Tag Archives: adaptation

New adaptation of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ heads to Broadway

Harper Lee’s classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” — and its now-somewhat sullied hero Atticus Finch — are heading to Broadway in a new adaptation written by Aaron Sorkin.

Producer Scott Rudin said Wednesday the play will land during the 2017-2018 season under the direction of Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, who is represented on Broadway now with the brilliant revivals of “The King and I” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” No casting was revealed.

Sorkin’s plays include “A Few Good Men” and “The Farnsworth Invention.” He won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his screenplay for “The Social Network,” which Rudin produced, along with Sorkin’s other films “Steve Jobs” and “Moneyball.”

The book has been made the leap to the stage before, including a 1991 adaptation by Christopher Sergel, which premiered at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse. There also was a production in 2013 that had a run at London’s Barbican Theatre with Robert Sean Leonard in the role of Finch, the noble widower and lawyer called upon to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman in Depression-era Alabama. This new version will mark the story’s Broadway debut.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” published in 1960, introduced Finch, Scout, Boo Radley and other beloved literary characters. The book was adapted into an Oscar-winning movie starring Gregory Peck as Atticus and has become standard reading in schools and other reading programs, with worldwide sales topping 40 million copies.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and widely praised as a sensitive portrait of racial tension as seen through the eyes of a child in 1930s Alabama, it also has been criticized as sentimental and paternalistic.

Last year saw the publication of Lee’s recently discovered manuscript, “Go Set a Watchman,” described as a first draft of the story that evolved into “Mockingbird.” Critics and readers were startled to find the heroic Atticus of “Mockingbird” disparaging blacks and condemning the Supreme Court’s decision to outlaw segregation in public schools.

‘Gone Girl’ delicious suburban noir

The predominant image throughout David Fincher’s films, from the uncovered horrors of “Se7en” to the Machiavellian maneuverings of “House of Cards,” has been a flashlight beam cutting through the dark.

In his latest, the Gillian Flynn adaptation “Gone Girl,” he shines it into the deepest depths of not a serial killer’s mind or a schizophrenic’s madness, but on a far more terrifying psychological minefield: Marriage. In “Gone Girl,” Fincher has crafted a portrait of a couple rivaled in toxicity only by “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and one with just as much — if more subtle — roleplaying.

The results are a mixed bag of matrimony mayhem, but an engrossing, wonderfully wicked one. Despite its perspective-shifting, “Gone Girl” may be too male in its viewpoint. And the schematic setup of Flynn’s screenplay does sap some of its force. But in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, “Gone Girl” is delicious suburban noir.

It begins with Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) caressing the head of his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), and wondering to himself, “What are you thinking?” It’s the film’s unsolvable mystery: the unknowingness of another, even one who shares your bed.

On a regular morning in North Carthage, Missouri, albeit one begun with an early drink of whiskey at Nick’s bar with his bartender twin sister, Margo (an excellent Carrie Coon as the movie’s voice of reason), Nick returns home to find Amy missing and scenes of a struggle. Even as she cheerfully pledges help, Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) sticks post-it notes around the house, marking areas of suspicion.

As the investigation turns toward Nick, and the high-wattage glare of the TV media finds his concern unconvincing, we get an autopsy on the Dunnes’ marriage. In flashbacks narrated by Amy’s journal, she recalls their fairy tale beginnings and — despite earnest intentions to avoid becoming “that couple” — their gradual dissolution.

Nick is laid off from his magazine writing job. They move from New York to Missouri to be near his family. Amy, the cool New York daughter of a publicity-savvy literary couple who based their bestselling children’s book series “Amazing Amy” on her, recoils at her Midwest McMansion nightmare, finding herself wed to a videogame-playing frat boy who, after a loveless afternoon tryst, suggests the Outback for dinner. She seethes: “I drank canned beer and watched Adam Sandler movies,” and an ocean of empathy washes from Nick to her.

This is the mischievous game of the movie, which hopes to sway your sympathies with each twist in the story.

Their bland suburban house becomes a prison to Nick, its windows lit up with the strobe-light flashes of the swarming media. The manipulation of image, both in public opinion and in private relationships, shapes the story, with Tyler Perry (in a spectacular performance that ought to, by its own strength, incinerate his Madea costume) swooping in as the narrative-controlling defense attorney Tanner Bolt. When Nick pledges the truth will be his defense, Bolt grins with cynical perfection.

Pike, in the fullest performance of her career, struggles to make Amy more than an opaque femme fatale. But _ and it’s a big one _ she does lead the film to its staggering climax, a blood-curdling sex scene: the movie’s piece de resistance, the consummation of its noir nuptials.

Fincher’s sinister slickness and dimly-lit precision has sometimes been considered a double-edged sword, a complaint that strikes me as missing the point. Mastery isn’t a negative.

“Gone Girl” doesn’t give the director the material that the propulsive “The Social Network” did. But you can feel him — aided by the shadowy cinematography of Jeff Cronenweth and the creepy score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — moving closer to the disturbed intimacies of Roman Polanski.

So, despite its imperfections, let us clink our glasses and throw rice on “Gone Girl.”

“Gone Girl,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.” Running time: 145 minutes. Three stars out of four.

Review: No monkey business in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’

Digital characters have by now long populated our movies like unwanted house guests. Some of these CGI inventions, like Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings,” have been pleasant, even precious company. But most have disrupted our movie worlds – and not just as monsters tearing our cities apart, but as awkward distractions to our cinematic realities. The name Jar Jar Binks will forever be followed by solemn head shaking. Never forget.

But in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the tables have turned, and not just because apes now rule a world where all but 1 in 500 humans have been wiped out by a so-called simian flu virus. No, the biggest uprising in the sequel to 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” is by those digitally created, nonhuman characters which have finally and resoundingly come of age.

Hail Caesar.

That’s the ape played by Andy Serkis, the motion-capture maestro of creatures like Gollum and a much bigger ape, Kong. Serkis played Caesar in “Rise of the Planet Apes,” the surprisingly good origin story of the rebooted “Apes” franchise wherein chimps, injected with a serum meant to cure human brain damage, develop great intelligence.

Caesar was a fine character then, but in “Dawn,” he shifts to center stage.

It’s 10 years after the last film ended and Caesar is now a weary leader and firmly-rooted family man with a wife, a teenage son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a new baby. Who gets credit for Caesar’s deep, troubled eyes, Serkis or the effects by Joe Letteri and Dan Lemmon? Does it matter?

Looking for a dam to restore power for a colony of human survivors, a group (Jason Clarke, Keri Russell) stumbles upon the monkeys’ Muir Woods home in the Redwoods outside San Francisco. The encounter sets off panic on both sides, as the firebrands in each community – the ape Koba, played by Toby Kebbell, and his human corollary, Gary Oldman – urge their species toward battle.

To a surprising degree, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” belongs to the monkeys. In the uncommonly sure-handed fusion of computer-generated and live-action images, apes are the more fully realized, expressive characters. Given that the apes communicate in sign language and spurts of English, this may be the biggest summer movie with so many subtitles.

Whereas Pierre Boulle’s original “Planet of the Apes” was satirical, director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) and screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver and Mark Bomback have given this “Apes” the grandly gloomy “Dark Knight” treatment, complete with an exceptional score by Michael Giacchino.

The movie feeds off a sense that, given the state of the planet, a reordering of the animal kingdom may be due. There’s a pervasive jealousy to the primates in “Apes”: their comfort in nature and simplicity of life. Audiences, in fact, will cheer the animals over the humans. And few will miss the gun control argument shallowly buried throughout the film. What would Charlton Heston have made of that?

But there’s also a question of putting too much gravity on an essentially absurd story. Eventually we have screaming monkeys on horseback firing automatic weapons amid roaring flames. One is tempted to lean forward and whisper, “`Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,’ your camp is showing.”

It’s gotten to be a very familiar ploy in Hollywood to remake previously light, cheesy entertainments with well-crafted, heavy grandiosity. So if there’s a failing of “Apes,” it’s that it feels like yet another manufactured franchise. Talented people like Reeves and Serkis are brought in like HGTV fixer-uppers to restore mossy pop-culture properties.

But, alas, they’re very good at it.

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” a 20th Century Fox release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief strong language.” Running time: 130 minutes. Three stars out of four.

‘Fargo’ the TV series premieres and you betcha it mesmerizes

After failed attempts and broken dreams, by golly, someone went and put “Fargo” on series TV.

The 10-episode season premiered Tuesday on FX. And it mesmerizes. As a furtherance of the 1996 crime classic by Joel and Ethan Coen that starred Frances McDormand, William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi, the TV adaptation is a wonder.

Like that movie, the series is set in rural, snow-glazed Minnesota, but 20 years later (in 2006), and is stocked with new characters, deadly mischief and a bounty of stars including Allison Tolman as a bright-eyed deputy and Martin Freeman as a nebbishy insurance salesman (distant echoes of the roles played by McDormand and Macy in the film). Also on hand are Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Oliver Platt, Kate Walsh, Keith Carradine, Adam Goldberg, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and more.

At the core of its deliciously deranged narrative is Lorne Malvo, a sotto-voce psycho whose mysterious path brings him to the town of Bemidji, with many repercussions.

Lorne is played by Billy Bob Thornton, who radiates still menace while sporting what he calls “a haircut gone wrong.”

“This was not from a salon,” Thornton explains. “It was done by a friend. But looking in the mirror, I thought, `Wow – this dark character having bangs, which you associate with innocence, would be great.’ So we decided to go with it.”

The man bringing “Fargo” back to life after ill-fated tries by NBC and CBS in the late 1990s is Noah Hawley, who serves as the show runner, an executive producer and the writer of all 10 episodes.

Somehow Hawley internalized the rules and deadpan tone of the Coens (who are also onboard as executive producers), then ran with their sense of twisted realism to create his own thing.

“He captured the Coen Brothers’ spirit, got their vibe, and yet he didn’t imitate `em,” says Thornton. “I thought, if you’ve done that, you’ve done something great.”

And when he encountered Lorne Malvo in Hawley’s pilot script, “I don’t know why, but I just went, `Yeah. That fits: a hand in a glove.’

“I liked the idea of playing a guy who has no conscience,” Thornton goes on. “He has this weird sense of humor. He likes to mess with people. And as we went along I started thinking, he’s a loner, so messing with people is actually his social life, his recreation.”

This is a guy who, when threatened on his home turf by a thug twice his size, unconcernedly steps to his bathroom, drops his trousers and takes a seat. His foe, appalled, beats a hasty retreat.

“He doesn’t like weakness,” Thornton adds. “He has this weird curiosity about weak people. And he sees them as people he can use.”

Having drawn Freeman’s jammed-up pipsqueak into his lair, Lorne shares his code on being tough: “We used to be gorillas. All we have is what we can take and defend.”

Speaking with a reporter in New York recently, the 58-year-old Thornton is jauntily clad in pants with broad black-and-navy stripes, T-shirt, leather jacket, boots and knit fingerless gloves.

He is friendly, easygoing and charismatic with his soft Southern accent – like his character, a force to be reckoned with.

“The most important thing for an actor to know is who he is,” Thornton says. “He’s got to know, `OK, I’m the guy for this role – or not.’ Like I always tell people, `If you’re doing a movie about Charles de Gaulle, get a French man. That ain’t me.’

“People will say, `Well, you need to stretch yourself as an actor.’ But if you start trying to play people who are inherently not you, that’s not going to be your strongest stuff.”

No one can say Thornton hasn’t stretched. He has scored in popcorn comedies like “Bad Santa” and “Mr. Woodcock” between decidedly grown-up dramas: the Coen Brothers’ “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” “Monster’s Ball,” “A Simple Plan” and, of course, “Sling Blade,” which he wrote, directed and starred in, winning an Oscar for best adapted screenplay and a best actor nod.

He arrived in Los Angeles as a young man from backwoods Arkansas, looking to write for Hollywood or form a rock band (music remains a lifelong passion).

This country boy with a hayseed triple name may have seemed like a long shot in Tinseltown, “but I’ve always believed in providence,” says Thornton. “Things were really hard at first, but I always had this belief that it was going to be OK.”

Then he found his way into an acting class.

“My desire was just to be a working actor,” he replies when asked the scope of his career goal. His ideals: the great character actors Strother Martin and Warren Oates.

“I thought I’d always be sixth or seventh on the call sheet. I never expected much more. SoI thought I’d really made it on `Hearts Afire,'” the early `90s political sitcom starring John Ritter with Thornton in a supporting role. “But years before, I thought I’d made it when I had just one scene on `Matlock’!”

“It was all fine,” he sums up, “all along the way.”

Climate talk shifts from curbing CO2 to adapting

Efforts to curb global warming have quietly shifted as greenhouse gases inexorably rise.

The conversation is no longer solely about how to save the planet by cutting carbon emissions. It’s becoming more about how to save ourselves from the warming planet’s wild weather.

It was Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s announcement last week of an ambitious plan to stave off New York City’s rising seas with flood gates, levees and more that brought this transition into full focus.

After years of losing the fight against rising global emissions of heat-trapping gases, governments around the world are emphasizing what a U.N. Foundation scientific report calls “managing the unavoidable.”

It’s called adaptation and it’s about as sexy but as necessary as insurance, experts say.

It’s also a message that once was taboo among climate activists such as former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. In his 1992 book “Earth in the Balance,” Gore compared talk of adapting to climate change to laziness that would distract from necessary efforts.

But in his 2013 book “The Future,” Gore writes bluntly: “I was wrong.” He talks about how coping with rising seas and temperatures is just as important as trying to prevent global warming by cutting emissions.

Like Gore, government officials across the globe aren’t saying everyone should just give up on efforts to reduce pollution. They’re saying that as they work on curbing carbon emissions, they also have to deal with a reality that’s already here.

In March, President Barack Obama’s science advisers sent him a list of recommendations on climate change. No. 1 on the list: “Focus on national preparedness for climate change.”

“Whether you believe climate change is real or not is beside the point,” Bloomberg said in announcing his $20 billion adaptation plans. “The bottom line is: We can’t run the risk.”

On Monday, more than three dozen other municipal officials from across the U.S. will go public with a nationwide effort to make their cities more resilient to natural disasters and the effects of man-made global warming.

“It’s an insurance policy, which is investing in the future,” Mayor Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Calif., who is chairing the mayors’ efforts, said in an interview Friday. “This is public safety. It’s the long-term hazards that could impact a community.”

Discussions about global warming are happening more often in mayors’ offices than in Congress. The Obama administration and local governments are coming up with thousands of eye-glazing pages of climate change adaptation plans and talking about zoning, elevation, water system infrastructure, and most of all, risk.

“They can sit up there and not make any policies or changes, but we know we have to,” Broward County, Florida, Mayor Kristin Jacobs said. “We know that we’re going to be that first line of defense.”

University of Michigan professor Rosina Bierbaum is a presidential science adviser who headed the adaptation section of the administration’s new National Climate Assessment. “It’s quite striking how much is going on at the municipal level,” Bierbaum said. “Communities have to operate in real time. Everybody is struggling with a climate that is no longer the climate of the past.”

Still, Bierbaum said, “Many of the other developed countries have gone way ahead of us in preparing for climate change. In many ways, the U.S. may be playing catch-up.”

Hurricanes, smaller storms and floods have been a harsh teacher for South Florida, Jacobs said.

“Each time you get walloped, you stop and scratch your head … and learn from it and make change,” she said. “It helps if you’ve been walloped once or twice. I think it’s easier to take action when everybody sees” the effect of climate change and are willing to talk about being prepared.

What Bloomberg announced for New York is reasonable for a wealthy city with lots of people and lots of expensive property and infrastructure to protect, said S. Jeffress Williams, a University of Hawaii geophysicist who used to be the expert on sea level rise for the U.S. Geological Survey. But for other coastal cities in the United States and especially elsewhere in the poorer world, he said, “it’s not so easy to adapt.”

Rich nations have pledged, but not yet provided, $100 billion a year to help poor nations adapt to global warming and cut their emissions. But the $20 billion cost for New York City’s efforts shows the money won’t go far in helping poorer cities adapt, said Brandon Wu of the nonprofit ActionAid.

At U.N. climate talks in Germany this past week, Ronald Jumeau, a delegate from the Seychelles, said developing countries have noted the more than $50 billion in relief that U.S. states in the Northeast got for Superstorm Sandy.

That’s a large amount “for one storm in three states. At the same time, the Philippines was hit by its 15th storm in the same year,” Jumeau said. “It puts things in context.”

For poorer cities in the U.S., what makes sense is to buy out property owners, relocate homes and businesses and convert vulnerable sea shores to parks so that when storms hit “it’s not a big deal,” Williams said. “I think we’ll see more and more communities make that decision largely because of the cost involved in trying to adapt to what’s coming.”

Jacobs, the mayor from South Florida, says that either people will move “or they will rehab their homes so that they can have a higher elevation. Already, in the Keys, you see houses that are up on stilts. So is that where we’re going? At some point, we’re going to have to start looking at real changes.”

It’s not just rising seas.

Sacramento has to deal with devastating droughts as well as the threat of flooding. It has a levee system so delicate that only New Orleans has it worse, said Johnson, the California capital’s mayor.

The temperature in Sacramento was 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) this past week. After previous heat waves, cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., have come up with cooling centers and green roofs that reduce the urban heat island affect.

Jacobs said cities from Miami to Virginia Beach, Virginia, are coping with mundane efforts: changes in zoning and building codes, raising the elevation of roads and airport runways, moving and hardening infrastructure. None of it grabs headlines, but “the sexiness is … in the results,” she said.

For decades, scientists referenced average temperatures when they talked about global warming. Only recently have they focused intensely on extreme and costly weather, encouraged by the insurance industry which has suffered high losses, Bierbaum said.

In 2012, weather disasters – not necessarily all tied to climate change – caused $110 billion in damage to the United States, which was the second highest total since 1980, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last week.

Now officials are merging efforts by emergency managers to prepare for natural disasters with those of officials focused on climate change. That greatly lessens the political debate about human-caused global warming, said University of Colorado science and disaster policy professor Roger Pielke Jr.

It also makes the issue more local than national or international.

“If you keep the discussion focused on impacts … I think it’s pretty easy to get people from all political persuasions,” said Pielke, who often has clashed with environmentalists over global warming. “It’s insurance. The good news is that we know insurance is going to pay off again.”

Describing these measures as resiliency and changing the way people talk about it make it more palatable than calling it climate change, said Hadi Dowlatabadi, a University of British Columbia climate scientist.

“It’s called a no-regrets strategy,” Dowlatabadi said. “It’s all branding.”

All that, experts say, is essentially taking some of the heat out of the global warming debate.

Associated Press writers Karl A. Ritter in Bonn, Germany, Jennifer Peltz in New York, and Tony Winton in Miami contributed to this report.