The movie: Making this unorthodox novel into a film seems like a risky proposition, but siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski don’t shrink from challenges. They transcended time and space with “The Matrix” trilogy, blew up Parliament in “V for Vendetta” and played with technique in the super-stylized “Speed Racer.” The filmmakers join forces with German writer-director Tom Twyker, who penned and directed the less-than-linear “Run Lola Run.” The film picks up the novel’s penchant for changing styles but forgoes the nested structure in favor of stories that unfurl in parallel. Meanwhile, the star power alone should be enough to wrangle an audience. “Cloud Atlas” features Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Susan Sarandon, among others.
Book adaptations take over the big screen
(Opens Nov. 16)
The book: Leo Tolstoy’s 1877 novel, initially a serialized tale, routinely lands on best-of-literature lists. The tragic story takes place in late 19th-century Russia and follows the title character as she forsakes her powerful husband for the well-to-do Count Vronsky. But love does not conquer all, especially when it comes to the wrath of her social circle.
The movie: Two words: Tom Stoppard. The brilliant playwright and screenwriter behind “Brazil,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” adapted Tolstoy’s story for the screen. Director Joe Wright has had varied success with adaptations, although he boasts a solid track record making artistically shot and visually stunning work. His takes on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” and Ian McEwan’s “Atonement” impressively condense content while conveying each novel’s emotional core. Period drama is in Wright’s wheelhouse, and he joins forces with frequent collaborator Keira Knightley, factors that bode well for this adaptation.
(Opens Nov. 21)
The book: Yann Martel’s 2002 Booker Prize winner is the adventure tale of Pi, an Indian teenager who finds himself adrift on an ocean alongside a tiger, a hyena, a zebra and an orangutan after a shipwreck. It’s a fantastical journey, infused with Pi’s singular spiritual beliefs. The intriguing story and colorful writing make the book memorable, but a confounding twist make Martel’s novel unforgettable.
The movie: Oscar winner Ang Lee takes directing duties in this cinematic reimagining. Lee has proven his mettle with both realism (“Brokeback Mountain”) and the fantastical (“Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”), not to mention such varied adaptations as Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” and Rick Moody’s “The Ice Storm.” But can he escape the critical disappointment of “Hulk,” his overly serious take on the Marvel Comics green behemoth? Perhaps screenwriter David Magee can add a light touch, as he did with “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” and “Finding Neverland.”
(Opens Dec. 14)
The book: Before the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, there was J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel about a wee humanoid who is urged by the wizard Gandalf to leave his beloved Shire and embark on a dangerous journey. Sounds familiar, right? The protagonist here is Bilbo Baggins and the task is retrieving the dwarves’ treasure from the dragon Smaug.