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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!

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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?

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AEOS Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

If you’re looking for a family-friendly, entertaining and fun movie, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is the movie to go see this summer.

I have to admit, when I first heard of it, I wasn’t super excited to see it. This isn’t because the trailer didn’t look intriguing, because it looked funny enough to me. I now love the song “Hooked on a Feeling” because of the trailers. But a movie with a tree and a talking raccoon and green, pink, and blue people . . . I wasn’t sure if there would be too big of a learning curve to understand the terminology, characters, and places within the Guardians of the Galaxy universe. I wasn’t sure if I were geeky enough to be a fan.

The movie opens with a young Peter Quill Star Lord, who awkwardly watches in terror as his mother dies. We don’t know anything about his father, other than that he will eventually arrive to take care of him. Then suddenly, little Peter runs outside, and a space ship sucks him up. And then we’re somewhere brand new.

Introduce a whole new space world where it’s normal to be blue or green or probably any other color for that matter. Twenty-six years have passed. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) has grown up, and he’s on a mission to retrieve an orb. After he duels it out with Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and escapes, Korath reports back to Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) that Peter has made off with orb. Ronan assigns Nebula (Karen Gillan) the task to reclaim the orb, but Gamora (Zoe Saldana) proposes she go instead.

Meanwhile, Peter’s partner, Yondu (Michael Rooker), wants the orb for himself, but Peter decides to sell it to another buyer. Everything seems to be fine until Peter mentions the name “Ronan,” and the buyer suddenly loses all interest in the orb.

Quill, however, doesn’t have much time to decide what he wants to do with the orb, because others are interested in it. Enter Gamora, who doesn’t bother flirting for more than thirty seconds before snatching the orb and making a run for it. Enter one crazy, gun-toting raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), followed by his tree partner, Groot (Vin Diesel), who handles the heavy-lifting end of their team. They’ve discovered the bounty for capturing Peter Quill, and they’re out to retrieve him, while Gamora and Quill are fighting over possession of the orb. Soon we have four characters in a tangled mess, while we still are not exactly sure why the orb is so important.

Unfortunately for the four thieves, they are captured and thrown into a space prison by Nova Headquarters, headed by Nova Prime (Glen Close). In prison, we meet Drax (Dave Bautista) who has a score to settle with Ronan, who murdered his wife and daughter. Drax has it out for Gamora, who he believes is in league with Ronan. Peter, Rocket, and Groot team together to break out of prison. Gamora strikes a deal with them, offering up money to let her join in on the prison break. We learn that Gamora has her own plans aside from Ronan’s, and seeks to get out from under his heavy grasp. Drax eases his way into the group, also wanting to be released and gain vengeance for his loved ones by killing Ronan. The five fight together to break out of prison, and we start to learn each of the character’s goals, their desires for what each would like to do with the orb, and the importance behind the orb.

While I feel like the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy is a little convoluted, involving a lot of strange new characters and places, I do feel like the film picks up speed, gets to the point, and has such a fun time doing it. I recently read a very helpful article over at EW that answered some questions and explained some of the terminology and overall storyline regarding the purple infinity stone and the infinity stone belt. I’d recommend it to anyone, like me, who isn’t very familiar with the universe.

During some of the space fights, I felt like Guardians was inspired a little by the original Star Wars films, and I couldn’t help but think of them as they were flying around. Bradley Cooper does great voice work as the snarky, sarcastic Rocket Raccoon. Plus, I think it’s the first and probably only time I thought a raccoon could be cute. Chris Pratt, instead of needing to rise to the challenge, seems to naturally fit the role to play a silly, meaningful leader in the film. It’s as if he’s discovered the role he was always meant to play. Both the villains and heroes were played by a strong cast proven to be fully devoted to the film’s script and tone. For me, the writing seemed to get sharper as the film continued, and the humor seems universally-appealing to a large scope of viewers. The line “finger to the throat means death” made me laugh, followed by Drax’s explanation that “nothing goes over my head!” The editor inside of me is glad he eventually learned what a metaphor is.

Aside from the humor of the film, I felt like it touched on some deeper ideas, balancing the film with action, emotion, and humor, with some intentional deep thought throughout. I was caught off-guard to hear Rocket bitingly respond that although everyone’s lost people, it’s not an excuse to give up. It’s true that everyone has lost someone. That fact doesn’t make a person exceptional, nor should it exclude one from moving on in life. I appreciated the emotional lesson of his line, although his lack of compassion seemed more balanced by Drax’s character, who admirably fought Ronan, quickly learning that although he couldn’t defeat him, he would die trying if necessary. Even Peter revealed his softer side, risking his life to rescue his walkman with the “Awesome Mix,” which is, by the way, awesome.

And speaking of the Awesome Mix, one of my favorite parts, and perhaps one of the best parts of Guardians of the Galaxy is its soundtrack. Some of the people who attended the movie with me mentioned they had never heard any of the music before. I guess that says something about my age, considering that I knew most of the music already. It’s a great soundtrack, and I’m sure it will boost sales for the oldies that haven’t been bought in a while.

The Marvel cinematic universe has launched another successful film. I give Guardians of the Galaxy

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Now it’s your turn. What did you think of Guardians of the Galaxy? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

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Top 10 Actors/Actresses I’d See in Just about Anything

When I saw Fernando’s posts on his top actors and actresses he’d see in just about anything over at his site Committed to Celluloid, I decided I would write a post of my own, paying homage to my favorite actors/actresses that I’d be willing to view almost anything they’re in. *Side note: Later, I learned that Fernando stole the idea from Abbi over at Where the Wild Things Are. So please check her post on her top actresses as well.

Unlike Fernando, I didn’t think I could find ten actors and ten actresses. So I narrowed my list down to five actors and five actresses. And then I realized I had more actors than actresses on this list. So technically with the extra, there are eleven (and probably more, if I thought long enough about it).

*Updated note – I talked with Fernando, and we decided to change this topic idea into a little blogathon to be passed around. So to show the string, first, we started with . . .

Abbi choosing her favorites over at Where the Wild Things Are

Fernando was inspired by Abbi, writing his posts over at Committed to Celluloid

I was inspired by Fernando to write this post

And now I’m going to pass the baton over to Jaina at Time Well Spent.

The Extra: Chris Evans

Why does he almost make the list? In a word, Cellular (2004). The concept would be considered odd today, considering the ease we have with the inception of smart phones in our culture. But only ten years ago, we lacked the technological advances and had to live with just cell phones that lacked a certain smartness. Evans sells the role, plays the hero, and gives what I would consider a remarkable performance. The behind-the-scenes features for the DVD inform viewers that no one else even tried to be as convincing as Evans was for his role in Cellular. Of course, an easy role to thank Evans for playing is Captain America (2011) too. But I (along with my hubby) think Evans was the only good part of the short-lived Fantastic Four (2007) franchise.

Favorite role: Ryan in Cellular

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: I saw The Losers (2010), but I didn’t enjoy it . . . at all.

Favorite movie quote of his: “Oh, this is much better. Costume’s a bit much . . . so tight. But the confidence, I can feel the righteousness surging. Hey, you wanna have a rousing discussion about truth, honor, patriotism? God bless America . . . ” (As Loki in Thor 2 [2013]).

10) Emily Blunt

Why does she make the list? Until Blunt showed up in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), she was still relatively unknown. But I remember her character in that movie vividly, yet I still didn’t imagine she’d be making the splash she is today. From her little role in Dan in Real Life (2007) to her voice work in Gnomeo and Juliet (2011) to her newfound inner action star in Looper (2012) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014), I think that Blunt has a huge career ahead of her for the taking. Even though Blunt hasn’t necessarily been a part of major Academy-award winning films yet, I think she’s an actress to key an eye on. I’ve enjoyed watching her versatility getting noticed and tapped into for multiple roles, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll be up to next.

Favorite role: Emily in The Devil Wears Prada, and by extension, her small role in 2011’s The Muppets

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: Gulliver’s Travels (2010), because I can’t think of any other movie she’s in that I would have no interest in.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “I’m on this new diet. Well, I don’t eat anything and when I feel like I’m about to faint I eat a cube of cheese. I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight” (Emily in The Devil Wears Prada).

9) Stanley Tucci

Why does he make the list? Oddly enough, one of the roles I think introduced me to the accomplished actor was his role as a fashion editor who worked with Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. Soon after I saw that movie, I noticed that Tucci appeared in a number of films. While I’ve made only a dent in viewing his massive filmography, I wasn’t able to think of a single performance of his that I haven’t enjoyed, even if I didn’t necessarily care for the movie.

Favorite role: Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games (2012), Dill in Easy A (2010), Paul Child in Julie and Julia (2009)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Muppets Most Wanted (2014), because it appeared to be a lame attempt at a sequel for the awesome Jason Segel-starring The Muppets in 2011.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I’m bald and no one in particular” (Jerry Siegel in Maid in Manhattan [2002]).

8) Shailene Woodley

Why does she make the list? Plain and simple, Woodley made this list because I loved her in The Descendants (2011). In addition, she has only added to her film credit with roles in The Spectacular Now (2013) and The Fault in Our Stars (2014) that have convinced viewers and critics that she’s not the idiot teenager from The Secret Life of the American Teenager (TV role, 2008) anymore.

Favorite role: Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I have liked all her movies, so the only true title I could add is The Secret Life of the American Teenager, even though it’s a TV show.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful” (Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars)

7) Tom Hanks

Why does he make the list? Where to start with a classy guy like Tom Hanks? I know many millennials who don’t care for the guy, but I have to credit Hanks for last year’s impressive performance in Captain Phillips (2013). He’s still got it. It being that chill-down-your-spine, award-winning smile, likable, every-day-kinda-guy personality who still has that rare ability to win you over even after a string of unimportant roles, reminding you he’s the one and only actor who won two Best Actor Oscars back-to-back.

Favorite role: Josh in Big (1988) and Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail (1998)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011), for the petty reason of hating the title. Truly, I’d actually view it if I had to, and I might even enjoy it.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I couldn’t even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over nothing. And that’s when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that’s what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass . . . and I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” (Chuck Noland in Cast Away [2000]).

6) Jennifer Lawrence

Why does she make the list? If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t want Lawrence on this list. She’s big right now, there’s a lot of hype surrounding her as she’s starring in two major franchises. However, I couldn’t not add her to this list, because out of all the actresses that are “big” right now, Lawrence is one of those whom I do look out for. She has the occasional role that I have no interest in seeing, but often, she seems to really stand out, even in just a small role, in whatever movie she finds herself in.

Favorite role: Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (2012)

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I thought House at the End of the Street (2012) looked positively awful.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “I was a big slut, but I’m not any more. There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that. With all the other parts of myself. Can you say the same about yourself?” (Tiffany in Silver Linings Playbook).

5) Mark Ruffalo

Why does he make the list? The year 2004 was when I discovered Mark Ruffalo in both 13 Going on 30 and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s a little hard to believe that was ten years ago, but it was. I’m not sure what it is exactly about Mark Ruffalo that I love, but perhaps it’s that he established himself as a nice, everyday kind of guy in my mind early on. Since his first recognizable movies, he’s gone on to play multiple other roles. But I’ve always thought Ruffalo was highly underrated.

Favorite role: David Toschi in Zodiac (2008) and Chuck Aule in Shutter Island (2010)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: I saw Ruffalo in The Brothers Bloom (2008), but I couldn’t get behind the movie. I would never re-watch it.

Favorite movie quote of his: “I was having a nervous breakdown and then I heard your song. I want to make records with you. Come on. Let’s get out of here . . . ” (Dan Mulligan in Begin Again [2014]).

4) Emma Stone

Why does she make the list? Maybe it’s because Emma Stone is so likable in real life. Or maybe it’s because she appears to make only intelligent choices when it comes to the films she’s a part of. Or, maybe she’s one of the best actresses on the rise. Stone has finally found herself in that enviable position to choose which roles she wants, and which movies to lend her skills to.

Favorite role: Natalie in The House Bunny (2008) and Skeeter Phelan in The Help (2011)

The one she couldn’t convince me to see: I would agree to see only the scene in which Stone appears in Movie 43 (2013), and then be done with it. Gangster Squad (2013) didn’t appeal to me.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in 80’s movies? I want John Cusack holding a boombox outside my window. I wanna ride off on a lawnmower with Patrick Dempsey. I want Jake from Sixteen Candles waiting outside the church for me. I want Judd Nelson thrusting his fist into the air because he knows he got me. Just once I want my life to be like an 80’s movie, preferably one with a really awesome musical number for no apparent reason. But no, no, John Hughes did not direct my life” (Olive Penderghast in Easy A).

3) Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Why does he make the list? Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one-of-a-kind. He’s difficult to dislike. He’s funny, and he has played so many different type of characters. He’s shown up in thrillers, romantic comedies, big-budget action movies, indie projects, and even starred in his directorial debut. Gordon-Levitt prides himself on his company Hit Record, and he values his contacts both inside and outside of Hollywood, noting that he desires to work with name and no-name professionals. He’s cool, he’s geeky, he’s talented. He’s one of my favorites, and he happens to star in my favorite movie.

Favorite role: Tom in (500) Days of Summer (2009)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: Don Jon (2013), because I have no interest in seeing a movie about a guy struggling with a porn addiction.

Favorite movie quote of his: “It’s these cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything. We’re responsible. I’m responsible. I think we do a bad thing here. People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not ya know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth. Words like love, that don’t mean anything” (Tom in (500) Days of Summer).

2) Meryl Streep

Why does she make the list? I think the better question is, How could Meryl not make the list? She’s famous for the most Academy Award nominations in history. Even Saturday Night Live did a hilarious segment on how Meryl Streep could do literally anything well. Streep’s reputation precedes her, and her humility in accepting both rewards praise seems to match the insanely talented actress.

Favorite role: Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The movie she couldn’t convince me to see: I think she might play her character a little too well in August: Osage County (2013), and I don’t have the heart to see it.

Favorite movie quote of hers: “Oh, don’t be ridiculous. Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us” (Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada).

1) Benedict Cumberbatch

Why does he make the list? I had never heard of the name “Benedict Cumberbatch” until I got swept away with the brilliant BBC show Sherlock (2010), and ever since then, I’ve tried to watch anything and everything that has his name attached to it.

Favorite role: Sherlock Holmes in SherlockFord in 12 Years a Slave (2013), and likely to soon be added, Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (2014)

The movie he couldn’t convince me to see: As of now, I would see just about anything Benedict Cumberbatch is a part of. But I wouldn’t re-watch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) just because of how much that movie destroyed the character Smaug.

Favorite movie quote of his: “You can’t go far in this world by relying on people. People are loyal until it seems opportune not to be” (Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate [2013]).

OK, it’s your turn. If you had a top (or ten) actor or actress that you’d see in just about anything, who would it be? What is your favorite role of theirs? Please join the discussion below, because I’d love to know your thoughts.

Lucy

AEOS Review: Lucy (2014)

Lucy. When a movie’s title is named after its titular character, I expect one of two things: either, a) the movie is an in-depth film about that character, and as viewers, we learn all about that character; or b) no one had any better ideas for what to name the movie, so they took the easy route and named it after the main character.

In the case of Lucy, I would go with option b. The movie never let me know what kind of person Lucy was or is. We find out only what becomes of her within the first fifteen minutes. Lucy’s personality and actions were all over the place, which fit in well enough with the plot. I wasn’t expecting a Jerry MaGuire or a Forrest Gump, both films rightly named after its main character; I found Lucy to remind me more of Hanna, but with less explanation or background.

The only information we know about Lucy prior to her predicament is that she dated someone who seemed to be a weird guy who got involved with the wrong guys, and he was lame enough to force his girlfriend of one week into a drug deal that he knew would kill him (and it did, even with Lucy’s involvement). Perhaps this is information enough to let us know that Lucy isn’t the brightest girl.

Why is Lucy important? Well, she’s not. Ultimately, she’s a drug mule that unintentionally had the drug CPH4 leaked into her system when one of her captors kicked her in the stomach. The screenplay was all over the place. We get some great scenes of Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) teaching his class about his theories and research on the human brain; however, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) spirals out of control (or maybe into control) as she gains more control of her brain capacity. Of course this information is relevant, and it touches only the surface of what has actually become of Lucy.

I’m not sure whether Lucy is a revenge movie or a psychological thriller, or maybe just a movie named Lucy for the heck of it. The plot is simple and unravels quickly: twenty-five-year-old Lucy is kidnapped by a Japanese drug lord who uses Lucy and three other unlucky souls as mules to transfer the drug CPH4 into four different countries. Lucy’s situation differs from the other three mules in that the bagged drug has actually leaked into her system when she struggles against one of her captors, leading him to abuse and kick her, loosening the bag and leaking the powerful drug into her system. Suddenly, Lucy not only has her brain capacity freed, but she also quickly discovers that her brain capacity is extending at a fast rate, unlocking abilities no human being has ever been capable of. These abilities include controlling people with her mind, teleporting, and ultimately outsmarting and killing anyone in her way. Her captors and enemies are pawns, dying off one by one as Lucy seeks out Professor Norman to find a solution when she realizes the Professor’s theories on the human brain are true, and her rapidly growing brain capacity will kill her.

I didn’t find Lucy‘s plot to be significant or interesting enough to actually indulge in the full runtime of the film. I actually found myself bored most of the movie, wondering how the plot unraveled into an ending where Lucy’s brain capacity has reached 100%. This obviously means that with the help of Professor Norman and his colleagues, Lucy will die, and must choose to pass on her newfound information. To accomplish this, when she reaches 100%, she will dissolve into a black-ish liquid, seep into a computer, and turn into a flash drive full of information to pass on to the professor.

Scarlett Johansson seems to make more than a capable action star, having added her third Black Widow performance in Captain America 2 to her resume of great roles, but for me, she didn’t really work as an interesting enough character in Lucy, and I would probably blame more of it on the screenplay than Johansson’s efforts. Amr Waked plays a likeable cop who helps Lucy get to where she needs to be, but as for why Lucy selects his character to help her is never explained. Waked filled the role of a character that needed to serve the plot, much like the drug lord Mr. Jang (Min-Sik Choi), who played what I would consider an unmemorable role, bowing to the film’s premise of playing the stereotypical bad guy who dies in the end.

Most people compare Lucy to Limitless, which might be a better title for a movie with an uninteresting lead character but a thought-provoking plot. I thought Limitless was a better, more interesting movie. Neither movie is perfect, and I think like the plot, writer-director Luc Besson was scraping the surface when penning a screenplay about accessing a high percentage of one’s brain. There’s more to tap into. Abandoning the story to end with a pile of drugged-up girl turned black goo turned computer turned EVERYWHERE, with Morgan Freeman standing around, blindly understanding what no one else seems to be getting, is a poor ending for an interesting idea.

I didn’t care for Lucy, and I give it

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What are your thoughts on Lucy? Am I missing what made Lucy a 61% film on Rotten Tomatoes? Please join the discussion below, because I’d love to know your thoughts!

christopher_nolans_interstellar-wide

AEOS Must-See Movies for the Rest of 2014

Over at Flixchatter, Ruth recently posted what films she was most interested in seeing for the remainder of the year, which got me thinking . . . what do I really want to see this year? So I had the difficult task of selecting two films (sometimes three!) for each month that I most definitely plan on seeing.

August

August is right around the corner, and there are two movies I’m really looking forward to. About a month and a half ago, I read The Giver series. Each book is a very thoughtful and easy read that I’m recommend to just about anyone. I’m looking forward to starting a new review section for book adaptations called “Pages to Screen.” But until then, enjoy the latest trailer of The Giver.

The Giver

 

Guardians of the Galaxy is the other movie I’m looking forward to in August. I don’t know much about the comics behind the characters and stories, but my husband has gotten me excited about this movie. I’m particularly looking forward to Brad Cooper voicing Rocket Raccoon, and seeing Chris Pratt as the lead character. I’m also looking forward to seeing The Walking Dead‘s Michael Rooker in full costume and blue paint.

Guardians of the Galaxy

 

September

The month of September also includes another book-to-film adaptation that I’m really looking forward to: The Maze Runner. While I didn’t find it to be the best written book, I thought the story was intriguing. And based off the trailer, I think it’s going to make a potentially great film. If you’re interested in seeing the latest trailer, go on over to Yahoo! Movies or click here.

The Maze Runner

 

I’m excited to see both Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy act against each other in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. Chastain seems to know how to pick her projects. It’s one of two mystery movies that are coming out near the end of 2014 that I’m looking forward to.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

 

This Is Where I Leave You could likely be one of those large cast movies that falls flat on its face. But the trailer interested me enough that I’m putting it on this list. Plus, I have a soft spot for Jason Bateman, and I felt like the beginning of it could be similar to Elizabethtown.

This Is Where I Leave You

 

October

Gone Girl is the other mystery movie I’ve been looking forward to ever since I first saw the poster several months ago. The book the movie is based off of, written by Gillian Flynn, was published only two years ago – so it’s definitely making the jump from book to film pretty quickly. I’m interested in reading the book before this movie comes out, because like the book’s chapters are named after journal entries by Amy Elliott Dune, the murder victim of the story, the trailer reveals how much those journal entries will be featured in the film, and how they might affect the outcome of her widowed husband Nick Dunne.

Gone Girl

 

We haven’t seen Robert Downy Jr. play a character aside from Iron Man for a while. Now The Judge is coming out, and I think it could be good. I’m not overly excited for this movie, but it looks like it has potential.

The Judge

 

The one and only reason I’m particularly interested in Horns is Daniel Radcliffe. He’s been in a string of films since his Harry Potter days, most of which have been well-received. Horns, while yet another mystery film, seems to remind me of Hellboy. I have no idea how this film will do, but I was really impressed with Radcliffe’s American accent.

Horns

 

November

Being the next Christopher Nolan offering alone makes Interstellar high on my list to see for 2014. Nolan has released information only in small increments since The Dark Knight Rises premiered in 2012. Now with Matthew McConaughey fresh off a Best Actor win at the Academy Awards, he, too, now might be entering into Nolan’s regulars that he features in his films. While Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine, two actors who have already joined the ranks (or been part of it for years) are in Interstellar, the film boasts a heavy cast including Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, John Lithgow, Topher Grace, and Wes Bentley.

Interstellar

 

The Imitation Game stars one of my favorite actors right now, Benedict Cumberbatch. But it looks like he’ll be acting alongside many of Britain’s big actors, including Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, and Kiera Knightly. I think this movie could likely get nominated for several awards at the Oscars. IMDB’s summary of the film is “English mathematician and logician, Alan Turing, helps crack the Enigma code during World War II.”

The Imitation Game

 

The newest trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1) was released only yesterday to a huge buzz. We’re finally getting to see a little more footage from the film. While I’m excited about this movie considering that I’m a fan of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire was one of my favorite movies of 2013, I’m a little wary since they divided the third book into two films, following the trend of both Harry Potter and Twilight. Part 1 usually leaves you wanting more, and having to wait another year just so the box office can make more money is disappointing. I hope this movie is better than previous Part 1’s in other movie series.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1)

 

December

Surprisingly, the month of December includes movies I’m not overly excited to see. I was doubly disappointed by the previous Hobbit films because of their overly long running time, and the major inclusion of material from The Silmarillion, making the films far less about the actual book The Hobbit and far more about trying to recreate the incredible Lord of the Rings trilogy. Despite my complaints, I do still have a little excitement leftover for The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. Each of the previous movies had good moments and scenes, and some great acting. I’m hoping this conclusion is worth the wait.

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

 

Into the Woods makes the list for lack of other better movies to add. The trailer is only a teaser for now, but I’m curious to see how the musical will unfold on screen. Meryl Streep is no stranger to musicals, although I probably wouldn’t say she’s the best singer. There is a huge cast involved, and I’m looking forward to seeing a more involved trailer in the next few months.

Into the Woods

 

In Summary

To summarize, here are all the movies with their U.S. release dates included, in order from the movies I’m looking most forward to seeing, to least:

1) Interstellar (November 7)

2) The Maze Runner (September 19)

3) The Imitation Game (November 21)

4) Gone Girl (October 3)

5) The Giver (August 15)

6) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (November 21)

7) The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (September 26)

8) Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1)

9) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (December 17)

10) The Judge (October 10)

11) This Is Where I Leave You (September 19)

12) Horns (October 31)

13) Into the Woods (December 25)

What movies are you most looking forward to for the remainder of 2014? Feel free to join the discussion below.