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March 2014

Books on Screen

March 2014

Alright, alright, alright! We’ve made it through the awards season, filled to the swag bag brim with all the Hollywood goodies we’ve come to expect --- including memorable acceptance speeches, both gracious and loopy; an endearing Jennifer Lawrence mishap; a Meryl Streep nomination, if not a win; some incredible red carpet fashion (I’m looking at you, Can’t-Miss Cate); and, of course, a celebration of some pretty outstanding movies. March is the calm after the storm, so to speak, where we get some of the edgier hits (Spring Breakers, anyone?) in theaters, while the award contenders become available on DVD.

The big books on screen buzz this month is all about the theatrical release of Divergent, based on Veronica Roth’s eponymous bestselling YA novel. Whether you’re YA or just YA at heart, this movie has everything you could possibly ask for: a gifted-yet-relatable heroine, high-stakes dystopian danger, a mysterious love interest, and Kate Winslet. If you’re looking for entertainment cast with mostly half naked, gorgeous men, check out 300: Rise of an Empire, the sequel to Zack Snyder’s visually mind-blowing 2006 epic, 300. This is less a sequel than a parallel story: As Spartan king Leonidas and his 300 are making their heroic --- and tragic --- last stand against Xerxes and his monstrous Persian army, Athenian politician Themistocles works to unite the city-states of Greece and defeat the fleet of Artemisia, Xerxes’ deranged naval commander. Tight abs abound, but you may also need a strong stomach to get through all the gore.

If you’re saving up your movie money so it’ll get you through April showers, there’s plenty to watch at home this month. “Resurrection” --- ABC’s new show based on Jason Mott’s THE RETURNED --- has been getting a lot of early buzz. It’s about Arcadia, a small Missouri town where deceased residents are inexplicably coming back to life. And in addition to the fine and continuing mid-season television programming --- including (still) “The Vampire Diaries,” which, like its undead characters, seems to possess some kind of eternal life --- March is when all the award-winning and -nominated movies are finally released on DVD (I like to imagine there’s an actual reservoir full of DVDs somewhere in Hollywood, with a dam operated by Harvey Weinstein). So put on your best sweats, grab the cat and check out the Coen brothers’ criminally under-awarded Inside Llewyn Davis, or watch Lupita Nyong’o’s star-making turn in Steve McQueen’s excellent, harrowing 12 Years a Slave. You can’t go wrong with any of the books on screen DVDs this month.

Happy March, and happy watching!

--- Written and compiled by Emily Hoenig


In Theaters:

300: Rise of an Empire
Cast: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Rodrigo Santoro
Director: Noam Murro
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: March 7th (wide)
Based On: RISE OF AN EMPIRE: How One Man United Greece to Defeat Xerxes’ Persians by Stephen Dando-Collins

300: Rise of an Empire, told in the breathtaking visual style of the blockbuster 300, is a new chapter in the epic saga, which takes the action to an battlefield --- the sea. The story pits the Greek general Themistokles against the massive invading Persian forces, ruled by the mortal-turned-god Xerxes, and led by Artemisia, the commander of the Persian navy. Knowing his only hope of defeating the overwhelming Persian armada will be to unite all of Greece, Themistokles ultimately leads the charge that will change the course of the war.


Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Isabella Rossellini, Sarah Gadon
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Distributor: A24
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: March 14th (limited)
Based On: THE DOUBLE by Jose Saramago

Adam Bell is a glum, disheveled history professor, who seems disinterested even in his beautiful girlfriend Mary. Watching a movie on the recommendation of a colleague, Adam spots his double, a bit-part actor named Anthony Clair, and decides to track him down. The identical men meet and their lives become bizarrely and irrevocably intertwined. Gyllenhaal is transfixing as both Adam and Anthony, provoking empathy as well as disapproval while embodying two distinct personas.


Cast: Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, Kate Winslet, Theo James
Director: Neal Burger
Distributor: Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: March 21st (wide)
Based On: DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

Divergent is a thrilling action-adventure film set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader (Kate Winslet) to destroy all Divergents, Tris must learn to trust in the mysterious Four (Theo James) and together they must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it's too late.



On TV:

Cast: Omar Epps, Frances Fisher, Matt Craven, Devin Kelley
Network: ABC
Series Premiere: Sunday, March 9th at 9pm ET
Based On: THE RETURNED by Jason Mott

The people of Arcadia, Missouri are forever changed when their deceased loved ones suddenly start to return. An eight-year-old American boy wakes up alone in a rice paddy in a rural Chinese province with no idea how he got there. Details start to emerge when the boy, who calls himself Jacob, recalls that his hometown is Arcadia, and an Immigration agent, J. Martin Bellamy, takes him there. The home he claims as his own is occupied by an elderly couple, Henry and Lucille Langston, who lost their son, Jacob, more than 30 years ago. While they look different, young Jacob recognizes them as his parents. Those closest to the family try to unravel this impossible mystery --- but this boy who claims to be the deceased Jacob knows secrets about his own death that no one else knows.


“The Walking Dead”
Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira
Network: AMC
Air Dates: Sundays at 9pm ET
Based On: The Walking Dead comic book series by Robert Kirkman

In this highly anticipated new season, we see Rick and the group of survivors fostering a thriving community in the safe haven of the prison. Sadly, in this brutal world, happiness is short-lived and walkers and outside threats are no match for danger brewing inside the fences. The group’s home and new way of life will be thoroughly tested, and their struggle to survive has never been so perilous. Season 4 also introduces several new characters including Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr. of "The Wire").


“About a Boy”
Cast: David Walton, Minnie Driver, Benjamin Stockham, Al Madrigal
Network: NBC
Air Dates: Tuesdays at 9pm ET
Based On: ABOUT A BOY by Nick Hornby

After writing a hit song, Will Freeman was granted a life of free time, free love and freedom from financial woes. He's single, unemployed and loving it. So imagine his surprise when Fiona, a needy single mom and her oddly charming 11-year-old son, Marcus, move in next door and disrupt his perfect world.


Cast: Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishburne, Mads Mikkelsen, Caroline Dhavernas, Hettienne Park, Scott Thompson, Aaron Abrams, Lara Jean Chorostecki
Network: NBC
Air Dates: Fridays at 10pm ET
Based On: RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris

The dark and haunting series "Hannibal" returns for a second season with more shocking revelations and psychological cat and mouse games. Will Graham is locked in a mental asylum accused of Hannibal Lecter's crimes. Now that Will sees Hannibal for what he truly is, he faces a fight to prove his own sanity and convince those closest to him he is innocent of murder. Jack Crawford is dealing with his own feelings about Will and whether his protégé is in fact a cold-blooded killer. Looking for answers, Jack turns to Hannibal, a man he has come to trust. With Will locked up, Hannibal becomes Jack's new consultant on cases. Hannibal is torn between self-preservation and his desire to keep Will close to him, despite advice from his psychiatrist, Bedelia Du Maurier, to stay away. 

The deadly dance between these characters continues to turn in startling and unexpected ways, in a season that will show that nothing can ever be the same again.


"The Vampire Diaries"
Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley, Steven R. McQueen, Kat Graham, Candice Accola
Network: The CW
Air Dates: Thursdays at 8pm ET
Based On: The Vampire Diaries series by L.J. Smith

In the tumultuous fourth season of "The Vampire Diaries," the world of Mystic Falls was turned upside down when the beautiful and compassionate Elena Gilbert came face-to-face with her worst nightmare --- life as a vampire. While Elena struggled to control her new powers and the overwhelming thirst for blood, the astonishing news that a cure for vampirism may actually exist reached Damon and Stefan Salvatore, the two vampire brothers who love her. Their search for the cure leads the brothers, along with Elena’s brother Jeremy and her best friends Bonnie and Carol, to a horrifying confrontation with the ancient and all-powerful immortal, Silas, who has been entombed with the cure for more than 2,000 years. But Elena isn’t the only vampire who longs to return to life as a human, and the question of who will take the cure is resolved in the heart-stopping season finale, along with moments of unexpected joy, unspeakable sorrow, and a confession of true love.

The series heads into its fifth season with some characters headed off to college, a newly cured vampire trying to survive as a human, and a shocking Salvatore secret.




12 Years a Slave
Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Alfre Woodward
Director: Steve McQueen
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: March 4th
Based on: TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon Northup

Twelve Years a Slave is based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the 12th year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
Director: Francis Lawrence
Distributor: Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: March 7th
Based On: CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire begins as Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a "Victor's Tour" of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) --- a competition that could change Panem forever.


The Book Thief
Cast: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson
Director: Brian Percival
Distributor: 20th Century Fox Distribution
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Release Date: March 11th
Based on: THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak

Based on the beloved bestselling book, The Book Thief tells the inspirational story of a spirited and courageous young girl who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a new family in World War II Germany.


Cast: Jason Statham, James Franco, Kate Bosworth, Winona Ryder, Frank Grillo and Izabela Vidovic
Director: Gary Fleder
Distributor: Open Road Films
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: March 11th
Based On: HOMEFRONT by Chuck Logan

Homefront stars Jason Statham as former drug enforcement agent Phil Broker, a family man who moves off the grid with his daughter, to a seemingly quiet bayou backwater to escape his troubled past. However, Broker’s world soon becomes anything but quiet once he discovers that an underbelly of drugs and violence riddles the small town. Soon, a sociopathic methamphetamine kingpin, Gator Bodine, puts Broker and his daughter in harm’s way forcing Broker back into action in order to save his family and the town.


Inside Llewyn Davis
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake, F. Murray Abraham, Stark Sands, Adam Driver
Directors: Joel Coen and Coen
Distributor: CBS Films
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: March 11th
Based On: THE MAYOR OF MACDOUGAL STREET: A Memoir by Dave Van Ronk

Inside Llewyn Davis follows a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.

Llewyn Davis is at a crossroads. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles --- some of them of his own making. Living at the mercy of both friends and strangers, scaring up what work he can find, Llewyn’s misadventures take him from the basket houses of the Village to an empty Chicago club --- on an odyssey to audition for a music mogul --- and back again.


American Hustle
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner
Director: David O’Russell
Distributor: Sony Pictures
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: March 18th
Based On: THE STING MAN: Inside Abscam by Robert W. Greene

A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld, who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser is forced to work for wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso. DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con artists and Feds. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down.


Geography Club
Cast: Nikki Blonsky, Cameron Deane Stewart, Allie Gonino, Alex Newell, Ana Gasteyer, Meaghan Martin, Scott Bakula, Justin Deeley
Director: Gary Entin
Distributor: Breaking Glass Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: March 25th
Based on: GEOGRAPHY CLUB by Brent Hartinger

This film is based on Brent Hartinger's debut novel, which became first of a series about Russel Middlebrook. It’s a fast-paced, funny and trenchant portrait of contemporary teenagers who may not learn any actual geography in their latest club, but who learn plenty about the treacherous social terrain of high school and the even more dangerous landscape of the human heart.


The Wolf of Wall Street
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jean Dujardin, Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal
Director: Martin Scorsese
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: March 25th
Based On: THE WOLF OF WALL STREET by Jordan Belfort

Revered filmmaker; Martin Scorsese directs the story of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort. From the American dream to corporate greed, Belfort goes from penny stocks and righteousness to IPOs and a life of corruption in the late 80s. Excess success and affluence in his early twenties as founder of the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont warranted Belfort the title --- “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Money. Power. Women. Drugs. Temptations were for the taking and the threat of authority was irrelevant. For Jordan and his wolf pack, modesty was quickly deemed overrated and more was never enough.