Even before Twilight — or Harry Potter — Hollywood had made a habit of turning beloved books into movie hits. You can thank the vampire craze for the booming genre of young adult fiction in publishing, though, and its success (along with Potter's and The Hunger Games') has paved the way for a booming, previously untapped market.
The latest book-to-movie adaptation, Beautiful Creatures about a 15-year-old witch, her mortal boyfriend, and their ill-fated romance, hits theaters on Thursday, Feb. 14. It's just the first in a string of post-Twilight, post-Hunger Games movies based on popular YA book series to hit the theaters (or the small screen) in 2013. Instead of catching up on dozens of novels, why not peruse Hollywood.com's YA primer for a taste of each before you decide which books are worthy of your time?
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Beautiful Creatures, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
What Happens:Lena comes from a long line of casters (witches), who, upon their 16th birthday, are claimed for the light or the dark. She moves in with her shut-in uncle in a small Southern town and becomes increasingly worried that she'll go dark as her fateful claiming day approaches. Complicating matters further is that she falls in love with mortal Ethan, her new classmate.
Love Triangle? Not here. These two fall in love almost immediately, but Lena's claiming is what comes between them.
Development: This movie comes out on Valentine's Day. You should probably pay better attention to the billboards and commercials (and the second paragraph of this story).
Who's Attached: Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert play the mortal and caster who fall in love, while a pedigreed cast of veterans, including Viola Davis, Jeremy Irons, and Emma Thompson, add their support.
Should You Read? Like many series, the first book's engaging, while the subsequent volumes run off the rails. Stick with Beautiful Creatures and you won't be disappointed.
RELATED: Why 'Beautiful Creatures'' Lineup Of Thespians Separates It From The YA Pack
Divergent, Veronica Roth
What Happens:In a dystopian future, civilization has split up into personality-based factions. Once children reach high-school age, they're tested to find out the tribe for which they're most suited. Abegnation (Selfless) teen Beatrice learns that she has qualities of her native faction, along with Erudite (Intelligent) and Dauntless (Brave) — she's divergent, a very dangerous quality. Beatrice decides to join the Dauntless, renames herself Tris, and learns how brave she actually is.
Love Triangle? Nope. But Tris does fall for her sexy, older instructor, Four, also a former Abignation.
Development: Production should start any day now, and the project is actively casting. Neil Burger will direct the film, which is being produced by Summit Entertainment (the company behind Twilight).
Who's Attached: Oscar nominee Shailene Woodley will star, but her love interest is proving harder to cast. Kate Winslet is circling the project, though it's unknown what character she'd potentially play.
Should You Read? Heck yes. Plus, the sequel, Insurgent, is just as good — a rarity in the YA book world.
NEXT: Forbidden Love, Demon-Fighters, and Hunger Games Bachelor-Style
Delirium, Lauren Oliver
What Happens:In a dystopian near-future, love has been banned. All teenagers undergo a surgery that eliminates the emotion from their brains after their 18th birthday, when they are matched with their spouse. Lena is all set to live her assigned life, but things get complicated when she meets a boy from the Wilds — the forest outside her walled-in society — and, naturally, falls in love before her operation.
Love Triangle? It's a little hard to have a triangle when love is outlawed, but Lena has her share of illicit affairs. In both the first and the second books of the trilogy she manages to develop real, passionate feelings.
Development: Fox is currently producing a pilot for the 2013-2014 broadcast season.
Who's Attached: Emma Roberts will star as our rebellious heroine Lena, but her potential boyfriend/s has/have not yet been cast.
Should You Read? Definitely. Delirium is fascinating, and the sequel, Pandemonium, is unique in that the setting and most of the characters are completely different from the first book — usually there's not such a drastic change.
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The Mortal Instruments, Cassandra Clare
What Happens:Ordinary teenager Clary finds out that she's a member of a secret race of Shadowhunters, or demon-fighters, and is taken in by bad boy Jace and shadowhunter siblings Alec and Isabelle when her mother is kidnapped by the Voldemort-like evil villain Valentine. Clary and her new friends must find the Mortal Cup to save her mother — and prevent Valentine from rising to power again.
Love Triangle? Clary's mortal BFF Simon is hopelessly in love with her, but she's too busy crushing on buff, badass demon hunter Jace to notice.
Development: This one's already been made — The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was filmed in Toronto in 2012 and is scheduled to hit theaters on August 23, 2013.
Who's Attached: Lily Collins stars as Clary, while former Twilight vampire Jamie Campbell Bower plays Jace, Kevin Zegers is Alec, and Jemima West is Isabelle. Robert Sheehan, of the British teen superhero series Misfits, plays Simon.
Should You Read? The first book's an engrossing introduction to the shadowhunter world, but you don't need to read more than that. Plus, there's a weird incesty storyline that we just can't get behind even though it's easy to predict the eventual, non-gross outcome.
The Selection, Kiera Cass
What Happens: In a dystopian future (sense a theme?), low-caste teenager America Singer is chosen, Hunger Games-style, to compete in a Bachelor-esque contest to win the prince's hand in marriage. Unfortunately, the rebel forces who oppose the prince's father's rule decide to disrupt the competition as a way to win back the kingdom.
Love Triangle? Although America's dedicated to her secret fiance, a lower-class soldier assigned to protect the castle where she's now living, she strikes up a very real friendship with the prince that has the potential to blossom into something more.
Development: The CW developed (and rejected) a pilot for the 2012 season, but has completely revamped the script and story — deviating from the book's framework in very key ways — for a second go-around.
Who's Attached: Aimee Teegarden and Ethan Peck played America and Prince Maxon in the first version, but both actors have moved on since then and the project is actively casting round two.
Should You Read? In a word, no. If the show makes it to series, a quick plot summary is more than enough to catch you up on the book series' goings-on. Besides, most TV shows adapted from books deviate from the original plot within episodes.
RELATED: Wes Anderson on the Young Adult Fiction Books That Inspired 'Moonrise Kingdom'
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
What Happens:Just because a book is YA doesn't mean it needs supernatural romance or a dystopian bent. This very modern, very real novel follows teenage cancer patient Hazel as she meets and falls in love with fellow cancer victim Augustus. Other stuff happens too, but you'll be too busy crying — tears of sorrow, tears of happiness, tears of joy, tears of grief – to articulate the plot too.
Love Triangle? Only disease gets in the way of Hazel and Augustus' love.
Development: The movie, written by (500) Days of Summer scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, is set to film over the summer.
Who's Attached: TFIOS hasn't been cast yet, but add Hollywood.com to the list of many who believe Mae Whitman would be the perfect Hazel.
Should You Read? You mean you haven't yet? TFIOS was No. 1 on Time's best books of 2012 list — not best YA books, best of all books. Get to a bookstore/library/ebook purveyor immediately, and don't forget the tissues. You'll need them.
Vampire Academy, Richelle Mead
What Happens: Rose Hathaway is headstrong, independent Dhampir (half-human/half-vampire) bodyguard in training to protect her best friend, Moroi (vampire) princess Lissa Dragomir, the last in her royal bloodline following a tragic car accident. The Strigoi – the fiercest and most dangerous undead vampires who kill humans, Moroi, and Dhampirs —have made it their mission to end Royal bloodlines, so Lissa is their prime target. Rose and Lissa have been on the run from St. Vladimir's Academy because of the dangers the Strigoi present, but they're dragged back to the school where they become enmeshed in government politics, the school's social scene and Rose's forbidden romance with her much older instructor, Dimitri Belikov, who is known as a god among the Guardians.
Love Triangle? Not really. Rose and Dimitri’s romance is filled with enough obstacles without another person complicating things, but another Dhampir student, Mason, tries to throw his hat in the ring with deadly consequences. Later in the series, a royal Moroi complicates the romance a bit, though.
Development: Optioned by Preger Entertainment way back in the summer of 2010, the movie adaptation is finally moving forward with a cast and everything. Heathers’ Dan Waters wrote the script, and Don Murphy will produce. The name of the first movie has changed from Vampire Academy to Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters, the name of the first book in the German version of the series.
Who’s Attached: Zoey Deutch, who has a supporting part in Beautiful Creatures, will star as Rose, Aussie actress Lucy Fry will play Lissa, and Russian superstar (but unknown in the U.S.) Danila Kozlovsky will play Dimitri.
Should You Read? Sure — the series is pretty engrossing; there's a reason author Richelle Mead wrote a spinoff series, Bloodlines, with characters from the VA world. If you’re into the supernatural but want a more mature series to get into, this is for you.
Follow Jean on Twitter @hijean
[PHOTO CREDIT: Warner Bros. Pictures; Penguin Group; Margaret K. McElderry; Harper Teen; Katherine Tegen Books; Harper Collins Publishing; Dutton Books: Little, Brown and Co.; Dutton Books]
Parodies are a dying art. I hate to say it — because I love them so much — but over the last few years the unrelenting hacks known as Friedberg and Seltzer have systematically killed the art form with their brainless pop culture-stroking disguised as commentary. I remember the good ole’ days of Abrams and Zucker (prior to their Scary Movie entanglements) when parodies where funny precisely because they established their own voice and didn’t use the material they were lampooning as a crutch. Airplane! mercilessly mocked the bizarre run of airport disaster movies in the '70s but it also transcended easy jokes and script aping. Today thanks to inexplicable box office validation an entire generation now thinks that the “Random celebrity what are you doing here?” gag is the appropriate formula for parody.
Kick-Ass is going to put a giant boot in the face of that mentality. It is a pitch-perfect send-up of everything that is characteristic of superhero films. It is versed enough to cite convention but clever enough to find the humor in the genre’s absurdity. And the biggest advantage Kick-Ass has in the parody department is that it is unrelentingly entertaining. It seems that in the last few years terrible parodies have made undeserved fortunes at the box office while better-crafted entries have gone largely unseen. Kick-Ass on the other hand has all the necessary components to clean up at the box office and be well deserving of its success.
The performances in the film are all top notch. Nicolas Cage showcases yet again how he can make his personal lunacy work very effectively under the right conditions. The overly Leave It To Beaver dialogue he and his daughter exchange prior to assuming their crime-fighting alter egos is charmingly silly and if you don’t get a kick out of his channeling of Adam West from the 60’s Batman series when he is in the suit I highly suggest a humor implant immediately. Aaron Johnson in the title role plays the lovable loser to perfection. He brings a lot of heart to the character that drives the emotional crux of the film. And as much as Christopher Mintz-Plasse is the most recognizable young actor in the film it’s Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl who totally McLovins the film; stealing every scene she’s in. The personality comedic timing and ruthlessness that she brings to this character demonstrate a talent level well in advance of her age.
In terms of the treatment of the teenaged characters in the film this script is tantamount to something written by the late great John Hughes in so much as the teens are allowed to speak honestly and in their own limited vocabulary without the pretense of wit. I think teen comedies are improving dramatically of late but the obsession with making teens pithy wordsmiths baffles me to no end and I’m glad they were allowed to just be vulgar. And my God this thing is vulgar…and violent to boot. We get to watch an 11 year-old drop f-bombs and stab thugs in the forebrain. I mean come on the movie is called Kick-Ass for a reason and while it is a comedy the action sequences are unstoppably exhilarating.
A smart somewhat genre subversive parody Kick-Ass is also action-packed and entertaining enough to stand on its own two legs as a film and not just a lampoon. The costumes the music the fight choreography all work in harmony to bring us a blockbuster superhero film that is legitimately humorous in both its homages and honest characterizations. Do not miss this film.
Once respected NYPD detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is now pretty much on his last legs literally and figuratively. He drinks is relegated to a desk job and walks with a limp. One morning after a long shift he’s corralled into transporting a petty criminal Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) to the courthouse 16 blocks away so he can testify by 10:00 a.m. What Jack doesn’t know is that Eddie is one of the key witnesses in a case against crooked cops--that is until the two start getting shot at. Then it becomes crystal clear. The main bad guy Jack’s former partner Frank (David Morse) basically lets Jack know Eddie will never testify to just go ahead and hand him over but Frank underestimates Jack’s desire to finally do something good. So Jack and Eddie fight their way to the courthouse block by gut-wrenching block. Oh no there’s nothing formulaic about 16 Blocks not at all. In a film as predictable as this the only thing that’ll make it stand out is the performances. 16 Blocks nearly succeeds--but not quite. It would seem Willis is playing a character he’s played a hundred times before--the misunderstood and slightly unorthodox cop with a heart of gold. But as Jack the actor does a nice job trying out some new things namely playing fat bald and grizzled. You can almost smell how bad Jack’s breath has to be. Rapper/actor Mos Def who usually brightens any film he’s in also tries his hand at something different but his choices aren’t as smart. As the talkative and affable Eddie Mos comes up with one of the more annoying nasally accents ever recorded. After about five minutes of screen time you desperately want him to stop and say “Just kidding! I don’t really talk like this.” But he doesn’t. It’s too bad something like an accent can ruin an otherwise decent performance. Old-school director Richard Donner best known for his Lethal Weapons is a consummate professional when it comes to making these kind of movies. In other words he pretty much paints by numbers. We watch Jack and Eddie get out of one tight situation after another as the gaggle of bad cops try to gun them down. I mean 16 blocks doesn’t seem that far to go so they better throw in as many highly implausible obstacles as they can. Chinese laundries alleyways rooftops subways. And yes even a city bus which the pair--who have by now bonded big time--has to hijack. Donner also employs a popular but nonetheless annoying technique of zooming in when the action heats up so you can’t really see what’s going on. Even if you’re addicted to action movies--a Bruce Willis action movie no less--16 Blocks just doesn’t deliver the goods.
We meet the two very unlikely sisters while each are having sex. Rose Feller (Toni Collette) is a successful lawyer who is sleeping with her boss and thinking of ways it can improve her career. Maggie Feller (Cameron Diaz) is a party girl and at her 10-year high school reunion--after trying to have a fling in a bathroom stall--she ends up puking instead. Inevitably Maggie gets kicked out of her dad and stepmother's house and winds up on the doorstep of her sister. The Feller girls were close once when they were young girls especially after their mentally unstable mother died. But now their grown-up personalities clash rather dramatically. And when Maggie seriously crosses the line by seducing Rose's new boyfriend the straw is broken. Forced out Maggie stumbles upon some birthday cards from a long-lost grandmother and decides to go hit her up for cash. Turns out Grandma Ella (Shirley MacLaine) lives in a senior citizen's community in Florida that gets its humor from Golden Girls re-runs. Maggie may ingratiate herself within this new environment but isn't any more redeemed by reconnecting with Ella. She still acts like a petulant child. But rather than throwing her out Ella along with the gang of old folk forces Maggie to take some responsibility.
Collette (The Sixth Sense) is fantastic as the frumpy pudgy Philadelphia lawyer who gives up everything so she can walk dogs and lead a simpler life. But she's done this many times before--and honestly is so much better than Muriel's Wedding. Diaz (my personal favorite Charlie's Angel) doesn't need to stretch too far to play a conniving ditz with a heart. This is her There's Something About Mary role albeit a tad more screwed-up with a sister and lost grandma. So that leaves MacLaine as the saving grace for any worthwhile acting in this movie. Despite the obvious shuffleboard clichés--and the occasional leers at Diaz by the old guys around the pool--when the old folk are around the film gets lively and tolerable believe it or not. MacLaine leads the way with the quips and barbs but in a more subtle way than we are used to from this usually eccentric actress. The supporting cast of cranky cronies have some great moments especially veteran actor Norman Lloyd as the blind professor who teaches Maggie a thing or two about manners trust and family.
If this were Nora Ephron directing that would have been one thing but coming from Curtis Hanson the Oscar-winner who gave us L.A. Confidential it just doesn't mesh. Hanson can do quirky (Wonder Boys) he can do adventure (The River Wild) he can do hard-hittin' rap stories (8 Mile) and he can even do scary (Hand That Rocks the Cradle) but why in the world would he attempt a saccharine-soaked female family story that threatens to be a Crimes of the Heart tear-jerker? Screenwriter Susannah Grant who adapted In Her Shoes from Jennifer Weiner's popular bestseller of the same name also wrote Erin Brockovich and 28 Days. She understands strong female characters but there's still a major layer of sugar coating that Hanson can't scrape off. He doesn't tone anything down from Grant's script--not the overly cute dogs nor the embarrassing bridal shower nor the expected moments of guilt-tripping between the ladies. Instead he plods through the paint-by-number script and wraps it all up nicely into a crowd-pleasing film that is ultimately forgettable.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars in which the Christians tried to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims who had conquered the Middle East in the 7th century. With the battle cry of "God wills it! " thousands of Europeans answered the call and were able to retake the fabled Holy City in the 11th century. Kingdom of Heaven begins in 1186 between the Second and Third Crusades. A fragile peace prevails mostly through the efforts of Jerusalem's enlightened Christian king Baldwin IV (Edward Norton) and the military restraint of the legendary Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). But it's difficult to maintain the peace. There are extremists within the Christian brigades--known as the Knights Templar--who want to wipe every Muslim off the face of the Earth. On top of that King Baldwin's health is failing. Once he's gone war is sure to follow. If ever there was a need for a hero this is the time. Enter the young French blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) who is in deep despair over the loss of his family. He joins the Crusades after the father he never knew Godfrey (Liam Neeson) comes back from Jerusalem and convinces him it's a quest worth fighting for. As Godfrey passes his sword to his son he also passes on that sacred knightly oath: to protect the helpless safeguard the peace and work toward harmony between religions and cultures so that a kingdom of heaven can flourish on earth. No pressure or anything though.
Orlando Bloom carries his first major motion picture very well easily handling the chores of being such a gallant conscientious and morally upstanding knight. As Balian the Troy costar plays the gamut. He broods over his lost wife and child has father-son epiphanies upholds his knightly duties on a regular basis falls in love with a beautiful but troubled princess and finally bravely defends the Holy City from the encroaching Muslim army thus becoming a legend. Not bad for a day's work eh? There are even times especially toward the end when Balian is standing before the denizens of Jerusalem urging them to fight when you swear you can see a little of Bloom's The Lord of the Rings alter-elf Legolas creep in. The supporting cast also does an adequate job painting a picture of some trying times. Chief among them: Jeremy Irons as King Baldwin's right-hand man Tiberias; Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy) as the evil leader of the Knights Templar; Massoud as the great warrior Saladin; and lovely Eva Green (The Dreamers) as Princess Sibylla King Baldwin's sister who captures our hero's heart but makes some bad choices with dire consequences.
Even if these sword-and-armor epics are all blending together you've got to give props to the directors who make them. These films are massive undertakings and Kingdom of
Heaven with the expert Ridley Scott at the helm is no exception. The Oscar-winning director of course has had his fair share of recreating history first with the classic Gladiator and then with the contemporary Black Hawk Down. But in recreating the Crusades Scott faces his toughest challenge to date and takes on the responsibility very seriously. He is painstakingly meticulous with details even as he is building a 12th-century Jerusalem or corralling 2 000 heavily costumed extras for the colossal climactic battle sequences. And it is always a good thing when a historical film can teach you something you may not have known like what the heck the Crusades were really all about. No Kingdom's biggest obstacle is timing. While it certainly has more substance than Alexander it is not nearly as intense and stirring as The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the granddaddy of them all Braveheart. Too many of its ilk has come before and the concept has unfortunately worn thin.