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From ‘Eragon’ to ‘Blonde’: Books Being Made Into Movies and TV Series That You Should Read

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Book lovers are in for a treat this year, with a jam-packed slate of upcoming movies and TV series based on best-selling books.

Transport yourself to the underground silos of Hugh Hawley’s “Wool,” whose adaptation for Apple will star Tim Robbins and Recceca Ferguson; immerse yourself in the dense pages of Joyce Carol Oates’ “Blonde,” in eager anticipation of Anna De Armas’ transformation into the iconic Marilyn Monroe, and ready yourself for the truly wild, time traveling series from Brian K. Vaughan’s comic book adaptation of “Paper Girls.”

Here are the best books to dig into this summer before they hit the theaters.

‘Eragon’ by Christopher Paolini

Courtesy of Amazon

“Eragon” is the first of four books in Christopher Paolini’s best-selling series “The Inheritence Cycle,” which is now in early development as a live action TV series at Disney+. In the series, a young farmboy named Eragon befriends a dragon named Saphira, who he teams up with to defeat the evil king Galbatorix and free the land of Alagaësia from his tyranny.



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‘Blonde’ by Joyce Carol Oates

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Ana de Armas stars as Marilyn Monroe in this powerful tale that offers a tantalizing glimpse into the life of one of pop-culture’s most renowned icons. Andrew Dominik is adapting Joyce Carol Oates’s fictionalized story to Netflix, slated for a release date on September 23, with Adrien Brody, Bobby Cannavale and Julianne Nicholson also starring.



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‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens

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Based on Delia Owens’ best-selling novel, Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine-produced adaptation is set for a July 15 release. The crime drama follows the wild and unkempt Kye, suspected of a mysterious murder in a quiet fishing village. Daisy Edgar-Jones stars as Kye, alongside Taylor John Smith and Harris Dickinson.



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‘Red, White & Royal Blue’

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The Amazon Studios production is an adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s 2019 best-seller which centers on a star-crossed power couple — the Latiné character of Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the president of the United States, and his relationship with Prince Henry, grandson of the Queen of England. Matthew López is set to direct the film starring Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine.



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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

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This bestseller is being adapted into a movie for Netflix by “Little Fires Everywhere” creator Liz Tigelaar. The book tells the secret story of the reclusive Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo as told to an unknown, young magazine reporter Monique Grant. Hugo’s stories of Tinseltown in the 50s, 60s and 80s change Grant’s perspective, but why was this writer plucked from obscurity to tell this story?



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‘Wool’ by Hugh Howey

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Rebecca Ferguson and Tim Robbins are set to star in Apple’s series adaptation of Hugh Howey’s beloved sci-fi trilogy. In “Wool,” all of humanity (the remnants that exist of it anyway) lives underground in a single silo. The story follows Juliette, a woman from the underground who struggles with her newfound power after being inexplicably promoted to the head of law enforcement.



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‘The Lord of the Rings’ by J.R.R Tolkein

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Amazon Prime’s upcoming television adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s renown series, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” is being developed by J.D Payne and Parick McCay. The new series will be set in the Second Age of Middle-earth as a prequel to the events in the original novels and films. Set for a premiere date of September 2, Morfydd Clark, Robert Aramayo and Joseph Mawle star in the promised-to-be-epic show.



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‘Daisy Jones & The Six’

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The New York Times bestseller offers irresistible authenticity to a fictional tale about the rise of an iconic 1970s rock band called the Six and a young girl named Daisy who finds herself at the center of their world. Reid chronicles the band’s success as a riveting oral history, adapted into a 13-episode miniseries for Amazon Prime Video by Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine. Starring Riley Keough and Sebastian Chacon, the series does not currently have a release date.



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‘The Vanishing Half’ by Brit Bennett

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Brit Bennett’s “The Vanishing Half” was one of the biggest books of 2020, and is now coming to the screen with Aziza Barnes set to write and produce the HBO adaptation. It tells the story of two identical twin sisters growing up in the Jim Crow South before escaping at 16 and pursuing divergent life paths. There have been no casting announcements for the highly-anticipated series yet.



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‘Paper Girls’ by Brian K. Vaughan

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“Paper Girls” centers around four young girls who, while out delivering papers on the morning after Halloween in 1988, become unwittingly caught in a conflict between warring factions of time-travelers, sending them on an adventure through time that will save the world. “Toy Story 4” writer Stephany Folsom adapted the popular sci-fi comic book series as an Amazon original series and is expected to stream on July 29.



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‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman

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The adaptation of Alderman’s story, directed by “The Handmaid’s Tale’s” Reed Moreno, imagines a world in which women are physically stronger than men, by way of a magical electric current that rises through their body. Alice Eve, John Leguizamo and Auli’i Cravalho are set to star in the 10-episode series.



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‘Malibu Rising’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Taylor Jenkins Reid’s recently released novel is being developed as TV series for Hulu, helmed by “Little Fires Everywhere” creator, show runner and executive producer Liz Tigelaar. The best-selling novel, which follows Reid’s first successful book “Daisy Jones & the Six,” centers on the famous Rivas siblings whose lives take a dramatic turn after their annual end-of-summer blowout in 1983.



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Slap or No Slap — ‘Emancipation’ Is an Oscar Contender for Will Smith and Antoine Fuqua

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Will Smith is between a Chris Rock and a hard place.

The speculation surrounding Apple Original Films’ “Emancipation” and Smith, its star and producer, has been the watercooler talk of awards season and the bane of awards prognosticators tracking their charts. Will voters embrace the epic? Can they or should they?

Following his slapping of the comedian at the 94th Oscars, Smith resigned from AMPAS and was banned from attending the ceremony or other Academy-sponsored events for 10 years. However, that doesn’t preclude the “King Richard” best actor winner from being nominated or even winning another statuette during that period. Nor should it prevent Antoine Fuqua’s film from being considered for accolades.

If you removed “the slap” from the equation, this awards season’s directing race narrative would probably have been trending toward Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”) versus Fuqua (and it still can). Indeed, this is Fuqua’s “Schindler’s List” (for which Spielberg won his first Oscar): “Emancipation’s” piercing honesty and careful craftsmanship are the crowning achievement of Fuqua’s long career, which is marked by populist favorites such as “Training Day” (2001), which won Denzel Washington his lead statuette.

Will Smith in “Emancipation”
Apple

The film tells the story of Peter (Smith), a runaway slave who sets out through the swamps of Louisiana on a grueling escape from the plantation owners who nearly killed him. Smith’s performance is not only soulful but commanding. His bearing as he traverses the rigorous terrain is reminiscent of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-winning work in “The Revenant” (2015). Smith’s performance as Peter is more impressive than his Richard Williams in “King Richard” — and I thought he was fantastic in “King Richard.”

As for Smith’s chances of being nominated, the industry and cultural divide between supporters and naysayers will be far more complicated to navigate this time around. In conversations with members of the actors branch, they have expressed a range of feelings about Smith’s actions at the last ceremony, his punishment, and how he might be perceived in the eyes of industry voters.

I see an eerie parallel between the behavior of Academy voters and the quiet support of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election. To be clear, I’m not comparing the two men’s actions or personal traits in the slightest, but rather the way Trump’s supporters, especially independent swing voters, weren’t particularly vocal about their intentions. Nevertheless, when it came time to put the pen to the pad and vote, they checked off his name. That could be the narrative for Smith, although if he does manage a nom, the media and public won’t have the same devastating reaction they had to Trump’s win.

Remember that the actors branch has 1,303 voting members, and a contender needs 217 votes to be nominated. There will undoubtedly be detractors of Smith, which is why I suspect that even if he were to beat the odds and land in the top five of lead actor when the nearly 10,000-strong Academy membership votes, his chances of winning may be slim to none. However, as one member shares with Variety: “Mel Gibson keeps coming back, and we know where he stands on people of color and Jews. Will got his beating. Everybody took swings at him in the media. I’m not saying he didn’t deserve it. But now, we can move on. If he’s good, then he’s good.”

Apple

Smith’s prospects aside, will voters embrace “Emancipation’s” other accomplishments?

Typically, films tackling slavery face an uphill battle with voters who can’t stomach the grotesque depictions of inhumane treatment and the challenging subject matter. However, there might be a morbid curiosity to see “Emancipation,” if only to watch what Smith brings to the role.

As the villainous Fassel, who relentlessly chases Peter, Ben Foster may portray an abhorrent person who is an amalgamation of slave catchers throughout history. Still, the layer of fear he weaves into the character is an awards-caliber performance that calls to mind Oscar-nominated supporting turns such as Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave” and Ralph Fiennes in “Schindler’s List.”

Demonstrating how to make the most of limited screen time, Charmaine Bingwa is unflinching as the film’s emotional pillar, Dodienne, Peter’s wife and mother to his children, to whom he’s desperately trying to return. There are elements that feel similar to Jessica Chastain’s work in Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011), which isn’t overtly “loud” but still incredibly moving. In a wide-open supporting actress race, I hope the Academy won’t overlook such a breakout talent because of misgivings about the film’s star and producer.

The artisan team Fuqua assembled is full of some of cinema’s most gifted and respected. Notable among them is three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Richardson (“JFK,” “The Aviator” and “Hugo”), who very well might have delivered his magnum opus with his framework blends of sepia tones and black-and-white imagery, particularly impressive considering the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida during production — no easy feat even for such a master.

If “Emancipation” is recognized for best picture, the Academy could face a complex public-relations dilemma. Smith is a credited producer and would be among the film nominees, along with Todd Black, Joey McFarland and Jon Mone. To have such an essential movie be nominated and the only Black producer (and possibly only Black actor) not be permitted to attend the ceremony will not sit well in the public square. That’s not to say the Academy should rescind its ban. Still, given the optics of Smith becoming the most nominated Black producer in history (he would tie with Jordan Peele at two each), the organization will have to rehash its verdict on Smith’s past actions and continue to highlight its diversity wins over the past few years. Or, it can pray to the Oscar gods that Smith doesn’t get nominated.

To see the current rankings for each individual category, visit Variety’s Oscars Hub. The first set of SAG Awards predictions for film has also been revealed.

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Darby & The Dead Review: Downs & Cravalho Carry Tepid But Entertaining Dramedy

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An outcast girl, Darby Harper (Riele Downs) can commune with ghosts after a freak accident as a child. Due to her severe lack of socializing with the living, she retreats from the high school social scene. Enter Capri (Moana’s Auli’i Cravalho), the popular girl who was formally Darby’s best friend and now the queen bee cheerleader. At the cusp of turning 17, the self-centered cheerleader suffers an accident that actually kills her. Now, Capri has to handle her unfinished business before moving on to heaven, and who so happens to be the nearest medium to help her do so? Darby, the teenage ghost whisperer. To help the cheerleader pass on, the outcast must become popular and host the epic Sweet 17 party Capri has been planning for months. A deal is struck between the two, but the cost will be much less trivial than a party.

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If one thinks the summary for Darby and the Dead sounds awfully familiar, that’s because it most certainly is. Darby and the Dead may have different plot beats, but it fits neatly into the living-ghost-bond-over-death dramedy of recent years, most notably the Lana Condor-led Netflix series Boo, Bitch and the Victoria Justice-led Netflix film Afterlife of the Party. Or, if one is of a particular generation, they may recall the 2011 ABC Family (now Freeform) movie Teen Spirit, where a teen cheerleader is tasked with making the unpopular girl prom queen to pass on to heaven. Needless to say, this concept is not new, but what Darby and the Dead illuminates is how easy it is to fall into clichéd traps despite being a charming little romp.

Auli’i Cravalho and Riele Downs in Darby and the Dead

Within the opening segment, it is obvious how Darby and the Dead’s story will go beat for beat. However, Riele Downs is a magnetic lead, and Auli’i Cravalho is just as dynamic. The two have incredible chemistry and make the best of a tepid rehash of familiar tropes and story arcs. There is a desire to see the two actresses play around with wittier dialogue, but beggars can’t be choosers. Becca Greene’s script (from a story by Wenonah Wilms) is not without charm, but the conventions that suppress this fun premise are hard to overlook.

Again, Downs and Cravalho rise above it all and are consistently engaging. Tony Danza and Wayne Knight are fun surprises, with Danza being effortlessly endearing. That man has perfected the art of charm! Nicole Maines, who previously starred as Dreamer in The CW’s Supergirl, is… present, but heavily underutilized; Suffice it to say Maines could have been given more to do. Chosen Jacobs is also underused, but he has the benefit of playing the romantic lead with decent development. His chemistry with Downs is palpable, so his limited screen time is hardly a problem.

darby and the dead Chosen Jacobs Riele Downs
Chosen Jacobs and Riele Downs in Darby and the Dead

With its endlessly predictable nature, Darby and the Dead has the potential to be welcomed and embraced by fans of teen comedies. Silas Howard’s directing is not as flashy as it could be, but good enough for a basic teen dramedy. There is room for innovation and creativity with how the premise if showcased, but luckily there is enough flare, most notably in the production and costume design, to keep viewers engaged. But like so many projects that coming to streaming under the Disney banner, this perfectly fine movie will be buried on Hulu with little fanfare upon its arrival. The flick from 20th Century Studios is also poorly timed, as this is very much a Halloween-type release that is being released during the first week of December. So much of the success of a film relies on factors outside the actual story; a well-polished release strategy can make the mediocre more than it actually is.

What makes Darby and the Dead even more unfortunate is the fact that it is actually entertaining. It can easily capture audiences’ attention if it had a fraction of what it needs in the promotion arena. An abrupt release on Hulu is way less than it deserves. Darby and the Dead is far from a dud. Sure, it could be witter, funnier, darker, and a tad more innovative, but the film is solid overall. Instead of going the route of making an original story, the filmmaking team might have been better off adapting Meg Cabot’s underrated YA series The Mediator. However, with a stellar leading pair who make the most of the screenplay, Darby and the Dead has enough to keep audiences moved and laughing on occasion, though it is unclear whether it can bring viewers back for a rewatch. The only certainty is that Downs and Cravalho are great together and should have the privilege of leading more projects.

Darby and the Dead begins streaming on Hulu Friday, December 2. It is 100 minutes long and rated PG-13 for strong language, suggestive material and some teen partying.

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Amanda Seyfried Reunites With Lindsay Lohan and Asks: ‘Mean Girls 2‘ Is ’Never Going to Happen, Is It?’

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Amanda Seyfried has a question for Lindsay Lohan: Will “Mean Girls 2” ever happen? The two “Mean Girls” stars recently reunited for Interview Magazine, where Emmy winner Seyfried got to ask Lohan some questions as part of the latter’s press tour for her Netflix movie “Falling for Christmas.” It’s been 18 years since “Mean Girls” made its debut, and both actors are eager to return to the world of fetch and plastics.

“I would kill just to do one week, all of us playing our own roles on ‘Mean Girls’ on Broadway,” Seyfried said.

Lohan said “that would be really fun,” to which Seyfried asked: “Because a ‘Mean Girls 2’ is never going to happen, is it?

“I don’t know,” Lohan responded. “I heard something about it being a movie musical and I was like, ‘Oh no.’ We can’t do that. It has to be the same tone…Anyway, Tina [Fey] is busy. She’ll get around to it. Listen, we’re all part of each other’s worlds whether we like it or not, and it is really nice to be in contact as adults…everyone’s still the same. It’s fun to have certain memories that we can’t share with anyone else.

Fey, screenwriter of the original “Mean Girls” movie, adapted the film into a Broadway musical, which opened in April 2018 and earned 10 Tony nominations. As Variety reported last year, Fey is planning a film adaption of the Broadway musical. Arturo Perez Jr. and Samantha Jayne have been tapped to direct the project for Paramount. The original “Mean Girls” cast is not involved in the musical, but that’s not to say they don’t want to come back for a traditional film sequel to the 2004 classic.

“Oh, absolutely! I think it would be so much fun to see where these women are now,” co-star Lacy Chabert said on “The Tonight Show” earlier this month when asked about a “Mean Girls” sequel. “And if their kids are the new mean girls? I would love to know what they’re doing. Let’s do it!”

Seyfried told Lohan that her appreciation for “Mean Girls” has grown over time, adding, “Ten years ago I used to be like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I was Karen in “Mean Girls,” for fuck’s sake.’ Now I’m like, ‘I was Karen in “Mean Girls” and I’m very proud of it!’ You had a lot to do with where it went and what it was. I don’t know if you know that. I’m sure you felt the pressure but it didn’t seem like you did. You were working really young, and you were really good, but you were still a kid.”

Read Seyfried and Lohan’s full conversation on Interview Magazine’s website. Lohan’s “Falling for Christmas” is now streaming on Netflix.



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