Saturday, November 6, 2010

EW's Open Letter to Soon-to-be Hunger Games Director, Gary Ross

As a fan of The Hunger Games, I'm more than nervous about what the Hollywood scene will do to this movie. I've seen through the first Twilight film how they can totally twist the book into something that it's not (hello, Twilight the action film? Uh, no, thanks!). According to Entertainment Weekly, Gary Ross will most likely be the director of the film I'm waiting on pins and needles to be made. Can we get a cast list for crying out loud? Hire the dang director and let's get this show on the road!

Darren Franich, a columnist for EW has concerns about the movie that he shares in his open letter to Gary Ross that I've copied for you below. After reading his letter, now I have even more stuff to worry about. I agree with Franich, though. Read the book meticulously, Mr. Ross. METICULOUSLY. Talk to Suzanne Collins. Jump inside her brain. Do NOT try to stamp YOUR "artistic" vision on this and turn it into a pop-culture disaster like Twilight. Granted, those movies have made mega-money, but true fans were sorely dissappointed. Stick to Collins's vision for this movie, and we will all leave you alone. That is all...;)

From Entertainment Weekly "Shelf Life" blog:

Dear Gary Ross:
According to Variety, you’re all-but-officially the director of the Hunger Games movie. Congratulations! You haven’t directed a movie in seven years — Seabiscuit, saw it– and now you’re at the center of the next big young-adult franchise. Hooray! Now, I hope you won’t mind, but I have one minor request: Please, please, please, please, don’t make The Hunger Games gritty. Don’t shoot the movie with handheld cameras. Don’t bleach all the color out of the film stock until everything looks like rusted Depression-era gunmetal. Don’t forget: Katniss Everdeen is not Jason Bourne.

Now, I’m no snob. Gritty can be cool. Heck, calling a movie “gritty” used to be a compliment. Saving Private Ryan, The Lord of the Rings, and The Bourne Identity all took sainted genres known for glossy excess — the war film, the fantasy epic, the espionage thriller — and smeared them in mud. Actors spoke every line in an angry whisper. The color scheme was monochromatic, mostly hovering between comatose-blue and industrial-gray. It was awesome…for awhile. But now, “gritty” is everywhere. We’ve seen the Gritty James Bond movie, the Gritty Superhero movie, the Gritty Twilight movie, the Gritty Terminator movie. We’ve seen Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, the single muddiest movie ever made.

I understand the impulse to go gritty with Hunger Games. It’s post-apocalyptic, like Children of Men and all the real-world scenes in The Matrix. Katniss lives in District 12, a coal-mining town that reads like a Soviet hellhole. The latter half of the book is one extended action sequence — sound like it demands the extreme-close-up/shaky-cam tension of a Bourne film, right?

Wrong. Reading Hunger Games, you’re struck by just how vivid and alive the forest is. It’s Katniss’ escape from drudgery, the one place she can really feel alive. Listen to her describe the valley outside of District 12: “teeming with summer life, greens to gather, roots to dig, fish iridescent in the sunlight.” That’s sounds more like the Technicolor-organic wilderness of Avatar than the dark, shadowy woods of Twilight. Conversely, the Capitol reads like a fascist version of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek: too bright, too colorful, overpopulated with highly-caffeinated supermodels. But again, no gritty here.

Mr. Ross, Hunger Games has an instantly exciting storyline, and I have to believe that even a lame treatment of the book will result in a pulse-pounding action movie. But just because ugly things happen in Hunger Games doesn’t mean the film should look ugly. Heck, making Hunger Games gritty is the equivalent of adding a CGI stormcloud over President Snow’s head and adding explanatory subtitles to every scene: “VIOLENCE IS WRONG. DON’T DO FASCISM.”

Don’t make things too easy for the audience. Don’t forget about Suzanne Collins’ biting satirical edge, or her beautifully expansive vision of the world outside the fence. Don’t be afraid to unleash your inner Paul Verhoeven, or your inner Terrence Malick. Don’t go gritty. Hunger Games fans (and people who suffer from motion sickness) will thank you.


Darren J. Franich, anti-grit crusader and self-described Hunger Games expert

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Oh, man....are you in for a treat! I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore is the quintacenstial teen sci-fi hit of 2010. I know I'm not known for my analysis of literary classics, but my mantra is that "reading should be fun." Yes, a very complicated and deep mantra, but I'm not a big believer in only reading crap that is written for book snobs. I like to be entertained when I read, and this book definitely fits the bill for entertainment value! From what I've read about the book, it was totally written just so they could make an interesting movie about it, but whoever they hired to write the book was a great writer. No lie. Usually ghost writers for big-budget books or celebrity-written novels seem to blow (Hello, L.A. Candy?), but the fictional Pittacus Lore is worth the money Disney paid him or her to write the novel. I totally bought in the the marketing scheme...count me in for the next in the series, please!
So how did I get hooked on this pop-culture series? Every month, I copy the book review section from Justine Magazine (our school library has a subscription to this publication). If you aren't familiar with their SPARK book club, then you need to be. This magazine reviews teen fiction on a monthly basis and it usually has reviews written by teen readers. We like to read these book reviews because they really do "SPARK" interest in books. I have my students circle and discuss the top two books off of the reviews that they would like to read most. If I have enough money left in my class budget, I buy the books they voted as the most interesting. I usually can't keep these books on my shelves for the duration of the year. However, after my classes read the review page that contained I am Number Four and voted that book (as well as The Body Finder) as a book they would like to read, I discovered I didn't have enough school funds to buy the book. Books are to me what shoes are to other women: I can't say no to a good pair. I bought both books the other day and devoured I am Number Four in two days.
Nine Lorien children were sent to planet Earth in the midst of a full-scale attack by the evil and Mogadarian race. They plan to strip Lorien of it's natural resources and wipe out the Lorien population in the process. The plan is for the Lorien children to hide out on Earth, and wait for their Legacies (or superhuman talents) to grow and develop so they can come together to fight the Mogadarians for control of their homeland. A special Lorien charm protects the children when they arrive on Earth. Each is numbered, and each must live seperately from the other nine with their protector, or Cepan, or the charm will not work. The only way the Mogadarian can kill the Lorien teens is in the order that they were numbered. The nine children live in hiding on Earth, but the Mogadarians have discovered that they are on our planet and begin hunting them one by one. The first three are dead. Our narrator is number four. He knows that he is next and he also is aware that the Mogadarians have other reasons for being on Earth besides just hunting down the Lorien teens. Can the remaining six Loriens develop their Legacies and fight the Mogadarians before Earth as we know it is lost? You try starting this book tonight and see if YOU can put it down...not so easy, people!
What is also cool about this book is that it already has a movie coming out in February. Alex Pettyfer plays John, or Number Four. He is also the actor that many are lobbying for him to nab the role of Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games movie. He's quite literally the hottie in the trailer. The chick from Glee plays Number Four's love interest, Sarah, in the movie. Check out the trailer below and then go buy the book. It's awesome!

Bloodline by Kate Cary

Kate Cary's contribution to the teen vampire phenomenon with her novel, Bloodline, will leave readers with a true definition of what an evil vampire should be, and they definitely do not sparkle in Cary's adaptation! As a sort of sequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula, Cary tells a majority of the Bloodline tale through the journal of John Shaw. Recovering from wounds sustained in World War I, Shaw has vivid flashbacks and nightmares of his time in the trenches. The horrors he witnessed are not only from enemies encountered on the battlefield. A majority of his shocking visions are memories of watching his commanding officer, Quincy Harker perform superhuman, impossible feats and although John blames his memories on the side effects of trench fever, he's almost certain that he witnessed Harker drink the blood of their battle enemies. John doesn't want to face the evil truth behind his commanding officer's abilities, but when Quincey Harker shows up to check on John in his England hospital, John must question who his commanding officer truly is. Harker also begins to show interest in John's younger sister, Lucy, and this recent infatuation which makes knowing the truth of Harker's origins all the more imperative to John. He begins researching Harker's bloodline, and makes chilling discoveries about the war hero and himself.

Fans of Bram Stoker's classic will love the writing style of Kate Cary. She mimics the era of writing that encompassed the Gothic literature movement in the late 1800s. Telling the story through the journal entries and letters of different characters was also interesting, but at times kept the story from flowing as easy as it would have if the novel was told from third person POV, and interspersed with journal entries.

Descriptions of the vampire castle and the Transylvania vamps were truly chilling. Cary is a master of imagery when it came to her descriptions of the castle and the dark, shadowy chambers of the castle. I found myself unable to read this novel at night, for fear of Mina, Quincey, and the other vampires watching me from the shadows! There were a few scenes that intertwined blood lust and actual sexual desire that may be too much for teen readers. I would definitely say that grades 8-12 should be the target age-rage for this novel. Any younger might find the scenes from World War I and the Transylvania castle too graphic and gory. Teen vampire enthusiasts also need to take heed: Quincey Harker is NOT Edward Cullen's long-lost cousin. The Harker vampires embrace evil, blood lust, and find human life worthless.This chilling read will definitely leave you searching for the sequel, Bloodline Book Two: Reckoning.