecating, sarcastic Dave, a dog named Molly, and their experiences with, and caused by, a drug called "Soy Sauce." The drug is said to cause hallucinations and "out-of-body experiences" for the users. But John and Dave start finding themselves in situations that seem more real and even less explainable.

Strange deaths start occurring. Molly, the dog, is finding herself in strange instances of trouble and heroism. People are going missing, being possessed by evil, and all hell may literally be breaking loose. Dave is not thrilled about their new paranormally-enhanced life, but John loves all their unusual encounters and dives in headfirst. It looks like it's up to John and Dave to save the day, willingly or unwillingly. With less than 400 pages, this book is a quick read, full of genuinely frightening things as well as genuine hilariousness.

Unsolved Mystery....Solved?

Eerie coincidences, unexplained voices coming through television sets, cryptic, even rambling messages appearing as if out of nowhere embedded in seemingly impossible parts of city streets...somebody knows something about the Toynbee tiles, but nobody's talking....

For decades, people have been happening upon hundreds of these mysterious tiles in cities as far west as Kansas City, as far north as Boston, and as far south as Santiago, Chile. Yes, even Detroit has a few, though it's not really clear if both are still there or if they've been paved over. All have a variation of the same message:

Toynbee Idea
in Kubrick's 2001
Resurrect Dead
on Planet Jupiter

But what do they mean? Who put them there and how? Who is Arnold Toynbee, and what does he have to do with 2001: A Space Odyssey? Are the Toynbee tiles messages from aliens? Time travel blueprints? Paranoid and even anti-Semitic rants? 9/11 predictions? Just another form of street art?

Like a lot of people, I'd never heard of this mystery before. I stumbled upon it just as if it was a Toynbee tile itself when I checked out the fantastic 2011 documentary, "Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles." Deliciously creepy, even spine-tingling at times, with otherwordly music and strangely-lit interviews with colorful characters, this film does a great job of explaining the phenomenon...and just might even solve it. Originally a Kickstarter project, the film went on to receive several accolades including Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival. If you plan to watch, I'd recommend staying away from Wikipedia beforehand as it could ruin a bit of the suspense-factor here. Those who remember the show "Unsolved Mysteries" and fans of "The X-Files" will appreciate the style of this documentary!

Melancholia, on DVD

Writer and director Lars von Trier’s latest film, Melancholia, is not just another “end of the world” movie, it’s also a story of the complex relationship between two sisters. A wedding reception at a lavish Scandinavian countryside home sets the scene for this dark and beautifully made film. Newlyweds Justine and Michael celebrate their nuptials at the home of Justine’s sister Claire and her scientist husband John. With their opinionated family members in attendance, including the girls’ mother who bad mouths all marriages, it makes for quite the melancholy reception. Kirsten Dunst portrays the deeply depressed bride so wonderfully that it appears effortless, which earned her the best actress prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

The dreary state of the reception leads one to believe that the new marriage is doomed from the start. At the same time, the planet Melancholia is on a slow path towards earth, which has the sisters on edge as they try to comfort Claire's son and deal with Justine's illness while the giant blue planet's collision course taunts them. It is cinematically breathtaking and unsettling. I’m not usually a fan of films of an apocalyptic nature, but there’s something about this one. Perhaps he beauty helps balance the tension?

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

The documentary Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop is an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at O’Brien’s 32-city music and comedy show known as The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour.

The tour was a result of O’Brien stepping away from "The Tonight Show" after a dramatic dispute with NBC over moving the show’s timeslot from 11:35 pm to 12:05 am, following Jay Leno. O’Brien didn’t agree with the deal and walked away from the show with a settlement, but was contractually banned from appearing on radio or TV for six months.

The talk show host didn’t want to stop the late-night comedy act, so he took it on the road, in a most interesting fashion. I saw it performed live, and it was indeed a wonderful ruckus.

The film is an in-depth look into the birth of the tour, how the live comedic material was brought to life. It follows O’Brien and crew on an emotional backstage look at what it takes to do so much in so little time. Conan fans will appreciate the candid look at his life during such a tumultuous time. Two weeks after the successful live show wrapped, O’Brien began preparations for his newest late night show, Conan, which now airs on TBS.

AADL Staff Picks Goes to the Movies

The Staff Picks shelf is downtown on the first floor. Why not get ready for the holiday weekend with a few movies? Here are a few new for April.

Trekkies: “Interviewing hundreds of devoted fans and such Star Trek cast members as Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Michelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Kate Mulgrew and Brent Spiner, the film creates an entertaining and endearing portrait of the landmark series that has touched the lives of people around the world. Thumbs Up"—Roger Ebert

Two in the Wave: “Directors Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut changed the face of cinema forever as members of the French New Wave. A present-tense essay that is both time capsule and collage…a powerful reminder of just how exciting that work remains.”—NYT. Cannes Film Festival Official Selection, NYT Critic’s Pick.

Paper Moon: “The year is 1936. Orphaned Addie Loggins (Tatum O'Neal, in her film debut) is left in the care of unethical travelling Bible salesman Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal, Tatum's dad), who may or may not be her father. En route to Addie's relatives, Moses learns that the 9-year-old is quite a handful: she smokes, cusses, and is almost as devious and manipulative as he is. They join forces as swindlers, working together so well that Addie is averse to breaking up the team -- which is one reason that she sabotages the romance between Moses and good-time gal Trixie Delight (Madeline Kahn).—Rotten Tomatoes “Tatum O'Neal creates a character out of thin air, makes us watch her every moment and literally makes the movie work.”—Roger Ebert, Sun Times

Darwin’s Nightmare: “Forty years ago, a voracious predator is introduced into the waters of Tanzania’s Lake Victoria where it quickly extinguishes the entire stock of native fish. Its ecological impact aside, the Nile Perch becomes highly prized for its tender, plump fillets, barely meeting the demand at elegant 4-star restaurants. Harrowing…indispensable…an extraordinary work”—NYT. Winner Venice Film Festival, Best Documentary European Film Awards

Lenny Bruce, Performance Film: “Bursting with an indignation that remains freshly irreverent and blackly funny.”—NYT

Family Time at the Ann Arbor Film Festival

Saturday, March 31, 2012: 11am @ the Michigan Theater

Does your family enjoy going to the movies? Want to attend a family-friendly event at this year's Ann Arbor Film Festival?

AADL is participating in the 50th Ann Arbor Film Festival as a community partner for Ages 6+ Films in Competition, taking place Saturday, March 31st @ 11am at the Michigan Theater. If you enter this code - AAFF50AADL - when buying online tickets, you will get $2 off the advance ticket price ($5 standard).

This visually engaging program of 10 films includes animation, music videos, documentaries and a computer-generated 3D film made in 1971. Recommended for ages 6 and up.

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