CATEGORIES Best & Worst of 2009The good thing about making a movie based on a book is that the foundation is already there. The not-so-good thing is when the film doesn't follow the book closely enough for viewers ('My Sister's Keeper'), leaves viewers wanting more ('The Men Who Stare at Goats'), or just plain doesn't translate well to the big screen ('Angels & Demons').
But even condensed into a meager two hours, there are plenty of films that do measure up, either in full or enough to make our list of the top 10 film adaptations of 2009. See if you agree with our choices, and feel free to add your own in the comments below. The good thing about making a movie based on a book is that the foundation is already there. The not-so-good thing is when the film doesn't follow the book closely enough for viewers ('My Sister's Keeper'), leaves viewers wanting more ('The Men Who Stare at Goats'), or just plain doesn't translate well to the big screen ('Angels & Demons').
But even condensed into a meager two hours, there are plenty of films that do measure up, either in full or enough to make our list of the top 10 film adaptations of 2009. See if you agree with our choices, and feel free to add your own in the comments below.
10. 'Julie & Julia'
Some critics panned this movie based on Julie Powell's autobiographical book 'Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen,' but it made us want to start our own blog about doing, well, anything challenging over the course of a year. The juxtaposition of current-day cubicle worker Julie Powell (Amy Adams) and famed chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep) on her way to stardom decades earlier is funny, sweet and inspiring.
9. 'Taking Woodstock'
If you weren't around for the original Three Days of Peace and Music in 1969 -- or were there and don't remember a darn thing -- this Ang Lee film puts you right at the heart of the counterculture celebration. Demetri Martin stars as Elliot Tiber (who wrote the book with Tom Monte), an interior designer in Greenwich Village who offered his family's Catskills motel for the event. He also introduced the concert producer to the dairy farmer who provided the land. As Yasgur said, it proved to the world that "half a million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music." Rock on.
8. 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'
In an age of computer-generated animation and explosive effects, it's good to get back to basics -- though the stop-motion technology used in this film is nothing short of spectacular. Based on the children's book by Roald Dahl, the colorful and engaging story follows the adventures of Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney), his wife (Meryl Streep), their son Ash (Jason Schwartzman), and a cast of colorful characters. Mr. Fox is trying to settle down and be a family man, but he just can't help himself from stealing the chickens and other goods of evil farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean. It's a habit that gets everyone into trouble.
7. 'Where the Wild Things Are'
This bold adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic children's book could have easily been phoned in with computer-generated graphics. Instead, director Spike Jonze went with live-action monsters and puppeteering, along with a bit of computer technology. The result is a film with creatures boasting scruffy fur and soulful eyes that you can't take your own eyes off of; a film that takes its time with the story and doesn't bow to viewers wanting high-paced action. The casting of James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Paul Dano and Forest Whitaker as the voices of the monsters who make young Max (Max Records) their king is beautifully inspired.
Director Clint Eastwood never fails to coax heartfelt performances from his actors, but he doesn't have to work too hard with Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman in the lead roles. Based on the John Carlin book 'Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation,' this movie tells the story of how South African President Nelson Mandela enlisted the national rugby team to win the 1995 World Cup, and united the apartheid-torn country in the process.
5. 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'
As the 'Harry Potter' series winds down, we yearn for each new film based on the J.K. Rowling books. The wizards are growing up, and this sixth installment of the franchise finds their hormones going wild as they learn more about the dark past of the boy who grew up to become Lord Voldemort. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) becomes ever more aware that he is indelibly linked to the Dark Lord.
4. 'The Twilight Saga: New Moon'
Sure, there are a few storylines in the Stephenie Meyer book that didn't make it into the film, like the more intense relationship between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner). But this second installment of the 'Twilight' franchise delivers in just about every other way. The werewolves are ferocious, the Volturi frightening, and the romantic and lighthearted scenes co-mingling with ease. And we just love hearing Jacob deliver love lines to Bella in Quillete.
3. 'Up in the Air'
Walter Kirn's novel comes to life with director Jason Reitman's film about a human resources administrator (George Clooney) who literally finds his life "up in the air" as he approaches his one-millionth frequent flyer mile. It's a story for our time, as good jobs in corporate America are hard to find and even harder to keep. Somehow, this movie manages to be both sad and funny, thanks to great writing, entertaining performances by Clooney, Jason Bateman and Vera Farmiga, and a relatable story.
2. 'Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire'
Oscar is all abuzz over this moving film about an abused Harlem teenager who's pregnant for the second time by her drug-addicted father. Though the subject matter is heartbreaking, the film manages to be both inspiring and terrifying, and captures the heart of the novel on which it's based (no wonder Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry stepped on as backers). In addition to the lead role played by Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, Mariah Carey, Mo'Nique and Paula Patton also deliver standout performances.
1. 'The Blind Side'
She's rich, white and tiny. He's big, black and dirt-poor. But together, Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock) and Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) bring out the very best in each other, thanks to her willingness to bring the homeless boy into her family -- and their willingness to accept him. Based on Michael Lewis' best-seller 'The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game,' this sports-dramedy hits all the right notes to make us laugh, cry, and want to go home and do something meaningful with our lives.