Some people go to the movies completely uninformed. They don't know what it's about or what it's rated; all they know is that they feel like spending ten dollars and they enjoy sitting in the dark. That's why you see parents with little kids at Superbad, or elderly people who have somehow wandered into a theater showing Halloween. You shake your head at these poor saps and feel smug in the knowledge that YOU are an informed moviegoer.
Some people even do homework beforehand, reading the books the movies are based on before they see them. This is a great way to get involved in smart conversations where you discuss whether the movie or book was better. (Hint: You're always supposed to say it was the book.)
To help you out, here's a list of upcoming films that were based on novels, accompanied by our completely uninformed opinions on whether you should read the books first. We haven't read any of these novels or seen any of these movies; we're using pure deductive reasoning, by which we mean talking out of our butts.
Based on: the 1983 novel by Ron Hansen
The movie has about a hundred red flags: a "troubled" production, shooting delays, a three-hour-plus running time, a title that is also a spoiler. The book, on the other hand, was a bestseller and runs only 304 pages. Rather than reading the book before seeing the movie, you might consider reading the book instead of seeing the movie.
The Jane Austen Book Club (Sept. 21)
Based on: the 2004 novel by Karen Joy Fowler
Five women and one man gather each month to discuss one of Jane Austen's six novels. As they do so, they discover that Jane's books are useful instruction manuals for modern-day life! Cute! And girlie! Not that there's anything wrong with that! But a movie based on a book about people sitting around reading books? Hmm. Why not just read the Jane Austen books?
Into the Wild (Sept. 21)
Based on: the 1996 non-fiction book by Jon Krakauer
Christopher McCandless was a real kid who, at the age of 24, left his well-to-do family and went a-wanderin' in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. The Sean Penn-directed film version has built up some positive buzz already. Meanwhile, Krakauer's fact-based books (also including Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heaven) are popular and exciting. Think of it like Reader's Digest's "Drama in Real Life" feature, only deadlier.
The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (Oct. 5)
Based on: the children's fantasy novels by Susan Cooper
All reports indicate the film version, based on book two in the five-book series, departs radically from Cooper's original story. That works out great for us, because it means we can read the book and then go see a totally different story in the movie. It's a twofer!
30 Days of Night (Oct. 19)
Based on: the 2002 graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith
Do we count graphic novels as "books"? Eh, sure, why not. Go ahead and take a half hour to read the "book" first.
American Gangster (Nov. 2)
Based on: the 2000 New York Magazine article "The Return of Superfly" by Marc Jacobson
Based on an article? Not even a whole book? Now we're talkin'! Heck, go read it right now on the Internet! Man, we are going to be so educated when these movies come out.
No Country for Old Men (Nov. 21)
Based on: the 2005 novel by Cormac McCarthy
Directed by the Coen Brothers and starring Tommy Lee Jones, the film has had critics falling all over themselves to praise it since it showed at Cannes and Toronto. The book, meanwhile, is by a man considered to be one of the greatest living authors (and a recent Pulitzer recipient for his devastatingly beautiful The Road). If there was ever a strong likelihood that a book and movie would both be fantastic, this is it.
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Eric D. Snider (website) read a book once.