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December 2011

Books on Screen

December 2011

This month, the festive season brings with it a multitude of long-awaited films based on books. Although it’s “the happiest time of the year,” the big screen is primarily featuring dark, twisted tales. But you’re guaranteed to be entertained by thrills and suspense, and there are a few heartwarming stories in the mix to carry the holiday spirit.

At long last, Stieg Larsson’s international bestseller THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO will be in US theaters on December 21st. The film tells the story of Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who retreats to a remote island in Sweden and joins forces with punk hacker Lisbeth Salandar to solve a murder case from 40 years earlier.
In We Need to Talk About Kevin, based on Lionel Shriver’s bestselling novel of the same name, the mother of a troubled teenage boy struggles to cope when her son commits a devastating act of violence. A much more peaceful young boy is featured in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, an adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s acclaimed novel. The savvy and unconventional Oskar Schell embarks on a mission through New York City’s five boroughs to uncover secrets left behind by his father, who was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11th.
The Adventures of Tintin follows a third young man --- the beloved Tintin from Hergé’s classic comic, dating all the way back to 1929. Tintin, a young Belgian reporter, and his faithful dog, Snowy, discover a ship with a centuries-old mystery and get drawn into a chase from a deadly villain, traveling halfway around the world.
Another classic comes to the big screen in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, based on John le Carré’s 1974 spy novel. In the height of the Cold War, British spy George Smiley investigates a case involving the British Secret Intelligence Service, which may be compromised by a Soviet double agent.
Continuing the theme of classics is Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows --- the long awaited follow-up to the first Sherlock Holmes movie, released in 2009. This time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary spy and his sidekick, Dr. Watson, investigate the case of a murdered Austrian prince, and are drawn into Europe’s vast criminal underworld.
On a lighter note, We Bought a Zoo, based on Benjamin Mee’s memoir, follows a father and his family as they move to the English countryside to restore a neglected zoo inhabited by 200 extraordinary animals. And speaking of extraordinary animals, War Horse tells the heartwarming story of the powerful bond between a man and a horse during World War I --- and what happens to the horse after the two are forced apart. The movie is based on Michael Morpurgo's young adult novel of the same name, and there is also a new visual volume called WAR HORSE: The Making of the Motion Picture, which includes over 140 images as well as insight and commentary from the makers of the film. 
On the small screen, Stephen King's Bag of Bones airs on A&E as a two-night miniseries on Sunday, December 11th and Monday, December 12th at 9 pm ET. TNT continues its Mystery Movie Night with Hide, Silent Witness, Good Morning, Killer and Deck the Halls, all based on acclaimed mystery novels. Meanwhile, ABC's "Castle” and TNT’s “Rizzoli and Isles” resume their respective seasons.
And if you need something to complement all the books you’re giving as gifts this year, why not throw in some movies based on them? This month, Cowboys & Aliens, The Help, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Life, Above All and Straw Dogs are all new on DVD.  
In Theaters:
Cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Distributor: Oscilloscope Pictures
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: December 2nd (limited)
Based on: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN by Lionel Shriver
A tormented mother grapples with feelings of accountability and intense grief after her troubled 15-year-old son commits an act of violence that shakes their community to its very core. Eva had a promising career when an unplanned pregnancy threw her life off-balance, though she selflessly put her own ambitions aside to give her son, Kevin, a good life. From the moment Kevin was born, there was a palpable tension between mother and son. Years later, as a teenager, Kevin snaps. As the community recoils from Kevin and his family, Eva begins to question whether or not she ever really loved her son in the first place. 
Cast: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: December 9th (wide)
Based on: TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY by John le Carré
Based on the classic novel of the same name, this international thriller is set at the height of the Cold War years of the mid-20th century. George Smiley, a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government --- which fears that the British Secret Intelligence Service, a.k.a. MI-6, has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets.
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Jared Harris
Director: Guy Ritchie
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: December 16th (wide)
Based on: Characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes has always been the smartest man in the room...until now. There is a new criminal mastermind at large --- Professor Moriarty --- and not only is he Holmes's intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may actually give him an advantage over the renowned detective. When the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead, the evidence, as construed by Inspector Lestrade, points to suicide. But Sherlock Holmes deduces that the prince has been the victim of murder --- a murder that is only one piece of a larger and much more portentous puzzle, designed by Professor Moriarty. The cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead of Holmes as he spins a web of death and destruction --- all part of a greater plan that, if he succeeds, will change the course of history. 

Cast: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Daniel Mays, Gad Elmaleh, Joe Starr
Director: Steven Spielberg
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG
Release Date: December 21st (wide)

Based on the internationally beloved and irrepressible characters created by Hergé, the story follows the unquenchably curious young reporter Tintin and his fiercely loyal dog Snowy as they discover a model ship carrying an explosive secret. Drawn into a centuries-old mystery, Tintin finds himself in the sightlines of Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine, a diabolical villain who believes Tintin has stolen a priceless treasure tied to a dastardly pirate named Red Rackham. But with the help of his dog Snowy, the salty, cantankerous Captain Haddock and the bumbling detectives Thompson & Thomson, Tintin will travel half the world, outwitting and outrunning his enemies in a breathless chase to find the final resting place of The Unicorn, a shipwreck that may hold the key to vast fortune…and a ancient curse.

From the high seas to the sands of North African deserts, every new twist and turn sweeps Tintin and his friends to escalating levels of thrills and peril, proving that when you dare to risk everything, there’s no limit to what you can do.

Cast: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara
Director: David Fincher
Distributor: Music Box Films
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: December 21st (wide)
Based on: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson
Hoping to distance himself from the fallout of a libel conviction, journalist Mikael Blomkvist retreats to a remote island in Sweden's far north where the unsolved murder of a young girl still haunts her industrialist uncle 40 years later. Ensconced in a cottage on the island where the killer may still roam, Blomkvist's investigation draws him into the secrets and lies of the rich and powerful, and throws him together with one unlikely ally --- tattooed, punk hacker Lisbeth Salander.
Cast: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church
Director: Cameron Crowe
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG
Release Date: December 23rd (wide)
Based on: WE BOUGHT A ZOO by Benjamin Mee
WE BOUGHT A ZOO, a memoir by Benjamin Mee, tells the true account of how the author and his family used their life savings to buy a dilapidated zoo, replete with 200 exotic animals facing destruction, in the English countryside. Mee, along with his children, had to balance caring for his wife, who was dying of brain cancer, with dealing with escaped tigers, raising endangered animals, working with an eclectic skeleton crew and readying the zoo for a reopening. 
Cast: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock
Director: Stephen Daldry
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: December 25th (limited)
Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close tells the story of one young boy’s journey from heartbreaking loss to the healing power of self-discovery, set against the backdrop of the tragic events of September 11th. Eleven-year-old Oskar Schell is an exceptional child: amateur inventor, Francophile, pacifist. And after finding a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, he embarks on an exceptional journey --- an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. As Oskar roams the city, he encounters a motley assortment of humanity, who are all survivors in their own ways.
Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, David Thewlis
Director: Steven Spielberg
Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: December 25th (wide)
Based on: WAR HORSE by Michael Morpurgo
War Horse is a tale of loyalty, hope and tenacity set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War. It begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets --- British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter --- before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man’s Land.
To celebrate its gallop into theaters, WAR HORSE: The Making of the Motion Picture will be available in stores beginning December 27th --- and you will not want to miss it. This outstanding visual companion to Steven Spielberg's epic adventure details the movie's story, its production and real-life history, and includes over 140 dramatic images from the film.
On TV:
Cast: Carla Gugino, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Kevin Alejandro
Network: TNT
Air Date: Tuesday, December 6th at 9:00 pm ET/PT
Based on: HIDE by Lisa Gardner
In this movie based on Lisa Gardner’s book, Carla Gugino plays Boston Police Detective D.D. Warren, who is called to the grounds of an abandoned mental hospital where a buried chamber is discovered. Inside are the mummified remains of six young women, who have all been missing for years. The case leads D.D. to Annabelle, a young woman who spent her childhood moving from city to city, from identity to identity, hiding from someone or something totally unknown to her. D.D. uses clues from Annabelle’s secret past to unravel the mystery behind her twisted family history.
Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Michael Cudlitz
Network: TNT
Air Date: Wednesday, December 7th at 9 pm ET/PT
Based on: SILENT WITNESS by Richard North Patterson

This legal drama based on Richard North Patterson’s novel stars Dermot Mulroney as prominent defense attorney Tony Lord, who returns to his hometown to defend an old friend, played by Michael Cudlitz. The friend is a teacher accused of murdering one of his students, and the case re-opens the heartache from Tony’s own high school days, when he was a student falsely accused of murdering his first love.
Stephen King's Bag of Bones
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Annabeth Gish, Melissa George, Caitlin Carmichael, William Schallert, Anika Noni Rose
Network: A&E
Air Dates: Sunday, December 11th and Monday, December 12th at 9 pm ET
Based on: BAG OF BONES by Stephen King
Bestselling novelist Mike Noonan is unable to stop grieving after the sudden death of his wife Jo. Suffering from writer's block, a dream inspires him to return to the couple's lakeside retreat in western Maine. While there, Mike befriends an attractive young widow, Mattie, and her daughter Kyra, and becomes involved in a custody battle with the child's enormously wealthy grandfather, Max. Though his ability to write suddenly returns, Mike is plagued by ever-escalating nightmares and mysterious ghostly visitations from Sara Tidwell, a blues singer whose spirit lingers in the house. As he is haunted by the many secrets at the lake, Mike comes to realize that his late wife still has something to tell him.
Cast: Catherine Bell, Cole Hauser
Network: TNT
Air Date:Tuesday, December 13th at 9:00 pm ET/PT
Based on: GOOD MORNING, KILLER by April Smith
Adapted by April Smith from her own novel, this thriller stars Catherine Bell as FBI Special Agent Ana Gray, an undercover operative tracking down a serial kidnapper. As Ana develops a rapport with the kidnapper’s latest victim, the suspect suddenly changes his pattern. Now Ana must race to find him before he strikes again.
Cast: Kathy Najimy, Scottie Thompson
Network: TNT
Air Date: Tuesday, December 20th at 9:00 pm ET/PT
Based on: DECK THE HALLS by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark

Based on the first book in Mary Higgins Clark and daughter Carol Higgins Clark’s series of holiday mystery novels, this warm-hearted story brings together two of the authors’ most popular characters: Cleaning-woman-turned-private-eye Alvirah Meegan and Detective Regan Reilly. The women investigate the kidnapping of Regan’s father and a young female driver just before the holidays. The race is on to rescue the pair and get them home in time for Christmas.
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Jon Huertas, Seamus Dever, Tamala Jones, Molly C. Quinn, Susan Sullivan, Penny Johnson Jerald
Network: ABC
Air Dates: Mondays at 10:00 pm ET/PT
Based on: The career of author Richard Castle (current bestseller: HEAT RISES
"Castle" is a one-hour witty drama based on a famous mystery novelist who helps the NYPD homicide department solve crimes.

Richard “Rick” Castle is a bestselling mystery author who was investigated by the New York City police department when the victim of a murder matched the description of a victim in one of his novels. At the time, Castle was suffering writer’s block, having just killed off the main character, Derrick Storm, in his successful series of novels. During the investigation, Castle is inspired by his run-in with the beautiful Detective Kate Beckett, and through his connections with the Mayor, he gets permission to hang out as a consultant at the precinct to do research for his book.

“Rizzoli & Isles”
Cast: Angie Harmon, Sasha Alexander, Lorraine Bracco, Lee Thompson Young, Bruce McGill, Jordan Bridges
Network: TNT
Air Dates: Mondays at 10:00 pm ET
Based on: Rizzoli & Isles series by Tess Gerritsen

Jane Rizzoli is a tough-as-nails Boston police detective, and Maura Isles is a smart, impeccably dressed medical examiner from a privileged background. Despite being complete opposites, the two women share an offbeat chemistry and strong working relationship that has helped them bust some of Boston’s most notorious criminals.

As the second season opens, Jane and her brother, Frankie Jr., are each recovering from bullets they took during a siege at the police station. As Jane struggles to overcome scars that are more emotional than physical, an old flame --- Sergeant Major Charles “Casey” Jones --- comes back into her life.

On the homefront, Jane’s mother is despondent over a major upheaval in her own life. The situation will be complicated even more by the arrival of Jane’s younger brother, Tommy, who was recently released from prison. And for Maura, home life will get complicated when she receives a visit from her adoptive mother, Constance Isles, a brilliant modern artist and art historian.

New on DVD:
Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde
Director: Jon Favreau
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: December 6th
Based on: COWBOYS AND ALIENS by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg
1873. Arizona Territory. A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of Absolution don't welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde. It's a town that lives in fear.

But Absolution is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky. Screaming down with breathtaking velocity and blinding lights to abduct the helpless one by one, these monsters challenge everything the residents have ever known.

Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation.

Cast: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain
Director: Tate Taylor
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: December 6th
Based on: THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett
Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny are three very different, extraordinary women in Mississippi during the 1960s, who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project that breaks societal rules and puts them all at risk. From their improbable alliance a remarkable sisterhood emerges, instilling all of them with the courage to transcend the lines that define them, and the realization that sometimes those lines are made to be crossed --- even if it means bringing everyone in town face-to-face with the changing times.
Cast: Khomotso Manyaka, Lerato Mvelase, Harriet Manamela, Harriet Lenabe, Keaobaka Makanyane
Director: Oliver Schmitz
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date:  December 6th
Based on: CHANDRA'S SECRETS by Allan Stratton
Just after the death of her newly-born sister, 12-year-old Chanda learns of a rumor that spreads like wildfire through her small, dust-ridden village near Johannesburg. It destroys her family and forces her mother to flee. Sensing that the gossip stems from prejudice and superstition, Chanda leaves home and school in search of her mother and the truth.
Cast: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Ophelia Lovibond, Philip Baker Hall, James Tupper, Clark Gregg, Angela Lansbury
Director: Mark Waters
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG
DVD Release Date: December 6th
Based on: MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS by Richard and Florence Atwater
When a house painter inadvertently receives some penguins from a friend in Antarctica, he decides to train them as a circus act.

In this family comedy, Jim Carrey is Mr. Popper, a driven businessman who is clueless when it comes to the important things in life --- until he inherits six penguins. Popper's penguins turn his swank New York apartment into a snowy winter wonderland --- and the rest of his life upside down. Filmed on a refrigerated soundstage with real Emperor Penguins, Mr. Popper's Penguins is a contemporary adaptation of the classic book.

Cast: James Franco, Freida Pinto, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo, Karin Konoval, Leah Gibson, Tyler Labine, Andy Serkis
Director: Rupert Wyatt
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Distribution
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: December 13th
Based On: PLANET OF THE APES by Pierre Boulle
Set in present-day San Francisco, Rise of the Planet of the Apesis a reality-based cautionary tale, a science fiction/science fact blend, where man's own experiments with genetic engineering lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.
Cast: James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgård, Dominic Purcell, Laz Alonzo, Willa Holland, James Woods
Director: Rod Lurie 
Distributor: Sony Pictures
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: December 20th
Based On: THE SIEGE OF TRENCHER’S FARM – STRAW DOGS by Gordon Williams  

David and Amy Sumner, a Hollywood screenwriter and his actress wife, return to her small hometown in the deep South to prepare the family home for sale after her father's death. Once there, tensions build in their marriage and old conflicts re-emerge with the locals, including Amy's ex-boyfriend Charlie, leading to a violent confrontation.