Top Five - Film This Book!

The Onion A.V. Club offers 21 good books that need to be great, now (and while you're there, check out 20 Good Books Made Into Not-so-Good Movies), some of which I nodded in agreement with (e.g. The Time Traveler's Wife, which is kind of cheating because it's already in production with Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams in the leads, and Don Rosa's The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck), some of which I wondered how they think anyone could possibly make a good movie from (e.g. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, a great, brilliant, wonderful book which is also the textbook definition of "unfilmable" if anything is, and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, another great book that is great largely because of the unique voice of Dave Eggers, which again doesn't really seem to translate to film).'s a few additions to that list of my own:

1. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: Terry Gilliam has been trying to get an adaptation of this off the ground for years. I don't suppose it's really all that surprising that a movie that would draw the predictable outcry from the usual suspects about boycotts and how Hollywood has no respect for Christians and how it's a sign that Christians are a persecuted minority in this country can't get funding. Still, the potential exists here for something that's smart, exciting and funny all at once. I've long imagined John Cleese as Aziraphale and Robert Carlyle as Crowley, though lately it's occurred to me that it seems like a perfect opportunity to re-team Stephen Fry (Aziraphale) and Hugh Laurie (Crowley).

2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon: This is supposedly in the works as well, helmed by Stephen Daldry, director of Billy Elliot and The Hours. I'll admit this one is a tough nut to crack, in cinematic terms. There's not all that much of a plot, but it's dense and complex in terms of characterization. The easy way out is "Poor kids make good with comic books," but there's so much more going on here. Casting will be a bear as well - to do it right, you've got to get a couple of kids around 18-20 years old for the leads. And not The CW/"Gossip Girl"-types, either. David Krumholz would have been perfect as Sammy a few years back, but he's far too old now. A header on an IMDB message board posting offers this nugget of joy: "How about Zach Braff as Joe Kavalier?", which made me throw up in my mouth a little.

3. His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik: Peter Jackson's company has optioned this series, which seems like a good fit. I hope it actually gets made. The story is thoroughly cinematic, and it would be a great opportunity for the Weta Digital artists to go nuts, creating dragons of all sizes and descriptions. It could be like Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, only with a much better title (and seriously, that's a great title, y'all). Sequels are built-in, as there's already three more books in the series with at least one more on the way - and they only get deeper, better and more exciting as the books go on. It's a shame that Ioan Gruffudd has already played Horatio Hornblower, because he'd be about dead perfect as Capt. Will Laurence.

4. The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller: Some of the things I've heard about The Dark Knight, next summer's Batman Begins sequel, lead me to believe that this is the ultimate goal that Christopher Nolan and David Goyer have in mind, not least of which is the title. If frickin' awesome would that be? It's got its problems, no doubt. The studio might balk at the R-rating some of the more explicit violence would assuredly draw...but that could be toned down to a nice PG-13 level. And they might not be thrilled with the way Superman, one of their other franchise heroes, kinda-sorta plays the part of a villain in this story. Still...a nerd can dream, right? I think Kurt Russell in a sort of Snake Plisskin-ish mode could probably do justice to cranky old Batman. Throw in a cameo appearance from David Letterman, and you've got it made.

5. Conan by Robert E. Howard: I believe that the Governor of California's original turn as Conan is generally a bit underrated. That said, you can't tell me it's not high time for a new, truly great Conan movie. A movie that gives us a Conan who is cunning, as shrewd and quick-witted as he is strong and handy with a blade, rather than the monosyllabic goon in previous adaptations. Howard's Conan is superstitious and mistrustful of cities and "civilized" life...but he's not stupid. "The Tower of the Elephant" might be a little too far on the weird side for a mass audience to accept - but why not borrow the good bits from "The God in the Bowl," "Rogues in the House" and "Red Nails"? Instead of some generic warrior woman or helpless princess, why not give us Belit, Queen of the Black Coast as Conan's love interest? Why not give us that long-promised "other story" about how Conan came to be King of Aquilonia by his own hand? Why not give us a Conan movie with a hero who can actually deliver dialogue instead of grunting in a heavy German accent? Find an actor who is strong and athletic, but not just another body builder. Finally pit him against Thoth-Amon, who fans of the stories and the comics have been dying to see on-screen for ages and ages, perhaps. Whaddaya say, Hollywood?