What If

AEOS Review: What If (2014)

If there were a way to explain how What If didn’t, and yet did, follow the same formula many romantic comedies have, I would. But what I can tell you is that screenwriter Elan Mastai knew what he was doing when he adapted T.J. Dawe’s and Michael Rinaldi’s play Toothpaste and Cigars into a movie.

The characters Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) officialize their friendship with a handshake, to the glee of Chantry and dismay of Wallace, although the latter rather be put in the friend zone than entirely forgotten by Chantry. It is Chantry who first offers her hand, perhaps trying to prevent a deeper relationship with a guy she finds herself attracted to, in her mind threatening her current relationship.

They’re experimenting with the Harry and Sally conundrum: can a man and woman be just friends? Chantry is more interested in gaining a friend than playing the game, and Wallace doesn’t want to play the game, but he can’t let go of the prospect of being part of Chantry’s life in some form, even if it isn’t what he’d hope for.

Zoe Kazan and Daniel Radcliffe in What If. Image via Google Images.

Both lead actors overcome obstacles in playing the roles What If set out for them. Daniel Radcliffe is stripping his Harry Potter persona, and he deftly handled and proved he has more characters to play than the most famous wizard when he signed on to play the sweet and subtle Wallace. Zoe Kazan’s character can be frustrating, yet there are moments when you care despite her shortcomings, made up mostly of leading Wallace on while maintaining her relationship with her long-time boyfriend (Rafe Spall).

Since What If has been out for several weeks now, I’m not going to break down the movie plot point by plot point. But I did make some observations about a film that I would recommend to friends who enjoy a unique comedy that strays from typical rom-com land.

First, why is the movie called What If? I thought about a few what ifs, but the film’s website included these questions:

What if you never told her how you felt? 

What if I’m still in love with my ex?

What if he thinks it’s more than what it is?

What if you could fall in love over and over again?

I don’t think What If answers all of those questions, but the actors play their roles well enough that you don’t have to ask all of those questions. The chemistry between Radcliffe and Kazan is bubbling over in many scenes. But the sense you get is that there’s this friendship between the two that has you rooting for them because they make great friends. The added physical attraction is just a bonus.

Image via Google Images.

One of the most interesting scenes involves Wallace’s friends, Allan (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Mackenzie Davis) stealing Wallace’s and Chantry’s clothes while the two swim in the ocean. The typical rom com’s screenplay would welcome the opportunity for a convenient hook-up between the two characters everyone’s been waiting to get together. Instead, Chantry and Wallace are faced with a decision, surprisingly taking the morally high ground, which was considerably the harder choice of the two.

There were moments I felt like What If was lightly inspired by (500) Days of Summer (2009), although I wouldn’t consider it quite the success the latter proved to be. There is a lot of text scrawl and animated hand-drawn pictures in the film, and somehow they’re related to Chantry’s job. Perhaps the goal was to connect her job to the overall theme of the film, but the delivery failed to communicate that idea, making the artistry seem odd and out of place. In spite of that, What If‘s screenplay rarely falters, and there are both sweet and funny moments, many of which deliver.

Most of the humor of this movie comes from the Allan character, which Adam Driver so helplessly plays. For some reason, Wallace regularly seeks advice from Allan throughout the movie, and some funny dialogue plays out, adding to the charm and unique tone What If gives off.

Image via Google Images.

The ending of What If is not worth giving away to those who have yet to see the movie, but in the end, I like how the writers chose to end it.

I give What If . . .

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It’s your turn now. If you saw What If, what did you think of it? If you didn’t, are you planning to see What If? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

Guilty Pleasure Blogathon

Blogathon: AEOS’s Guilty Pleasure Movies

Jenna and Allie over at Chick Flicks decided to start their own blogathon about guilty pleasure movies. I learned about it from Caz over at Let’s Go to the Movies, who included some great guilty pleasure movies in his list. Be sure to check out his post.

The rules were simple (check them out here!), and the only one I broke (but with permission), is that I missed the deadline. Thanks to Jenna and Allie for still letting me participate! :)

Most of my guilty pleasure favorites, I must admit, are comedies, many involving romance. The intelligent movie-viewer inside me always seems to poke when I want to watch of these films, exacting that balance of guilt and pleasure that I enjoy indulging every now and then. Without further ado, here are five guilty pleasures movies I occasionally enjoy:

1) The Wedding Date (2005)

The Wedding Date

Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney in The Wedding Date.

Critical Consensus: It’s not a great movie. The plot is thin, the protagonist has security issues, and the overall storyline fails. But no one needs a rehash of what 90% of the Rotten Tomatoes critics thought.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: I loved the chemistry between Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney. The latter is hunky and confident in the film, making him a good lead. Messing plays a somewhat frustrating character at times, but nonetheless, relatable. Outshined by her over-the-top younger sister (played by Amy Adams), Messing’s character struggles with accepting her current status. The story takes place over in London, which was a nice switch from the typical rom-com in New York. The father figure is strong and funny (Peter Egan), and perhaps more than all the above reasons, I loved the soundtrack, which featured 90s Maroon Five and some Michael Buble hits.

Movie Fun Fact: The film score’s composer, Blake Neely, stretched his rookie composing muscles on The Wedding Date, the film being his first solo feature film assignment. The score was first released as a limited edition CD that quickly sold out, but has been repeatedly asked for after its success and popularity.

2) 13 Going on 30 (2004)

Jennifer Garner and Andy Serkis doing the Thriller in 13 Going on 30.

Critical Consensus: Same formula we’ve seen over again, but Jennifer Garner shines as the leading lady.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: The scene when Garner and Mark Ruffalo dance the Thriller. Lord of the Ring‘s (2001) Andy Serkis plays a fashion editor, Judy Greer is the villainous best friend, and Mark Ruffalo is the lovable guy that got away. I always thought Jennifer Garner played her best character as Jenna Rink in 13 Going on 30. It’s a movie with a lot of sweet moments, both romantic and also hilarious.

Movie Fun Fact: Behind the Scenes footage on the DVD includes interviews with the main cast who talk about their younger self-portrayal counterparts. It’s always interesting to see who gets cast as the young version of an older, popular actor.

3) Jingle All the Way (1996)

Sinbad and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way.

Critical ConsensusJingle All the Way received mixed reviews, some scathing, and some hopeful that the movie made the OK mark.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: I grew up watching this movie as a kid, cracking up. It became a family tradition at my parents’ home to watch this movie around Christmas every year, and somehow, we have continued on with this tradition in more recent years. Sinbad’s character, Myron, is so beyond insane at times, that you can’t help but laugh at the guy. Jingle All the Way makes people either laugh or shake their heads. I’m in the former group.

Movie Fun Fact: As of February of 2014, a sequel has gone into production, featuring none of the original cast. Instead, Larry the Cable plays the lead in the project.

4) Happy Gilmore (1996)

Christopher McDonald and Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore.

Critical Consensus: Dividng the critics, Happy Gilmore still managed to receive a fresh tomato on the Tomatometer, and even scored a 7 out of 10 on IMDB.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: Back in the day when Adam Sandler knew how to make people laugh in his movies, the comedian seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. Happy Gilmore is one of those funny entries that make it onto Sandler’s list of “funny movies from ‘back in the day,'” and it remains one of my favorite quotable comedies that I will continue watching if I catch it on TV in the afternoon. His humor isn’t for everyone, but Sandler gave new meaning to the game of golf, and the hilarious work of the supporting cast (Ben Stiller, Christopher McDonald) won me over.

Movie Fun Fact: MTV awarded Happy Gilmore an award for the Best Fight between Adam Sandler and Bob Barker.

5) The Holiday (2006)

The Holiday

Kate Winslet and Jack Black in The Holiday

Critical ConsensusThe Holiday is yet another one of my guilty pleasures that received overall mediocre scores with critics, despite its well-known cast.

Guilty Pleasure reasoning: Hans Zimmer’s score is captivating in this film, so much so that I listen to it every year, especially around the holidays. I love the cast, although I enjoy the scenes with Kate Winslet and Jack Black over Cameron Diaz and Jude Law. Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of viewing this film is the small part Eli Wallach (RIP) plays as the old, but not forgotten Hollywood screenwriter Arthur Abbott.

Movie Fun Fact: When watching The Holiday, I just assumed Kate Winslet was older than Cameron Diaz, given Winslet’s established filmography and graceful personality (perhaps her accent had something to do with it too?). I was shocked to discover that Cameron Diaz is actually three years older than the Brit!

It’s your turn now. What are some of your guilty pleasure films? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 4.57.43 PM

Trailer Break: You’re Not You (2014) + 5 Promising Trailers for 2014

Happy Thursday, guys! Hope you’ve been having a good week. Today, I wanted to update one of my old segments on the site, Trailer Friday (check out an older post here featuring Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin for his work in The Artist [2011]), where I would critique a trailer on any given Friday. It’s time to update, so I have renamed the past Trailer Friday segment to Trailer Break.

AEOS‘s first Trailer Break features the upcoming film, You’re Not You (2014), starring Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, along with Emmy Rossum and Josh Duhamel (interesting group, eh?). The reason I wanted to draw attention to You’re Not You is that the story centers around a woman suffering with ALS.

With three nominations to take the Ice Bucket challenge for the life-threatening disease, or donate, (and one of those nominations by none other than Ruth from Flixchatter), I chose to donate, letting down everyone who excitedly awaited me pouring a bucket of ice cold water over my head. Sorry to disappoint, but I feel good about donating, and I would encourage anyone else nominated or moved to help the cause and support those diagnosed with ALS as well as family and friends of those with the disease.

And as future proof that I did donate, which Ruth so kindly asked me for, I offer Exhibit A as proof:

ALS proof

Exhibit A: Proof I donated to ALS, with dollar amount blacked out.

But back to the trailer. It’s a wonder if the timing of this film release was timed, as it fits in right with the major awareness and viral popularity of the Ice Bucket Challenge swirling around social media. Check it out below:

 

Now, the trailer boasts an inspirational story laced with tear-filled moments, possibly begging for another Oscar nomination for Hilary Swank. I haven’t seen a lot of push for this movie in theaters or ads yet. But as for now, I’m excited about this movie, and I hope it’s not aiming for trendiness by hopping on the ALS-awareness bandwagon.

It’s your turn now. What did you think of the trailer? Would you see You’re Not You in theaters? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

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Since we’re talking about trailers, I wanted to include five trailers that look promising enough to be great films for the second half of 2014. Four of these trailers are for movies that make it on my AEOS Must-See Movies for the rest of 2014, so let’s start with those.

1) Gone Girl

I recently finished the book this movie is based off, and I have to say, I’m bubbling over with excitement for this movie since the trailer seems to promisingly follow the plot. Casting for the lead roles only promotes my anticipation as Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike seem to capture the characters’ essence in the second trailer’s two and a half minute runtime. And if anyone needs any further convincing to see this movie, the book’s author Gyllian Flynn has promised a different ending for the film.

 

2) The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Another movie about a woman gone missing, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby stars Jessica Chastain as the missing Eleanor Rigby and James McAvoy as her husband, Connor. What really interested me about this story is that the writer-director Ned Benson released three different films, one from Eleanor’s perspective, one from Connor’s perspective, and one about both of them. All three movies share the same timeline. This particular movie is titled The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, and will be released in US theaters in a little over a week. The previous two movies showcased at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.

 

3) Interstellar

Interstellar is the next big-budget, mainstream film to be released by the popular Christopher Nolan, who stunned audiences with his more recent previous films, Inception (2010) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Below is the third trailer released for the film, which features more of Anne Hathaway, more of Matthew McConaughey’s tears, and more footage in space. Why is this trailer promising? We know McConaughey is the hero. We know there’s an interstellar mission. But most importantly, we know Christopher Nolan is the brains behind the project.

4) The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch seems to be the guy of the hour right now, having his name attached to some big upcoming films (rumored to be a villain in Batman vs. Superman [2016] anyone?) while he’s still fresh off his Emmy win for his admirable work in BBC’s Sherlock (2010). Cumberbatch has played a character based off a real-life person before. Although The Fifth Estate (2013) was hardly a perfect movie, his portrayal of Julian Assange was remarkable, and I believe promising enough to prove his dramatic acting chops to portray Alan Turing in The Imitation Game.

5) The Theory of Everything

I recently saw the trailer for The Theory of Everything in the previews before I watched What If (2014), and I wondered how it was possible that I hadn’t noticed this movie before now. Starring Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables [2012]), The Theory of Everything focuses on the life of Stephen Hawking and his relationship with his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). It’s another biographical movie that appears to take place in Europe, but I see a lot of promise in the trailer and what I hope to be moving performances by the leads.

 

It’s your turn now. What trailers have you excited for upcoming movies this year? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

Elder Scrolls Online

Movies and Video Games: A Crossover of Actors and Voicework Talent

Sean Bean and his character Emperor Martin Septim in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Guest Post by Matt Phelps

Just recently, Kristin came walking into the room while I was playing the latest iteration in the Elder Scrolls franchise, Elder Scrolls Online (2014). After watching for a couple seconds, she shouted out “that’s Michael Gambon!” in somewhat bewildered disbelief. Sure enough, the aged character with a staff in Elder Scrolls Online was voiced by Dumbledore himself, Michael Gambon. In a marketing ploy to ultimately bring more dollars in, Zenimax Studios hired several well-known screen actors to voice characters inside the video game, including Michael Gambon, Bill Nighy, Kate Beckinsale, Alfred Molina, Malcolm McDowell, and John Cleese. This isn’t the first time an Elder Scrolls game has brought in talent from the big screen: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006) had Sir Patrick Stewart, Sean Bean, and Terrence Stamp while The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) utilized Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow’s talents. The publisher itself, Bethesda Softworks, has been known to tap screen talent for its games, bringing in Liam Neeson for Fallout 3 (2008) and Ron Perlman as a narrator for the Fallout series’ marketing materials.

Check out this fun video featuring interviews with the cast of Elder Scrolls Online:

 

Why are video game publishers trying to bring in big name movie actors? Is it truly because of talent, or just to bring in more money so they can develop the next installment in the series? Popular consensus seems to suggest that studios should leave the voice acting to the voice talent and leave the screen acting to the screen talent and any crossover is just a money-grabbing scheme by big corporations.

Let me submit that perhaps being a good screen actor and being a good voice actor are not mutually exclusive. Many film and TV actors have found success from lending their voice to a video game character. My opinion is that there is a pool of acting talent out there from which films, TV shows, and video games all draw. One video game character that I find to be pretty cool is Morrigan from Dragon Age: Origins (2009) and Inquisition (2014), who is voiced by Claudia Black, an actress who gained recognition from acting in the sci-fi TV shows Farscape (1999-2003; which I still haven’t been able to bring myself to watch) and Stargate SG-1 (1997-2007). Yvonne Strahovski, who came to prominence as Sarah in Chuck (2007-2012), starred as a main character in the video game Mass Effect 2 (2010), won a Saturn Award for her guest work on Dexter (2006-2013), and most recently, starred alongside Keifer Sutherland on 24: Live Another Day (2014).

Yvonne Strahovski and her character Miranda Lawson in Mass Effect 2

Perhaps in today’s age of interconnected everything, actors at their core transcend just the screen- or voice-talent stereotype. Maybe acting now consists of being more than just a pretty face for the big screen. One of the more brilliant actors I know of, Benedict Cumberbatch, has an extensive resume that covers film, TV, theatre, radio, and video games. Now more than ever before, I believe actors are breaking out of the traditional boxes created for them and showcasing their talent in a variety of ways.

So while I do agree that a lot of big-name hires are done just for attention, I think it does some good as well in breaking down traditional lines drawn for types of media. A future of overlapping and intertwined media is inevitable, so why not start now?

It’s your turn now. Have you noticed any actors’ voices from video games? Do you have any favorite video games that feature big screen actors’ voices? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

Dr. Horrible Blog

All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 1

Hey there, All Eyes On Screen readers! Today marks my first post of my newest segment, All Eyes on Bloggers. This segment will feature some of my favorite posts I’ve read over the past week from all of your awesome blog sites. It’s also an opportunity to direct my non-blogging (but awesome readers and followers) to some thoughtful posts from great film blogs.

OK, enough of that intro, let’s get on with it . . .

First up, we have Mark from The Animation Commendation, who is a really big fan of animated films (his blog name is helpful to point that out *wink*) and Disney movies. A little over a week ago, he posted a very fun review of his take on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) over at his live-action blog Disney blog, My Live Action Disney Project. POTC: On Stranger Tides is a movie I haven’t seen yet, but now find myself a little more interested in checking it out thanks to the many pictures and captions he included.

I read multiple reviews for the film Calvary (2014), a movie that highlights Brendan Gleeson’s possibly best acting work yet, by both Alex at And So It Begins and Nick at Cinema Romantico. If you want to get lost in some of the most beautiful writing worth your reading, read anything Nick posts. And if you’re interested in updates on Alex’s latest filmmaking feat, stop over at his site to discover the guy is quite talented in both his writing and filmmaking efforts.

One of the nicest guys on the blogosphere, Fernando at Committed to Celluloid, recently included a post from The DVD Court itself, a group of bloggers who critique a group of films and offer a consensus based off their combined critiques.

Another blogger who recently rejoined the Web, like myself, is Tyson from Head In A Vice. Just a few days ago, he has started publishing posts written by fellow voluntary bloggers who are participating in his self-created blogathon The “Recommended By” Blogathon, as an effort to encourage other film bloggers to watch and review movies recommended by fellow bloggers, as well as to feature other blogs on his site while re-connecting with fellow writers since his hiatus. Lucky for me, Tyson let me join in on the fun, even if I was a little past the deadline. Stay tuned for my post to be featured on his site, and in the meantime, enjoy his latest “Recommended By” posts on the movies Lawless (2012)The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai across the 8th Dimension (1984)The Collection (2012), and The Great Gatsby (2013).

One movie I have added to the top of my must-see list is the latest Joss Whedon movie to hit the net, In Your Eyes (2014). Thanks to Jaina over at Time Well Spent, I was introduced to the film by her review of this movie that inspired her. It happens to feature the lovely Zoe Kazan, who just happened to co-star in the recent film What If (2014) with Daniel Radcliffe. Dan of Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews just wrote a review of his own on What If, one that I found myself very much in agreement with.

Last, but certainly not least, are two of my favorite movie sites to visit, both writing about movie scores this past week. Keith of Keith & the Movies talked about the most memorable movie themes in his latest The Phenomenal 5 post; Ruth, writer behind the awesome site Flixchatter, took a music break to talk about Daft Punk’s score for TRON: Legacy (2010) in her post here.

And that’s a wrap for this first edition of All Eyes On Bloggers! Hope everyone has a great weekend and sees some good movies.

Comic Book Movies

Five Film Trends in the Last Five Years

While the past decade has boasted higher ticket prices at the theaters, the art of film, or plainly stated, the box office records, have show some major trends in movies over the past five years. While this list can easily exceed five trends, these are ones I have noticed and researched.

5) Dystopian book-to-film adaptations on the rise

Recently, I published a post on a comparison of The Hunger Games (2012) and Divergent (2014) films. Those two movies are part of only two of the major book-turned-film franchises to hit the box office over the past five years. Most film fans are no stranger to the dystopian film genre. The Matrix (1999) series started in the late ’90s. Tom Cruise’s film The Minority Report (2002) was based on Philip K. Dick’s short story. Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and Twelve Monkeys (1995) are only three offerings of the genre we were offered in the 1980s and ’90s. But in the past five years (2010-2014), I have noticed many dystopian books get a movie deal.

Never-Let-Me-Go-30929_5

The first one in the past five years I thought of was Never Let Me Go (2010), a British sci-fi drama that focused on the lives of three clones who exist for the purpose of donating their organs to others. Another popular, although unsuccessful film, is Atlas Shrugged Part 1 (2010), a dystopian film based on the controversial novel by Ayn Rand. One book that, while may not be considered dystopian in nature, nevertheless has its film adaptation fit well enough into the dystopian genre is World War Z (2013), starring Brad Pitt. Two other noteworthy films to include in this category are Dredd (2012) and Oblivion (2013), each based off graphic novels, the latter inspired by Joseph Kosinski’s unpublished manuscript of the same name.

Of course, the most well-known dystopian book-to-film adaptations include the box-smashing The Hunger Games series, with the final two movies getting released this year and 2015; Divergent, the movie based on the popular YA series written by Veronica Roth; The Giver, an unsuccessful film adaptation that didn’t sit well with critics, yet was inspired by a prominent book written in the early ’90s (you can see my review of the movie here); and The Maze Runner, the the first of three popular James Dashner novels that will be released next month in theaters.

4) Female protagonist films lead the box office

In the 1950s and ’60s, there were women-centered films and female protagonists. They were marketed in a much more sexist way then, but the times have changed, and more films have starred women. But in the last five years, films with female-protagonists have led the box office. According to Time‘s article “5 Things We’ve Learned in 5 Years of Box Office Reports,” published just this past April, the year 2012 included three movies in the top eight that starred women: The Hunger Games, starring Jennifer Lawrence; Breaking Dawn Part 2, starring Kristen Stewart; and Brave, starring the talented voice work of Kelly Macdonald. The same article notes that last year, three of the top six films had female protagonists (Sandra Bullock in Gravity, Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Indina Menzel in Frozen).

Perhaps the most notable fact that supports the idea that female protagonist films are leading the box office is that 2013’s highest-grossing film was the Jennifer Lawrence-starring film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the first movie since 1965’s The Sound of Music (starring Julie Andrews) to fill that top spot.

Of course, The Hunger Games franchise are not the only female-starring movies to make a splash at the box office over the past five years. Salt (2010), Hanna (2011), and Haywire (2012) were all female-led movies that obtained positive scores with both critics and viewers alike, with Angelina Jolie’s action film leading the box office with over $100 million.

3) Comic book movies no longer niche genre

When Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman (2002), I thought it was a special case. Personally, I loved that movie. My family regularly rented it from Blockbuster. It was the first superhero movie I had seen that wasn’t about Batman or Superman. The first Batman movie was released in theaters in 1966. I was amazed how odd it was that in 2002, it wasn’t considered a usual thing for a movie to be based on a comic book character, unless it was Superman or Batman. Blade 2 (2002), Daredevil (2003), Hulk (2003),  Hellboy (2004), and Catwoman (2004) were all released in the next three years following Raimi’s first Spiderman, just a few of the comic-based movies to get released in the early 2000s. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized the first X-Men film, directed by Bryan Singer, was released in theaters in 2000.

In the early 2000s, there’s a sense that many film critics didn’t take the comic book based film as seriously as other film genres, such as dramas, biopics, and comedies. But times have changed, and there has been a new acceptance of comic-based films as Marvel has mapped out its future in movies for at least the next six years. (This is a fun article worth checking out, Marvel fans.) DC seems to take note of Marvel, now working on its own agenda for a Batman vs. Superman movie along with a Justice League film franchise in the works.

While it isn’t perfect, I found a list that compiles every superhero movie released, both on TV and in theaters, including both animated and live-action films. A quick view of the list would prove that comic book movies are no longer niche, but far more commonplace as they have found a place at the movies, considerably expanding its audience. I would personally credit Christopher Nolans’s The Dark Knight trilogy for giving audiences and critics a darker, more serious adaptation of comic based films, proving that just because the movie is based off a comic book character, doesn’t mean it can’t be a stylistic, entertaining, and bold film worthy of praise.

2) Sequels and remakes lead the way

Perhaps this trend has existed more than just in the past five years, but I imagine most anyone can agree that few original screenplays make it to the big screen today, and if they do, they usually do not sell the most tickets or perform as successfully. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, such as 2010’s Inception, the original screenplay penned by Christopher Nolan, but let’s get back to the point.

Fan art that just makes you laugh :)

Here is a non-exclusive, incomplete list over the past five years of major sequels, prequels, remakes, and reboots that premiered each year:

2010: Clash of the Titans (sequel), Why Did I Get Married Too? (sequel), A Nightmare on Elm Street (remake), Iron Man 2 (sequel), Shrek Forever After (sequel), Sex and the City 2 (sequel), The A-Team (remake), The Karate Kid (remake), Toy Story 3 (sequel), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (sequel), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (sequel), True Grit (remake)

2011: Scream 4 (sequel), Paranormal Activity 3 (sequel), Fright Night (remake), The Hangover Part 2 (sequel), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (reboot), Kung Fu Panda 2 (sequel), Transformers: Dark of the Moon (sequel), Fast Five (sequel), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (sequel), Cars 2 (sequel), Happy Feet 2 (sequel), Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (sequel)

2012: The Dark Knight Rises (reboot, sequel), The Amazing Spider-Man (reboot), The Expendables 2 (sequel), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (sequel), Men in Black 3 (sequel), Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (sequel), Prometheus (prequel), Wrath of the Titans (sequel), Total Recall (remake), G.I. Joe: Retaliation (sequel), The Bourne Legacy (sequel)

2013: Iron Man 3 (sequel), Carrie (remake), Despicable Me 2 (sequel), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (sequel), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (sequel), Kick-Ass 2 (sequel), Man of Steel (reboot), Monsters University (sequel), Red 2 (sequel), Evil Dead (remake), Scary Movie 5 (sequel), The Great Gatsby (remake), Star Trek Into Darkness (reboot, sequel), The Hangover 3 (sequel)

2014: Annie (remake), 300: Rise of an Empire (sequel), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (sequel), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (reboot, sequel), Godzilla (remake), X-Men: Days of Future Past (prequel, sequel), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (sequel), Transformers: Age of Extinction (sequel), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (reboot, sequel), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (sequel)

What’s even funnier about it is that if you google “remakes and sequels for the year [fill in year],” every year for the past five years contains articles similarly titled to “[insert year]” is the year of remakes and sequels!

1) A billion dollars isn’t a billion dollars anymore

A quick check at recent box office records, or the same Time‘s article I’ve been citing throughout this post shows that the billion dollar list, James Cameron’s Titanic (1997) becoming its first entry, has now grown to a whopping 19 movies, including both last year’s Iron Man 3 and Frozen.

List of Highest Grossing Films

Image taken from Wikipedia’s page “List of Highest Grossing Films.” Green indicates the film is still playing in theaters around the world.

Looking at that list, you’ll notice that only three of those movies were released in the 1990s. Twelve of those films entered the list during the 2010s. But what’s most interesting about the list is that it isn’t adjusted for inflation, which changes everything, especially the list of highest-grossing films:

Highest Grossing Films Adjusted for Inflation

Image taken from Wikipedia’s page “List of Highest Grossing Films.”

Now it’s your turn, folks. What trends have you noticed in film in the past five years? Which trends do you find to be most dominant? Have some trends lasted longer than others? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts! 

The Giver Book and Movie Posters

From Page to Screen Review: The Giver (2014)

Book Review

In 1993, Lois Lowry wrote and published The Giver, a book that has sold over 10 million copies and received critical acclaim, winning several awards including the Newbery Medal the year following its publication. Over the next twenty years, Lowry penned three books within the same era. The Giver isn’t beloved by all its readers, and certainly not all of its critics, but regardless, it is considered successful based off its sales alone.

Most of the people I have asked about The Giver told me they read it in middle school or high school. The rock I must have been hiding under was huge, because I hadn’t heard of the The Giver until I saw the first teaser for the film adaptation. In June, I read The Giver, along with its three counterpart sequels. Personally, I would consider The Giver the strongest read out of the quartet, although I enjoyed all four books.

What I appreciated most when reading The Giver is how simple the plot is. Jonas is about to turn twelve years old, reaching the age where his childhood is complete and his life job is assigned to him. Pills are administered to each inhabitant of the area, where people speak with limited vocabulary, live in a colorless world, and are void of emotion. The Giver‘s universe strives for utopia, but the book’s setting is dystopian in nature as the plot builds and Jonas comes to terms with his assigned life position, Receiver of Memories. The Giver transmits memories of the world’s history to Jonas, who discovers color, experiences feelings, and understands that more exists beyond the borders of his small, limited world.

Comic by Brian Warmoth

Unity is what Jonas’s world consists of. Uniqueness, self-identity, and love are all new concepts he learns from the Giver’s memories. Lowry was onto something as many other future authors, including Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games), Veronica Roth (Divergent), and James Dashner (The Maze Runner) have all been informed and inspired by her work to pen their well-received dystopian book-turned-film series.

I would give the book The Giver 

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Have you read The Giver? If so, what did you think of it? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

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Film Review

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) brushes his teeth with a certain number of strokes. He walks a precise number of steps to the bus each morning. He combs his hair, dresses himself, and carries his life in a predictable nature not because he is a creature of habit, but because habit conclusively defines his life. His existence is based upon following his strict code of patterns that he has fully succumbed to.

 

Harold Crick would fit well within the The Giver‘s universe, but unfortunately his character exists only in the lovely 2006 film Stranger Than Fiction. It is not until Crick hears his life narrated by the author, horrified to find that she is killing him off, that Harold chooses to stray from his pattern-formed life. Unfortunately for the movie The Giver (2014), the characters stray far from their built-in nature, and not for any reason that would make sense within their universe.

I have learned that when I see a movie based off a book, I have to accept that certain licenses will be taken, whether it’s to fit into a film narrative better, or perhaps certain dialogue or actions would be communicated better on screen. In the case of The Giver, I think all of the wrong liberties were taken with the source material. Given its star-studded cast, led by Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges, it’s certainly a disappointment that The Giver went off the rails almost immediately, failing to get back on the rest of the film’s short runtime.

Other than a very short explanation opening the film, the universe of The Giver was never well-established. From the get-go, we don’t care about rooting for Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), even with all the charisma the young actor put into the role. The film pushes on, forcing viewers on a ride that fails to pause on important moments, defining dialogue, or pressing exchanges between characters. Even when the Giver (Jeff Bridges) is transmitting his memories to Jonas, the memories lack the warmth, terror, or joy in which they are described very earnestly in the book. Chicago film critic Richard Roeper described the memories as “something you’d find in an Apple commercial,” appearing to look more like stock photos or video footage you could find anywhere on the Internet.

The screenplay stumbled over itself, and no matter what came out of the Giver’s or the Chief Elder’s (Meryl Streep) mouths, the words felt forced to move along with the screenplay, because that is what they were written for. I found myself asking constant questions throughout the movie, like the following:

Why did Fiona (Odeya Rush) stop taking her pill if she was programmed never to question the idea of taking a pill?

Why did Asher (Cameron Monaghan) suddenly choose to trust Jonas and not kill him when he had never experienced an emotion?

Why would the Chief Elder select Asher to hunt down and kill Jonas if he was only a first-year recruit?

How could the Chief Elder be able to use words that didn’t exist within their world to converse with the Giver?

How did Taylor Swift weasel her way into the movie in the first place?

The answer to all of these questions deals with the poor screenplay of the film. In a fictional universe, there is an established set of rules. Once you start breaking the rules, the writing falls flat, and the story implodes. This was the fate of The Giver and the reason it performed so poorly with both critics and fans alike. The point of The Giver is lost on viewers, because the movie wanted to be something it wasn’t, losing both its focus and viewers’ attention.

I feel generous in giving The Giver 

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It’s your turn. Did you see The Giver? If not, do you plan to? If so, what did you think of it? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

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Compare/Contrast THE GIVER’s Book and Film

Which did you hear of first, the book or the film? I actually heard about the film first, but I read the book before seeing the movie.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the book? I loved the simple plot, and I liked how the Giver introducing Jonas to history changed Jonas – and made him want to change the way things are too. I didn’t really have a “least favorite” part. I didn’t think it was a perfect book, but I thought it was very well-written. It was definitely a page-turner.

Do you think it was inspired by any other books? Definitely – I kept thinking of Fahrenheit 451 the entire time I was reading it.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the movie? One thing I appreciated about the movie was the B&W in the beginning. I think they could have done more with it, like drawing out the color of the apple in the book when Asher and Jonas were tossing it. The screenplay was certainly my least favorite part. It really destroyed what could have made a great movie.

Do you think the movie was inspired by any other movies? I thought it had a similar universe to Equilibrium (2002). Very devoid of emotions.

Will the book, movie, or both forms, stand the test of time? Definitely the book. The movie fell short, and it’s sad, because Jeff Bridges had wanted to make the film for years. If he had had the chance earlier, perhaps more time could have been spent on the screenplay.

I answered fewer questions for the compare/contrast section, considering how short both the book and film were. Which form will stand the test of time to you – the book, the movie, or both? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

Divergent picture

A Dystopian Film Comparison: The Hunger Games (2012) vs. Divergent (2014)

Last week was a full week for TV/movies . . . I got to watch three different movies, while having just finished the book Gone Girl over the weekend before, and watching season 1 of The Killing (2011), one of AMC’s shows that has me currently obsessing over it. Originally I was going to post a review for all three films, but I got caught up in my review of Divergent (2014), so I decided it deserved its own post. As I was writing the post, I discovered it was becoming more and more of a comparison/contrast with The Hunger Games (2012) than an actual review of Divergent. So here are my thoughts and theories on the two films. (Keep in mind I’m comparing only the first Hunger Games film, not the entire franchise.)

Fans and adoring critics (adjective addition purposeful) have dubbed this past March’s dystopian offering, Divergent: a less popular version of The Hunger Games.

Here is a little chart I made up to compare the two films:

HG vs. Divergent

Now I realize this isn’t a perfect list. But comparing the two, there’s obviously a lot of similarities in the basis of how the movies’ origins came to be and the universes in which they take place. There are some distinct differences, however, that I think have been overlooked. According to the list, I noted four primary differences: setting, options for the characters’ choices, inclusion/exclusion of a love triangle, and the differences in gender roles for each movie’s primary set of characters.

Divergent takes places in a run-down Chicago, highlighting a lot of its famous architecture and sites, including the ferris wheel at Navy Pier. The setting of The Hunger Games includes futuristic locations created by the author, Suzanne Collins. There are twelve districts in which the world is divided, and there is arena where the games take place. This difference alone gives each movie a different feel. You’re taken with the world created for The Hunger Games, but for those who know Chicago or are from the area, might really appreciate moments, such as when Tris (Shailene Woodley) and the rest of the Dauntless recruits climb one of the major bridges downtown Chicago to run onto the moving L-train.

One other major difference is crucial, because it affects how the protagonist deals with issues. In The Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), who is under the age of 18, is forced to participate in the annual Reaping, where two unlucky souls are forced to fight to the death in the hunger games, which the book and film franchise is so aptly named from. Katniss’s sister’s name is drawn, forcing Katniss into the position of either watching her sister die, or take her place. Tris, on the other hand, is given a choice to select exactly which group she wants to become a part of. It’s almost like joining a college society . . . you get a choice, but once you choose, you’re in for life (or for the rest of your college experience, in that case).

My favorite difference between the two franchises, and one thing I enjoyed in Divergent more than The Hunger Games is that the former opted not to have the ever annoying cliche love triangle. It’s a personal preference on my end, but I think it places more of the viewers’ focus on the protagonist and his/her mission versus taking the attention away from the A-plot to focus on another character’s feelings. I’m not saying I don’t like love triangles, but for me, I felt like Divergent‘s storyline worked well without one.

Perhaps one of the most obvious and interesting differences between the two films is the way gender roles were handled among the main cast. Let’s start with the game changer: THG‘s Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) do not fulfill the typical male/female hero and damsel roles.Katniss is ultimately the hero, but not just because she’s the protagonist of the story. She’s the leading lady, yes, but she’s also the epitome of the physical strength in the film. She’s brash and unlikeable at times, but she’s smart, physically fit, and she knows how to fight. She could win in The Hunger Games, because after all, it is survival of the fittest. Peeta, on the other hand, isn’t the strongest guy. Sure, he can throw a rock, but his background as a baker’s son has made him the coolest icing artist in District 12. But that doesn’t exactly scream for allies in the games or send the message that he’s intimidating and tough to mess with. Instead, he shows emotional strength that Katniss lacks, the character trait one would usually associate with a female. Peeta makes poor decisions when it comes to hunting and fighting, but he’s in touch with his feelings and he cares. Divergent‘s characters do, however, take more of the straight and narrow route. Tris isn’t physically strong, but with the help of Four (Theo James), she’s able to improve her fighting skills. Four rescues Tris from others trying to kill her. Yet Tris remains the star of Divergent, even if at times, she leans on Four for help, who gladly aids her in the end. I like how each franchise handles these roles, but I appreciate the differences as well. Personally, I feel like Tris and Four’s relationship is handled with less force than Katniss and Peeta’s, thus making it come across more natural on screen.

In summary, I think The Hunger Games‘s plot proved more intense to watch for me, which kept me on the edge of my seat, whereas I feel like Divergent may have had an even better idea, but it didn’t have the money, charisma, or right timing to win over critics.  It’s really the fans of the book that most likely led the way into the premiere (I didn’t read the book yet), and I think the franchise definitely has a place in Hollywood, even though it will probably never attract the kind of attention and adoration The Hunger Games has already acclaimed. That said, I think Shailene Woodley has proven herself a worthy leading lady, and no doubt she will be a huge plug for the sequels after her success with The Fault in Our Stars (2014).

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of Divergent? How do you think the movie lines up next to The Hunger Games? Which one did you enjoy more? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

From Page to Screen Header

Introducing FROM PAGE TO SCREEN Posts to AEOS

Hey all! As many of you know, I just re-joined the movie blogosphere from an almost two-year hiatus which felt like forever. But I’m back, and as I said in my first returning post, I’m wanting to do more with AEOS.

The Giver Book and Movie PostersI have four to five new post ideas in the works, and I’m excited to introduce the first of them. I got this idea when I recently joined a book club where I’ve gotten to read a few books that have film versions coming out later this year. With The Giver (2014) coming to theaters this weekend, I was excited to unveil and start my first new segment for AEOS: FROM PAGE TO SCREEN posts.

About FROM PAGE TO SCREEN posts

What can I expect to be in these posts?  Posts will feature a short book review, a film review, and a comparison/contrast section, along with an open/closed eyes rating for both the book and the film.

What is the point(s) of these posts? My goal in creating this type of post is to introduce film-goers to some great (or not so great) books, and to introduce bookworms to films. I also look forward to comparing the two art forms, and consider what works and what doesn’t work in each form.

How can I participate in the posts? I’m always looking for people who have already read the book a movie is based off, and is interested and willing to give their opinion. If there is a movie coming out that you’ve read the book, please contact me in a comment or email me at alleyesonscreen@gmail.com. If you’ve read a book and seen the movie it’s based off that has already premiered in theaters or come out on DVD, the same rule applies. I would love to gain new contributors to AEOS!

What are some upcoming posts we can expect to see in the future? Aside from The Giver, I already have both The Maze Runner (2014) and Gone Girl (2014) FROM PAGE TO SCREEN posts planned out for 2014.

Last, but certainly not least, what books/movies would you like to see featured in FROM PAGE TO SCREEN posts? I’m always open to recommendations, and of course, I would love to hear your thoughts, so please join the discussion below.

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RIP Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Just three days ago, I was watching an episode of Arrested Development (2003), where Tobias (David Cross) decided to dress up as “Mrs. Featherbottom” to get closer to his daughter. It was his version of Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), a movie that has become a classic, a character that has become a household name for the past 20 years (can you believe it’s 21 years old?!).

As a kid of the 90s, the Robin Williams I knew best was Peter Pan (Hook, 1991), Genie (Aladdin, 1992), Mrs. Doubtfire, and the guy stuck in the board game (Jumanji, 1995).

I always thought he was entertaining. He was one of those comedians who established what was really funny, and early on, Williams represented hilarity in the movies to me. I won’t pretend to be his biggest fan, but I did have a lot of respect for Williams as an actor, and I appreciated his humor, warmth, and dramatic skills that he brought to many of his characters. He was exceedingly talented, and he brightened many of my childhood evenings with fun and laughter, voicing or starring in some of the best ’90s hits.

Perhaps my favorite role of Williams was in Good Will Hunting (1997), one of his first films I saw where he wasn’t funny. Here is my favorite line of his, and probably his most well known line, from that film:

Sean: So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you . . . I don’t see an intelligent, confident man . . . I see a cocky, scared s***less kid. But you’re a genius, Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my f****** life apart. You’re an orphan, right?

[Will nods]

Sean: You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally . . . I don’t give a s*** about all that, because you know what, I can’t learn anything from you, I can’t read in some f****** book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t want to do that do you sport? You’re terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.

RIP Robin Williams, an acting legend who will live on in the movies and in the hearts of family, friends, and fans. Keep an eye out for him in theaters for when Merry Friggin’ Christmas (2014), Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014), and Absolutely Anything (2015) are released.

I was very moved to see the tweet from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences trending . . .

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What was your favorite Robin Williams’s role?