Screen Talk: Dan dares

Bach's great unfinished work has been subjected to many realisations, the original keyboard exercises applied to recorder, saxophone, woodwind and string interpretations, and even an electronic rock version by Laibach.

The author Dan Brown has taken over writing duties on the movie adaptation of his very own multi-million selling novel The Lost Symbol. Columbia Pictures is developing the film version of Brown's most recent book, which sold more than a million copies on the day it was published in 2009. Brown, despite his writing success, hasn't had a stab at a screenplay before. Akiva Goldsman adapted The Da Vinci Code for the silver screen and co-wrote Angels & Demons with David Koepp. Brown replaces Steven Knight, the Oscar-nominated Eastern Promises writer, on the Symbol script. While it centres on Brown's regular protagonist, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, Tom Hanks has not officially come on board to reprise the Langdon role in Symbol.

We need to talk about Kevin

The indie film-maker favourite Kevin Smith, who bounced on to screens with the black-and-white lo-fi comedy Clerks over 10 years ago is trying something different. He's made a horror, Red State, and will present it at this month's Sundance Film Festival to a fascinated audience. Starring Michael Parks, John Goodman and Melissa Leo (above centre), the movie features a group of people who run afoul of good, old-fashioned US Midwest religious fundamentalism. But the debate will come from whether or not the suits think Smith can do horror.

Gulp fiction

When Quentin Tarantino blogs, the world listens. Which is probably why the internet and Hollywood alike was abuzz with the news that the director of Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and the Kill Bill movies plumped for Toy Story 3 as his top movie of 2010. Much of the breathless reaction to Tarantino's top 20, published on The Quentin Tarantino Archives website, focused on the fact that the movie wasn't the only cartoon feature to make his list. Also figuring is the Rapunzel-themed Tangled and How to Train Your Dragon. And while not quite cartoons, Kick-Ass, Jackass 3-D and Robin Hood, also make an appearance on what some internet commentators have named the Tarantino's-lost-his-mind list.

Nat's entertainment

Newly engaged, newly expecting and immersed in Oscar buzz for her pirouetting turn in Black Swan, Natalie Portman (above right) looks set to have a busy 2011. Portman stars in Ivan Reitman's No Strings Attached, opposite Ashton Kutcher and Cary Elwes, which opens in America later this month. She then hits screens in Universal's Your Highness, amazingly billed as a medieval supernatural stoner buddy movie. And she's one of the main attractions in Marvel Studios' Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh. But it's not all big studio stuff for Portman, now regarded in Hollywood as "versatile". She's about to hit screens stateside in The Other Woman, the story of a woman trying to fit into a family as a stepmom, from Don Roos, the man who directed The Opposite of Sex and wrote and helmed Bounce, starring Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Categorically not a comedy

The first few weeks of a new year in Hollywood always delivers a frenzy of activity as the weeks run out before awards season and the Oscars. For the studios, it's a concerted campaign as they slug it out to gain votes, garner press and hope for an uptick in box office for the movies themselves. Sony Pictures may be slightly miffed, although it'll take the attention, after The Tourist found itself in the mix for a handful of Golden Globes with Jolie and Depp nominated in the comedy/musical category. Trouble is, The Tourist was marketed and sold as a romantic thriller. Seems the Globe voters found it more amusing than thrilling.