School Library Journal DVD reviews editor Kent Turner selects the top picks out of the more than 250 DVDs reviewed in SLJ this year. The following are memorable works that will enhance curricula with their strong educational and entertainment appeal.
This article was published in School Library Journal's December 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.
The final installment of Peter Jackson’s expansive (some might say bloated) adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit begins immediately right where The Desolation of Smaug left off, leaving those coming in cold to fumble in the dark.
The hit “Hunger Games” film series has become more assured in its latest installment, with Katniss Everdeen returning as a teen embracing the role of rebel leader and engaging in a lethal game of “Katniss and Mouse” with President Rose.
The screen adaptation of Gayle Forman’s ‘If I Stay,’ which hit screens on August 22, is a watered-down version of the hit YA book. The characters on film lack the focus and edge of the book’s incarnations.
The film adaptation for Lois Lowry’s 1993 dystopian middle-grade novel The Giver is almost 20 years in the making, starting when actor Jeff Bridges bought the book option back in 1995. Fans of Lowry’s book have long waited for the book’s screen release coming to theaters this Friday, August 15.
SLJ reviews John Green’s page-to-screen hit adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, which opens June 6.
Veronica Roth’s film adaptation of her dystopian YA novel Divergent is an action-packed narrative with a brave, young heroine and handsome love interest that diverges enough from The Hunger Games with some familiar overlap.
Multiple beheadings, one impaling, and an omnipresent necromancer—these are just three indications that director Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s 1937 adventure/fantasy The Hobbit has taken a dark turn. The short novel has been expanded into what might amount to a nearly nine-hour-long trilogy—turning what seems a fireside yarn in print into an overlong saga on the screen.
In this second foray into Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy, the filmmakers approach Catching Fire’s dystopian derring-do with deadly seriousness. Though a new director, Francis Lawrence, has taken over the franchise from The Hunger Games’s Gary Ross, it has been a smooth transition.
How does a filmmaker adapt Markus Zusak’s bestseller The Book Thief, written in Death’s candid point of view? Director Brian Percival tackles that question and more in this atypical family movie set in Nazi Germany. Starring Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, and Sophie Nélisse, the adaptation expands to theaters nationwide in the coming weeks.
For those who can’t wait two more weeks to see Catching Fire, relief is at hand. The taut How I Live Now offers a slimmed down dystopian world at its most bucolic—a survival tale meets hot-and-heavy first love with a punkish swagger. The screenwriters have tweaked the snarky-but-soft-hearted narration of Meg Rosoff’s absorbing novel (Random, 2004), but given the heroine a still-defiant voice.
There are moments in the sleek-but-not-too-flashy adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game when the film takes flight. It feels like child’s play, and the audience forgets briefly that the on-screen kids, the smartest in the world, are being groomed to kill at a Battle School in space. The screenplay hews closer to the book than a potential franchise template.
The first movie adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s popular series, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, is out in theaters on August 21. Lily Collins as Clarissa “Clary” Fray and Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace star in the action-fantasy, which provides the thrill of the chase and a sprinkling of the romance for its core audience.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Sea of Monsters comes roaring into theaters on August 7. SLJ reviews this page-to-screen adaptation of the second installment of Rick Riordan’s ultra-popular series.
Director James Ponsoldt’s sharp take on Tim Tharp’s 2008 novel (Knopf) gives The Spectacular Now a higher level of maturity and complexity than most young adult book-to-movie adaptations. The film, starring Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller, arrives in theaters on August 2.
More than 30 years after it was published, Judy Blume’s YA novel Tiger Eyes has been adapted for the big screen. Directed by Lawrence Blume, the author’s son, the quiet film stars Willa Holland as Davey and Amy Jo Johnson as her mother, both reeling from the results of a tragic shooting. The gorgeous landscape of northern New Mexico serves as a perfect backdrop to the long-awaited adaptation, also available via video on demand. Kent Turner reviews it for SLJ.
Girls with supernatural powers, rumors of demon-worshiping, and of course, romance, are all to be found in “Beautiful Creatures,” the film adaptation of the popular YA paranormal series.
In “The Hobbit,” Peter Jackson’s follow up to his epic “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Bilbo Baggins begins his journey to defeat the dragon Smaug.
A friend of mine recently forwarded me one of those emails. I’m sure you’re familiar with them: lots of cute photos, and when you scroll to the bottom, you typically see some kind of humorous statement. This particular email had several pictures, all of teenagers—at the park, in a restaurant or car, at a baseball game. And in every image, the teens wereahunched over, totally engrossed in their cell phones. The very last photo is of Albert Einstein, and it’s accompanied by a quote from him: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
Film Review: ‘Life of Pi’ Offers a Menagerie of 3D Delights, While Conveying the Book’s Heady Themes
In the 3D film adaptation of Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi,” a teenager named Pi squares off with a hulking and hungry Bengal tiger, the the only other occupant of a lifeboat adrift in the Pacific Ocean.