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First of all, I’m shocked that a film featuring two Academy Award winning actors (Martin Landau, Tim Robbins) and two Academy Award nominees (Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan) based on a popular children’s series is being so wildly ignored as far as publicity and hype goes. I loved the book, and I find Ronan to be a great casting choice, and Tim Robbins is enjoyable in anything, so I can’t imagine that there’s not something for everyone here.

Ignored or not, the trailer looks pretty exciting doesn’t it? Definitely far more exciting and action packed than I would have ever pictured the book as. I’m glad I didn’t see any of this before reading the book, as I may have been disappointed in the lack of action while reading, but instead now I feel I’ll be disappointed by the film. I wish this adaptation could have been treated better, but it looks as though it never stood a chance. Directed by relative newcomer Gil Kenan (Monster House), he has taken a slow, steady, and very dark children’s book and turned it into a thrilling race to escape the city, adding a lot of action that didn’t exist in the novel. The trailer does not waste any time in introducing it’s characters and tries to suck the audience in with excitement instead. In fact, I’m not even completely clear on what character Tim Robbins plays (I guessed Doon’s father and IMDB tells me I’m correct), I didn’t see Martin Landau once, and I thought they had cut the character of Lina’s little sister until I freeze framed one of the last shots in the tunnel and realized there was a small child with them all along.

I loved this book so much that I’ll definitely see this movie, but I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed. And depending on how well it performs this weekend, I hope they changed the ending so it doesn’t blatantly set up the next two movies that may never be made.

I really expected to be less than thrilled by this novel and even contemplated skipping it altogether. After all, I’m not the biggest Scott/Crowe fan (I hated Gladiator, yup I said it and I feel better), and I’m not in the least bit excited for the movie so why bother with a book about the CIA and foreign operations and other political conspiracies that I have no room for in my brain this election year? But I picked it up anyway, just to read a few chapters and see if I could stick with it and it turned out that I could. Before I knew it, I was up until the wee hours of the morning, flipping through and wanting to know what happened next.

The book follows Roger Ferris, a CIA agent who is wounded in Iraq and relocated to Jordan where he begins to track an Al Queda member known as Suleiman who is setting off car bombs throughout Europe. With his boss in D.C., Ed Hoffman, he devises a ruse that intends to get them inside of Suleiman’s network. I’m about as politically ignorant as you can get and thought I’d have trouble swallowing all the details and understanding the nuances of the CIA plot, but it has completely sucked me in and I’m dying to know where it will take me. I’m just a few chapters away from the end and I can tell that this book has not finished twisting and turning.

To be honest, I spent a good portion of the book thinking that Roger Ferris was Russel Crowe’s character. It was only after realizing that there was no one else DiCaprio could be that I figured they must have beefed up Hoffman’s character for Crowe. I’m anxious to see how they’ll change the part of Ferris to adapt to DiCaprio, considering in the book he is described as someone who can pass for Egyptian and his heritage plays a big part in the plot. Also, there is a very strong American woman in this book that would have been a great role for a subdued actress such as Gwyneth Paltrow or Charlize Theron, but appears to have been changed considerably as an Iranian actress is portraying the role in the film. I find that to be a bit shocking given the importance of Alice (in the film she’s now Aisha), and makes me wonder what else has been changed and if the movie will have the same twists and turns that I’m loving so much in the novel.

I’m not quite sure how Toby Young’s life story came to be a book or a movie, but luckily they got Simon Pegg to translate Young’s arrogance into comedy.

The Book:
Reading this book made me angry. Throughout Toby Young’s memoirs you want to reach through the pages and strangle him for being such an enormous idiot. And yet, he is presented with opportunity after opportunity that he continues to mess up in one way or another. Young’s memoirs follow him from the start of his career at The Modern Review in London to his years at Vanity Fair in New York and through his descent into oblivion after messing up every opportunity handed to him. The memoir reads like fiction, and would be a quick, funny read if Young didn’t go off on so many uninteresting tangents. It’s as though once the word restrictions of journalism are lifted he’s got so much to say, regardless of whether it’s relevant or not. His tendency to ramble and vast amount of name dropping cause him to come off as a bit of a pompous ass. Still, the story has a complete arc and taken with a grain of salt actually makes for an interesting narrative, and is really an inspired source for a film adaptation.

The Movie:
It’s impossible for Simon Pegg not to be funny, and he brings a sort of sympathy to Toby that the book lacks, yet it’s still very hard to relate to such a despicable character. The movie changes nearly everything- only Toby, now Sydney, and Graydon, now Clayton (Jeff Bridges), remain relatively the same, with a few anecdotes making it to film such as the incident in which Sydney asks a famous actor if he is Jewish and gay (in the book it’s Nathan Lane) and Sydney ordering a strip tease in the office on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. Other than that there are new characters, such as Alison (Kirsten Dunst) who plays Sydney’s unlikely love interest and Sophie Maes (Megan Fox) a hot young actress who Sydney relentlessly tries to land in bed. The film has its moments of being laugh out loud funny (most of which are lifted straight from the book), but when it comes down to it Sydney is not a character that we want to see rise to success and get the girl.

What’s Missing:
Almost all of the tangents from the memoir, plus a ton of characters including Alex di Silva, Toby’s good friend who meets great success in Hollywood as Toby falls from grace; Chris Lawrence, Toby’s office mate who he immediately bonds with and shares his love for all things British and James Bond; and Caroline, the little sister of a friend from London who comes to live with Toby and whom he falls helplessly in love with.

What’s New:
Alison is like a hybrid of Elizabeth, the smart successful fashion director of Vanity Fair, Aimee who co-heads the department that Toby works in, with a little bit of Caroline thrown in for the romance. The actress Sophie Maes mixes Sophie Dahl the supermodel who befriends Toby and becomes his roommate with the many actresses and supermodels who rejected Toby along the way, plus a little bit of Pippi, the assistant whose dog incident makes it to the film in the form of Cuba, Sophie’s ill fated Chihuahua. Eleanor (Sophie’s publicist), Lawrence Maddox (Sydney’s boss), and Vincent LePak (the young, “it” director) are all completely new to the story. Also, the character of Elizabeth Maddox doesn’t exist in the book, but the characteristics and scenes they applied to her are that of Anna Wintour in the book. I think it would have been a cute little throwback had they gotten someone who at least looked like Meryl Streep (if not Meryl herself) and named the character Miranda.

Overall Adaptation:
I was pretty lukewarm on the memoir, but it had the possibility of being a great source of adaptation. However, the film left me feeling pretty lukewarm as well, but I did find Simon Pegg a tad less pompous than the original Toby Young and more of the bumbling idiot that Pegg plays so well.

I have a feeling that this film might be one of those situations where you either like the book and not the movie, or vice versa. Or maybe it’s more what you saw or read first. Either way, I really enjoyed the book, but don’t have high hopes for the film. While Kat Dennings is an inspired choice for Norah, I just don’t see Michael Cera as Nick. To be honest, he’s just not cool enough.

There are certain parts of the trailer that are lifted right from the book, such as when Nick’s friends take Caroline off Nick and Norah’s hands, but mostly it looks like a lot of changes. For one, it’s Norah that asks Nick to be her “boyfriend for 5 minutes” rather than the other way around as in the book, and it leads me to wonder why. Also, the subplot with losing Caroline seems completely unnecessary.

The book has such a rushed, immediate, living-one-moment-to-the-next tone to it that it seems impossible to translate to film. If anything, though, it looks like it’ll at least have an awesome soundtrack.

Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Honestly, the world doesn’t really need any more Neil Gaiman fans. His appearances and readings are always packed and sold out.  His signings go on for hours longer than intended.  To get into one people often camp out all day or overnight.  His blog gets millions of hits and any charity or auction or event that he pimps on it becomes wildly popular and gets tons of donations or sells out or reaches its goal.

So when I tell you all about The Graveyard Book, released today, I mean this for Neil Gaiman fans only.  How can you tell if you’re a Neil Gaiman fan?  Well, if you’ve read and liked some of his more popular works such as the Sandman graphic novels or American Gods.  If you like stories that put a new spin on characters both fictional (Sandman) and non fictional (Will Shakespeare).  In fact, if you like any sort of fantasy stories, science fiction stories, or even just fairy tales.  Come to think of it, if you’re a fan of good, smart, witty writing.  Basically, if you can read you should be a Neil Gaiman fan.

The Graveyard Book is the story of a boy raised in a graveyard by all sorts of ghouls and ghosts.  It’s being marketed towards young adults, but much like his other children’s books, most popularly Coraline, it’s really written for big kids like myself.  His prose is dark, twisted and full of puns and wit that would have gone over my head as a young adult.  But like a Pixar movie, Gaiman’s young adult material is written to be enjoyed by children, yet wholly understood by adults.  He writes for his daughters, but also for himself, the big kid in a man’s body.  I personally can’t wait to get my hands on it.  I’m headed over to the book store right now.  And if you’re able to read this post, then you should be too.

Still weary about whether to give Neil Gaiman’s stuff a try?  Right now you can read one of his earlier novels, Neverwhere, online for free.  Yes, I said free.  Not much of a gamble there.  And if you don’t love him, then good.  Like I said, the last thing we need is more Gaiman fans.  But I have a feeling that those lines aren’t getting any shorter.

Posted on September 30th, 2008 by Jess | Leave a Comment
Filed Under Entertainment

I picked this book up at a Borders that was going out of business a long time ago on the vague notion that it was being made into a film and haven’t thought about it since. Even in my great stack of books, I seriously considered skipping it, especially since there are three book to film adaptations coming out next weekend and two the following weekend. But I picked it up anyway when I saw the big print that’s used so often in Children’s Lit and figuring I needed a break from some of the heavy stuff I’ve been reading.

I am so glad that I changed my mind about it. The book follows two kids as they start to question their world- an underground city built for a mysterious, but necessary purpose- and if there might be something more out there. It’s a little bit like Brave New World and a little bit like Wall-E, but mostly it’s a really cool and dark concept for a children’s book and I love what I’ve read so far. My only regret in picking this book up is that there are two more in the series that I know I won’t have a chance to read for some time.

Adapting this book into a film will prove to be interesting. While it has great characters and an easy and visual plot, I can’t imagine if it will be marketed as a children’s film or an action film. It should fit nicely into a Spy Kids or Journey to the Center of the Earth kind of audience, but as far as I know it’s being released next weekend (10/10) and I haven’t seen a single poster. I vaguely recall seeing a teaser attached to a summer release, but can’t remember who’s in it or what it really looked like. I’d hate to think that this series will go the way of Lemony Snicket– great source material, great movie, but not enough of an audience to make the rest of the series. Either way, I look forward to seeing this film. With how much I’m loving the book, I can’t imagine that the movie won’t do justice to such an awesome story.

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