Before you see these movies on the big screen, check out the books!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (September 21) – Charlie struggles to cope with complex world of high school as he deals with the confusions of sex and love, the temptations of drugs, and the pain of losing a close friend and a favorite aunt.

Cloud Atlas (October 26) – Recounts the connected stories of people from the past and the distant future, from a nineteenth-century notary and an investigative journalist in the 1970s to a young man who searches for meaning in a post-apocalyptic world.

Anna Karenina (November 16) – Trapped in a stifling marriage, Anna Karenina is swept off her feet by the dashing Count Vronsky.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II (November 16) – Having made her choice between living a fully human life or joining the world of immortals to be with her beloved Edward, Bella finds her future threatened by a series of events with potentially disastrous consequences.

Life of Pi (November 21) – After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan – and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.

*all book descriptions from publishers

For this installment of Amazing Audiobooks, I have a jumble of fun, funny, exciting, just-plain-great fiction that didn’t fit with the previous three categories. But you have my word: all these are winners!

  • Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. You’ll laugh out loud at this one, in which the Apocalypse goes all wrong when an angel and a demon accidentally swap out the Antichrist for a normal human boy.
  • The charming Flavia de Luce Mysteries by C. Alan Bradley, beginning with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  • Calico Joe by John Grisham
  • 11th Hour, the latest from James Patterson (or if you’re new to the Women’s Murder Club series, start at the beginning with 1st to Die)
  • …In Death series by J.D. Robb: a futuristic police procedural – particularly recommended for those who like listening to sexy, seductive, lilting Irish accents.
  • The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, a novel about a college baseball phenom (I reviewed the novel in June)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: A deeply sad but very sweet and rewarding novel; tells the story of a girl who learns about death and love while helping her parents hide a Jewish man from the Nazis in a small German town. Appropriate for teens and older kids as well as adults.
  • Stephen King’s latest hit, 11/22/63, about JFK’s assassination and time travel.
  • The Night Circus, a lovely atmospheric love story brought to life by Jim Dale. Lexie reviewed this on the blog back in October. There’s a movie version in development scheduled for a 2013 release, so get in on the ground floor of opinionated ‘book-was-better’ arguments by reading the book first!
  • Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella: listen to Lara, a twenty-something Brit, spar with the ghost of her great-aunt Sadie, whose 23-year-old form has come straight out of 1927 to beg the living girl to track down her missing necklace. It’s a hoot!

Somehow I never got around to watching 1979’s Being There . A cultural touchstone at the time; it still holds up when you watch more than thirty years later. I was looking for movies set in Washington, D.C. and thought now was the time to watch this – thinking it would be a bit of a chore.

However, it is wonderfully absorbing. A certain calmness and serenity takes hold of you, the longer you watch it. Peter Sellers was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Chauncey Gardiner, (the character tries to communicate his name as, Chance the gardener and is mis-heard by a wealthy benefactor played by Shirley McLaine). Melvyn Douglas (who did win an Oscar) becomes very fond of Chauncey and imbues his simple statements about gardening and nature with metaphorical wisdom.

This is a beautifully made and acted film. Peter Sellers, in his last role, inhabits the character with a solemnity and simplicity that makes it a completely unique character. Chance/Chauncy’s only experience of the outside world was through television, and there are frequent clips of commercials and shows of the day.  It’s really fun to see “Basketball Jones,” again.

JUNE 5

John Carter  – Taylor Kitsch, Willem Defoe

Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’s classic novel, a war-weary former military captain is inexplicably transported to Mars and reluctantly becomes embroiled in an epic conflict. It’s a world on the brink of collapse, and Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands. PG – 13

Safe House –  Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds

Tobin Frost, one of the CIA’s most dangerous traitors, resurfaces in South Africa after eluding capture for almost a decade. During his interrogation, the safe house he’s being held in is attacked by brutal mercenaries, forcing rookie agent Matt Weston to take the infamous Frost on the run. As the masterful manipulator toys with his reluctant protege, shaking the young operative’s morality and idealism, the unlikely allies must fight to stay alive long enough to uncover who wants them dead. R

Act of Valor – Rosie Sanchez, Nestor Serrano

When a covert mission to rescue a kidnapped CIA operative uncovers a chilling plot, elite, highly trained U.S. SEAL teams speed to hotspots around the globe, racing against the clock to stop a deadly terrorist attack. Pulse-pounding combat sequences, cutting-edge battlefield technology and raw emotion fuel this unprecedented blend of real-world heroism and original filmmaking, a thrilling tribute to the skills, courage and tenacity of the world’s most revered warriors. R

JUNE 12

Ghost Rider – Spirit of Vengenence – Nicolas Cage

Johnny Blaze is still struggling with his curse as the devil’s bounty hunter. However, he may risk everything as he teams up with the leader of a group of rebel monks to save a young boy from the devil, and possibly rid himself of his curse forever.PG – 13

 

JUNE 19

Big Miracle – Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski

Inspired by the true story that captured the hearts of people across the world, the rescue adventure, tells the amazing tale of a small town news reporter and a Greenpeace volunteer who are joined by rival world superpowers to save a family of majestic gray whales trapped by rapidly forming ice in the Arctic Circle. PG

Wanderlust – Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston

After George loses his high-stress Manhattan job, he and his wife Linda hit the road and wind up crashing at Elysium, a free-spirited community of hippies, tree-huggers, and the occasional nudies. R

 

JUNE 26

The Artist – Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo

In 1927, George Valentin is a silent movie superstar. However, the advent of the talkies will kill his career and he will sink into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller, it seems the sky’s the limit as major movie stardom awaits. Though their careers are taking different paths their destinies will become entwined. PG – 13

21 Jump Street – Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill

A pair of underachieving cops are sent back to a local high school to blend in and bring down a synthetic drug ring. R

 

 

Mirror Mirror – Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer

An exiled princess is assisted by seven rebels in order to reinstate her stolen birthright. PG

 

If you enjoy P.G. Wodehouse, you will love Simon Brett’s newest mystery, Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King’s Daughter  Blotto is even more clueless than the aristocratic Bertie Wooster.

While Wooster has his butler, Jeeves,  Blotto is also lucky enough to have a  much smarter sidekick.  In this case, the handsome son of the Duke of Tawcaster (pronounced taster) is guided by his sister, Twinks. She is not only smart, but beautiful and loves to use her analytical skills to solve mysteries. In this book, she feels fortunate to have a dead body right in her own home, Tawcaster Towers. Her mother, the Duchess, forces the local constable to spirit away the dead body before her dinner party adjourns for cigars.

Britain’s ruling class is parodied in a cheerfully absurdist writing style, and the time between the two world wars seems refreshingly innocent.

March 6

Footloose – Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid

Ren MacCormack moves from Boston to the small town of Bomont, where loud music and dancing are prohibited. Not one to bow to the status quo, Ren challenges the ban, revitalizes the town, and falls in love with the minister’s troubled daughter, Ariel. Rated PG-13

March 13

Melancholia – Kirsten Dunst, Alexander Skarsgard

In this beautifully filmed movie about the end of the world, Justine and Michael are celebrating their marriage. A planet called Melancholia is heading directly toward Earth and threatening to collide. Meanwhile, tensions are mounting and relationships are fraying as the family deals with their fears. Rated R

My Week with Marilyn – Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne

In the summer of 1956, Colin Clark worked as a lowly assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, the film that famously united Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. When his diary account was published, one week was missing. This is the story of that week: an idyll in which he escorted a Monroe desperate to get away from Hollywood hangers-on and the pressures of work. Rated R

March 20

The Muppets – Jason Siegel, Kermit-the-Frog, Miss Piggy, Amy Adams

On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary and Mary, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage the Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary, and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets. Rated PG

J Edgar – Leonardo DiCaprio

J. Edgar Hoover was head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 50 years. Hoover was feared, admired, reviled, and revered, a man who could distort the truth as easily as he upheld it. His methods were at once ruthless and heroic, with the admiration of the world his most coveted prize. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career, and his life. Rated R

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo– Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig

Hoping to distance himself from the fallout of a libel conviction, journalist Mikael Blomkvist retreats to a remote island where the unsolved murder of a young girl still haunts her industrialist uncle forty years later.  Blomkvist’s investigation draws him into the secrets and lies of the rich and powerful, and throws him together with one unlikely ally: tattooed, punk hacker, Lisbeth Salander. Rated R.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Gary Oldman, Colin Firth

At the height of the Cold War, a precarious operation goes deadly wrong, and the head of British Intelligence wonders if a double agent is leaking vital secrets. Brought out of retirement to expose the potential mole, master spy George Smiley is the only one who can be trusted to expose one of their own. Or can he? Rated R

 

 

February 29th will be here before we know it! Yay, we need more February, right?

The Proposal  doesn’t actually take place in a leap year as far as I know, but Sandra Bullock’s character, Maggie, does follow that holiday’s tradition of a woman proposing to a man.

The ruthless Maggie, in order to avoid deportation, forces her subordinate, (Ryan Reynolds), to marry her. Hilarity ensues when they visit the groom’s  family in Alaska. As is mandatory, Betty White plays a grandmother prone to mildly offensive insults and truth telling.

Alaska, Bullock and Reynolds are enjoyable to behold. You could do worse than pop this into the dvd player on your extra day of 2012.

How often do you actually gasp with surprise anymore? Towards the end of Crazy, Stupid, Love, the many plot strands of this movie come together and there is a “reveal” that is truly unexpected.

 I applaud director Glenn Ficarra for adeptly weaving together so many relationships and wonderful performances, especially by Emma Stone. She and Ryan Gosling have a chemistry, rivaled only by that between Gosling and Steve Carell. When the last two have a falling-out, it’s almost more upsetting than the breakup of Carell and Julianne Moore. Gosling, as the epitomy of cool confidence, is a pleasure to watch. (There is a scene that will have you running to the library catalog to see if Dirty Dancing is on the shelf)

Go now, and have the time of your life-

January 3rd

Hangover Part II – Bradley Cooper,   Zach Galifianakis,

Two years after the bachelor party in Las Vegas, Phil, Stu, Alan, and Doug jet to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. Stu’s plan for a subdued pre-wedding brunch, however, goes seriously awry. (R)

 

 

The Guard – Don Cheadle, Brendon Gleeson

An unorthodox Irish policeman with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring. (R)

January 10

Moneyball – Brad Pitt,  Johan Hill

The story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players. (PG-13)

 

 

January 13

Ides of March – George Clooney,  Ryan Gosling

During the frantic last days before a heavily contested Ohio presidential primary, an up-and-coming campaign press secretary finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate’s shot at the presidency. (R)

January 24

Real Steel– Hugh Jackman,  Evangeline Lilly

Charlie Kenton is a washed-up fighter who lost his chance at a title when 2000-pound, 8-foot-tall steel robots took over the ring. Now nothing but a small-time promoter, Charlie earns just enough money piecing together low-end bots from scrap metal to get from one underground boxing venue to the next. When Charlie hits rock bottom, he reluctantly teams up with his estranged son Max to build and train a championship contender. (PG-13)

  

January 31

Drive–  Ryan Gosling,  Carey Mulligan

Driver is a Hollywood stunt driver by day, and moonlights as a top-notch getaway driver for hire in the criminal underworld. He finds himself a target for some of LA’s most dangerous men after agreeing to aid the husband of his beautiful neighbor, Irene. When the job goes dangerously awry, the only way he can keep Irene and her son alive is to do what he does best, Drive! (R)

 

It’s hard to choose a favorite supporting character on The Office, but I consistently enjoy the self-absorbed airheadedness of Kelly Kapoor, played perfectly by writer and actress Mindy Kaling.  So imagine my excitement when I found out that Mindy was about to release a book of humorous essays called Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns.  In the book, Mindy tells stories about her childhood, how she dealt with living in New York  in her 20s while trying to get discovered, and what it’s really like to work on The Office.  There are also a lot of funny and seemingly-random chapters on things like “karaoke etiquette”, why she likes guys with chest hair and her top eleven favorite comedic moments in film and TV.  By the end, despite the fact that I was thoroughly entertained, I was mostly sad that Mindy and I aren’t best friends.  She writes in such a laid-back, conversational tone and is so relatable despite her fame that it really feels like you’re chatting with one of your good friends.

I find it hard to summarize books like this, so instead, here are a few of my favorite parts and things I learned:

  • Mindy wrote my two favorite episodes of The Office:  The Injury and The Dundies.  If you haven’t seen these, go watch them as soon as you finish reading this so that you can be even more impressed with Ms. Kaling.
  • Her views on romantic comedies:  “I enjoy watching people fall in love on-screen so much that I can suspend my disbelief for the contrived situations that only happen in the heightened world of romantic comedies….I simply regard romantic comedies as a sub-genre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world.”
  • One of my favorite chapters was the incredibly truthful “Best Friends Rights and Responsibilities”, a list of things your best friend is expected to do for you and vice versa.  For example, “I will try to like your boyfriend five times” and “I must be 100% honest about how you look, but gentle”.
  • Her big break was when Greg Daniels saw her perform in the off-Broadway play that she and a friend wrote called “Matt & Ben”.  Mindy played Ben Affleck.
  • On being a chubby girl when she was young:  “My mom’s a doctor, but because she came from India and then Africa, where childhood obesity was not a problem, she put no premium on having skinny kids. In fact she and my dad didn’t mind having a chubby daughter. Part of me wonders if it even made them feel a little prosperous, like ‘Have you seen our overweight Indian child? Do you know how statistically rare this is?'”
  • And finally, to get herself through a workout on the treadmill, Mindy has to come up with elaborate revenge fantasies to pass the time.  I won’t spoil them here, but trust me when I say this chapter is just as funny as it sounds.

This book inevitably gets compared to Tina Fey’s Bossypants (another excellent book that you can read more about here), and while Kaling and Fey are very different women, both have written laugh-out-loud books that I highly recommend.