Whether the result is good, like The Road, or absolutely horrible, like Ramona and Beezus, or just another dang adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, it's once again the season for filmmakers to turn a notable book into the next great (or terrible) film. Here are some of the lesser-known novels coming to your multiplex before year's end. (As always, release dates are subject to change.)
Source Material: Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan (for the film The Town).
Scheduled Release: Sept. 17
The Movie Pitch: "Mystic River meets Inside Man."
Book Overview: In Boston's gritty Charlestown neighborhood, bank robber Doug becomes obsessed with the bank manager he and his crew took hostage while disguised. Hogan may not be as sharp as Dennis Lehane at the top of his game, but he proves tremendously effective at conveying a place frozen in time and a protagonist whose attempt to break away may be doomed. A sharp, punchy piece of crime fiction.
Reason for Adaptation Optimism: With Gone Baby Gone, writer/director Ben Affleck showed that he can nail the working-class world of his native Boston.
Reason for Adaptation Concern: Affleck the leading man isn't generally as disarmingly subtle as Affleck the filmmaker.
Source Material: Guardians of Ga'hoole by Kathryn Lasky (for the film Legend of the Guardians).
Scheduled Release: Sept. 24
The Movie Pitch: "The Lord of the Rings meets The Incredible Journey."
Book Overview: In a land of owl kingdoms, one orphaned owlet is caught in the battle between a mysterious evil and the legendary noble owls of Ga'hoole. Lasky's basic narrative line is familiar epic-fantasy fodder, but the details are often unexpected. Unfortunately, those unique turns don't necessarily translate into a story that's genuinely engrossing.
Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Early trailers suggest breathtaking use of 3-D.
Reason for Adaptation Concern: Director Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) often seems more interested in visual dazzle than storytelling.
Source Material: The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich (for the film The Social Network).
Scheduled Release: Oct. 1
The Movie Pitch: "Rashomon meets Hackers."
Book Overview: The phenomenon that is Facebook began in a Harvard dorm room; exactly how it began is the much-contested question. Mezrich explores the enigmatic computer whiz Mark Zuckerberg and the friends and fellow students who felt that they were part of launching an enterprise that would make them all rich. By turning his reporting into the style of a page-turning drama, the author crafts a character study as stylish as it is informative.
Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Benjamin Button notwithstanding, David Fincher rocks.
Reason for Adaptation Concern: The ongoing dilemma of how to turn sitting in front of a computer screen into compelling drama.
Source Material: It's Kind of a Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini (for the film It's Kind of a Funny Story).
Scheduled Release: Oct. 8
The Movie Pitch: "The Breakfast Club meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."
Book Overview: Academic and personal challenges send high-achieving Brooklyn 15-year-old Craig into a spiral of depression, leading to suicidal thoughts and a week-long stay in a psych ward. It's initially difficult getting inside Craig's head — he does seem like the whiny, privileged kid he's afraid people will perceive him as — but eventually Vizzini crafts an effective portrait of a despairing teen looking for a reason to live. The eccentric supporting characters often verge on overwhelming Craig's journey, yet never quite do.
Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Writer/directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden (Half Nelson, Sugar) have made two terrific New York-set dramas.
Reason for Adaptation Concern: Will it effectively find balance between genuine depression and sanitized uplift?
Source Material: Hard Sell by Jamie Reidy (for the film Love and Other Drugs).
Scheduled Release: Nov. 24
Book Overview: Reidy's memoir recalls life as a sales rep for Pfizer in the mid-1990s, including Viagra's emergence as a pharmaceutical phenomenon. Despite the double-entendre title, relatively little of the narrative deals specifically with the Viagra years. Mostly it's a self-deprecating warts-and-all story of a low-ambition guy who was able to scam the system for years while also offering funny, startling insights about contemporary healthcare. If Reidy's immature hijinks don't get on your nerves, you'll find interesting tales about the people who really decide which prescriptions you get.
The Movie Pitch: "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell meets Up in the Air."
Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Narrative requirements might tone down some of the bad-boy anecdotes.
Reason for Adaptation Concern: When I think "light-hearted," I don't usually think of director Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai).