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.

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AEOS Review: Begin Again (2014)

Begin Again opens in a dark bar where Gretta (Kiera Knightly) is gently forced by her guitar-playing friend, Steve (James Corden), to get up on stage and sing one of her songs. Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is drunk. Before he stumbled into the bar, the music producer was set on convincing his partner that what their studio needed was not another shallow, teeny-bopper, techno hit, but an artist that met his “real” qualifications: honest, genuine, raw, unique. All of this becomes mute when Dan’s crazy debating antics, drunken state, and inability to compromise lose him his job in front of his teenage daughter. To add insult to injury, Dan takes his daughter to a bar, skips out on paying his tab, gets punched by a bartender, and is later humiliated by his estranged wife.

It’s obvious that although Dan is drunk, he’s visibly upset, hurt, even embarrassed. But everything changes when he stumbles into that same bar where Gretta is singing a song. As Gretta sings, Dan imagines a piano softly playing in the background. A cello and violin invisibly pick up their bows and raise the song above its melancholy tune. The drum sticks are picked up in the background and build towards the climax of the song. Dan’s eyes are closed. He’s directing the arrangement, imagining each instrument working together as one to create the hit he’s been searching for.

Rewind. We don’t know it yet, but Gretta was actually part of a writing/singing duo with Dave Kohl (Adam Levine), who was also her live-in boyfriend of five years. We learn that not only does Dave make it big in the industry, assigning Gretta to the support role of fetching everyone coffee and staying silent, but he also has been cheating on Gretta. So Gretta leaves Dave. Later, we see her watching old videos of Dave and her writing and making music together. The relationship ran deep: it was both a work partnership and collaboration as well as a romantic friendship, which heightens the level of pain and betrayal Gretta is dealing with.

Fast forward. We’re back in the bar, and Gretta is singing her song. Dan has claimed her song is a hit, and he begs Gretta to let him sign her. Gretta quickly finds out that Dan can’t sign her: he just lost his job. After a little persuading, Dan gets Gretta on board to convince Dan’s partner to give her song a chance. When they’re denied the opportunity, together Dan and Gretta decide to make an album organically: record outside, in various locations through New York City; find some bored musicians to accompany, and make a demo record to show off to his partner.

All of that happened within the first half hour of the movie. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the movie at that point. I didn’t care for the premise, but like any good screenplay should have, Begin Again did include a beginning with characters that had bad things happen – and gave them a reason to start over. A plot was born. However, it took a long time to get to that point. I had a lot of unanswered questions. I didn’t understand his relationship with his estranged wife (or his wife, for that matter). I didn’t like Dan at all – he was a drunk mess, had a bad attitude, and appeared to be a terrible father. I also didn’t understand why Gretta would take a chance on Dan; my only guess is that getting cheated on, betrayed, and thrown out made her desperate enough to give Dan a chance.

The movie really picks up when the newfound group is recording songs. We get scenes of different musicians joining the group and recording songs together. I thought Kiera Knightly was easily the star of the film, much like the lead singer in the group. It was great to see her stretch her acting muscles and again play a character that wasn’t in a period-type role. I remember being really surprised to see her acting against Steve Carell in Seeking a Friend for the End of the WorldIt was another modern-day movie, and she seemed to have a lot of fun. In Begin Again, Knightly holds her own against Ruffalo, another actor who is a bit older than she is.

Mark Ruffalo, on the other hand, played a character that was erratic and all over the place. Normally, I’m a pretty big fan of Ruffalo, but this was not his greatest role. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to start liking Dan after we learn the story behind his estranged wife. I couldn’t tell if the character was selfish just in the beginning. I felt like his character wasn’t written very consistently throughout the film. To me, it seemed like Carney might have had a better understanding of Gretta than Dan when writing. Or perhaps he was trying to prove the point that like Dan, the music business – and many who work in that business – are unstable and volatile, but at the end of the day, either stay alive by knowing what sells, changing with the business, or are left behind for staying true to one’s roots.

Adam Levine was an interesting choice to play David Kohl. When Levine’s character was in the recording studio, on stage, performing, it was obvious Levine was most comfortable. When there were scenes of dialogue or straight acting, he felt a little awkward, and very much the person many know from The Voice. Although Levine didn’t do a bad job, it’s difficult to separate the person from the actor when he’s a real-life singer who is supposed to act as a singer and not get compared to his real-life self. I would be interested in seeing Levine play a role that wasn’t a musician or performer.

Begin Again is heavily compared to Once with its similar premise and themes and shared writer/director John Carney. I haven’t seen Once, although I have heard a lot about it. There were a couple movies that Begin Again reminded me of, but the one I couldn’t stop thinking about was Music and Lyrics. Hugh Grant plays a similar character to both Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine: he’s down on his luck, with things not going well for him like Mark Ruffalo’s character. But he’s also the singing star that Adam Levine plays. Kiera Knightly’s character is similar to Drew Barrymore in Music and Lyrics in that she’s the writing force behind the duo. She’s also dealing with a jerk who broke her heart. Knightly and Ruffalo working together reminded me a lot of Grant and Barrymore working together to write a song. Albeit, the plot is much more involved in Begin Again, I did enjoy comparing and contrasting the two films. And I did enjoy Begin Again considerably more than Music and Lyrics.

I definitely got lost in the music of Begin Again in the best way possible.The music was very catchy, and there are some great scenes that make the movie very enjoyable to watch. I’m decidedly purchasing the soundtrack for the film. In case you haven’t seen the end, I’ll leave that part a secret. I was happy that the movie stayed true to itself.

Here’s Kiera Knightly singing “Lost Stars” from the soundtrack. I like both hers’ and Adam Levine’s versions:

I give Begin Again THREE out of FOUR open eyes.

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What are your thoughts on Begin Again? Please share them below.

Top 5 Movies of 2014 (So Far . . . )

Well, I’m a bit past the halfway point, but I figure July is as safe a month as any to post my top five movies for the first half of the year. Originally, I wanted to go with ten movies, but I don’t feel like I’ve seen enough movies to really give a solid top ten. I read what Ruth from Flixchatter did in her post about how she described her top movies as a mix between her favorites and the movies she deemed “best” that she had viewed, and I thought that description was exactly how I wanted to describe my “top” movies of the year.

5) The Grand Budapest Hotel

I loved this movie. It was fast-paced, quirky, charming, and just so enjoyable. I really think this is one of Wes Anderson’s best movies so far. There’s nothing quite like it out there, but I guess that is the typical description of a Wes Anderson film. TGBH has a colorful cast of characters played by a great group of actors, including Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Jude Law, and playing practically the same character as his last Wes Anderson film, Edward Norton. I think what makes this movie great is the introduction of an actor new to the screen, Tony Revolori, who plays Zero, the character we follow throughout the entire movie. TGBH is odd, and perhaps even made only for a niche audience, but it’s quirky charm and eccentric characters won me over.

4) Captain America: Winter Soldier

It’s interesting watching a Captain America film after seeing Chris Evans play Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four. I’m not a fan of the Fantastic Four films, but Chris Evans plays a snarky, youthful bad boy so believably, that it makes his performance as Captain America in Winter Soldier that much more impressive. It’s hard to believe that an actor could play two Marvel characters who are so opposite from one another so well, but Winter Soldier really displays Evans’s dedication to the character Steve Rogers and makes you forget that he ever played Johnny Storm in the first place. Aside from Evans’s leading man grace, the movie is filled with old and new characters, played with enough charisma and excitement that Winter Soldier has definitely set the bar for future Marvel movies yet to be released.

3) The Fault in Our Stars

The year 2014, no doubt, it Shailene Woodley’s year. She starred in Divergent, which was released earlier in March, and now she’s in another popular book turned-to-film story where she plays one of her most notable characters yet. The first time I had heard her name, I was watching the pilot for The Secret Life of the American Teenager. I hadn’t given the actress much thought after that show, but after I saw her in The Descendants in 2011, I, like many in the film community, thought she might come back in a big way. She returned to the big screen again in The Spectacular Now, which, while I really didn’t care for, definitely convinced me Woodley was just getting started. I realize many adults will probably not share my interest this film, given that it stars teens. But I like the characters’ intelligence, and possibly even more, their attitudes toward cancer. It’s a heavy subject to deal with cancer, especially in young people. It made me think of 50/50, and how different those characters dealt with the life-sucking disease. Yes, it is a love story, but I think it’s better than a lot of films based off Nicholas Sparks books. When Woodley’s character, Hazel, visits Van Houten (played wonderfully by Willem Dafoe), you sense that this isn’t going to be a teeny-bopper, feel-good film. Overall, it’s a moving film, and certainly one of my favorites of the year so far.

2) Edge of Tomorrow

I almost didn’t see Edge of Tomorrow given Tom Cruise’s recent track record with movies. The trailer did nothing for me, and I really assumed I wasn’t going to enjoy it. Perhaps that is the reason it makes it so high on my list. It does remind you of Groundhog Day, but it’s done well enough that you’re wanting to know what happens next. My husband and I saw it in 3D, and I was once again reminded that there are films worth watching in the overrated and overpriced viewing option. Emily Blunt shows how versatile she is in EOT, and I really wouldn’t be surprised if she were offered more action star gigs if she’s interested. While watching this movie, I felt like I was watching a video game unravel: Cage (Tom Cruise) had multiple lives to try out new tactics in order to eventually defeat the enemy and ultimately win. Edge of Tomorrow is definitely worth seeing in theaters.

1) X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past was the movie I most anticipated for 2014, and it delivered. Back when X-Men Origins: Wolverine came out in theaters, I didn’t really know much about X-Men. However, my friends dragged me to the theater, and I ended up enjoying the film. By the time X-Men: First Class came out, I became very interested in the characters and stories, so I watched the rest of the X-Men movies. There is a lack of consistency and continuity among the movies, given the different timelines, characters, and directors. I think Bryan Singer had a big job to create a movie that was able to unite the old and new films, and successfully accomplish it at that. But he did. Days of Future Past was entertaining and thoughtful, and certainly one of the best action movies to come out so far this year. The scene with Quicksilver alone makes this movie worth watching. Props to Wolverine, aka Hugh Jackman, for carrying this movie. What were your top movies so far this year? Is this a good year for blockbusters? As my friend Keith noted from his post over at Keith & The Movies, blockbusters seem to be great this year! What would you have added to this list?

AEOS Update: Back to Blogging

To my friends, followers, and most important, my fellow movie bloggers,

I’m finally back! After taking a break from blogging about the movies for two years, I realized that NOW is the time to finally get back to my favorite hobby. Why now? Well, I’ve experienced a lot of life changes in the past few years. I’m starting to get settled, and I’m itching to write again. I can’t put into words how much I’ve missed being on the blogosphere, because frankly, there’s nothing quite like being a part of the coolest club in the world: the movie blogging community.

Everyone has their reasons for joining, leaving, or returning to blogging. My reason involves a lot of details, but I’m happy to share a few with those who are actually interested. I updated my About AEOS section, which you can find here. But for those of you who are a little lazy (like me), you can just read on, since I’m just copying/pasting the text below:

In the fall of 2010, I started this blog because I love movies. I discovered an online film community that welcomed me with open arms. All Eyes On Screen evolved over the next two years. Blogging about movies introduced me to fellow movie buffs all over the world, and my love for movies and writing about them has become a bigger passion in my life than I ever imagined it could be. Matt and KristinI’ve learned so much from disciplining myself to watch more, write more, write better, and be influenced by my fellow bloggers.

By the fall of 2012, my life changed in the best way possible: I met the guy of my dreams. But over the course of the next two years, my life also involved taking on multiple job responsibilities. By mid-2014, I changed jobs, moved states, and married that perfect man. As many of my fellow movie-blogging friends know, I started and quit blogging multiple times over the last few years, attempting to blog amidst my hectic schedule. Eventually, I lost my site URL, and I put blogging on hold until I KNEW I would be able to return to blogging at a regular and consistent pace.

Well, that time has finally arrived, and I’m happy to say that All Eyes On Screen is coming back in a big way: new posts, new movies to review, and new improvements are coming to All Eyes On Screen. I hope you’ll join the conversation and keep your eyes on screen as I write, critique, and chat about all the latest movies coming out.

Happy movie watching and writing,

Kristin