The Best Books in 2014 + Five Books I’ll Be Reading in 2015

Although we’re a solid three weeks into January, I am still wrapping up all of my lists for last year. I have a flurry of “Best of” posts waiting to be published, with my top ten list of movies post coming out sometime near the end of this month. I’m still holding out to see Selma and Foxcatcher, although I’m unsure if I’ll be able to make both before I need to publish my list. All of that said, let’s get back to the point of this post.

Here’s my ranking of the best five books I read in 2014:

5. Son (2012)
by Lois Lowry

I really enjoyed Lowry’s YA quartet of stories that all started with The Giver, a book that has inspired countless popular dystopian stories today. While I think all four books are well-written, I enjoyed Son the most out of the three sequels because it concluded the stories and tied together all of the primary characters we got to meet in The Giver (1993), Gathering Blue (2000), and Messenger (2004). Lowry intertwines the overall themes of sacrifice and love, with good overcoming evil in the end. I’m thankful that I didn’t discover the series until last year, because I’m not sure how much I would have wanted to wait 19 years for a conclusion.

4. The Giver (1993)
by Lois Lowry

No doubt The Giver is the strongest, and perhaps most thrilling book in Lois Lowry’s quartet of stories that start with a boy named Jonas. Bestowed upon him at the transitional age of twelve, the title and job of being the Receiver of Memories casts a burden on the shoulders of a boy who starts to question the world in which he lives. An unsuccessful and inferior film based on the book was released in 2014, starring Jeff Bridges and a misplaced Meryl Streep. I’d recommend The Giver because its simple plot keeps you thinking after you’ve read the book. After reading multiple popular dystopian YA books over the past few years, I realized that The Giver stands apart from the mass not only for being published in the early ’90s, but also for its unique position in having inspired so many other stories.

3. Ready Player One (2011)
by Ernest Cline

Given the premise, I originally thought Ernest Cline’s first book would appeal more to gamers than the average person. And I imagine that in some sense, it does. But it’s a fascinating story that takes place in a virtual world, yet asks a deeper question that proves relevant for any person today. If you appreciate the pop culture of the 1980s, then I suggest you read Ready Player One immediately. If the past gets you nostalgic, if you have a soft spot in your heart for the Back to the Future films, or if you have a deep love for RPG games, then Ready Player One is the book for you. If you like adventure stories, underdog tales, superheroes, and squeal when the smart guy gets the girl, then you should probably get your hands on a copy of Ready Player One. If none of those reasons apply to you, and you enjoy a good book, then download Ready Player One on your device and start reading it. Need I give you more reasons?

2. Gone Girl (2012)
by Gillian Flynn

“Thrilling” and “dark”: those are the best two words to describe Gillian Flynn’s novel. Most people are familiar with both the title and the story by now, after the novel was adapted into a critically-acclaimed film last year. Having read the book and then seen the movie, I would no doubt admit what most people would: the book was better. The film was good, yes, but there’s something much creepier when you are alone in discovering the mystery behind Amy Elliott Dunne’s death. While I would have preferred less language, and could easily chalk up Gone Girl to a whodunnit mystery thriller starring Mr. and Mrs. Sociopath, what makes Gone Girl so engaging is the order in which Flynn makes her reveals. Not only are we terrified to find out what happens next as we see what happens through Nick’s eyes, but we also have our belief suspended on Ms. Flynn’s impeccably-written order of events. Thanks to her brilliant timing, as readers we get to experience the rush of solving a mystery, only to nervously proceed to find out what’s happening next. Suffice it to say the movie experience did not compare.

1. Cuckoo’s Calling
by Robert Gailbrath

It is for books like Cuckoo’s Calling that we have a list of inspiring characters and stories to thank, and in this case, I would start with Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Multiple adaptations and inspiring and visionary TV shows, films, and characters have been crafted from Conan Doyle’s best known crime solver and detective. Cormoran Strike, the protagonist of Cuckoo’s Calling, is not much like Detective Holmes, but the similarities in both what they do is apparent in reading the first of J.K. Rowling’s crime fiction novel series. As Rowling peels back the layers of the man who is Cormoran Strike, I found myself sympathizing with his personal circumstances and curious about the case surrounding Lula’s death. Rowling has a way of drawing in readers and keeping them compelled the entire time. I haven’t read The Silkworm, the first of multiple sequels in the works, but I’m planning to in 2015. Truly, the credit has to go to the creative mind of the author, because it is with explicit detail that Cuckoo’s Calling is fashioned, and it unfolds much like a TV mini-series would, where you can’t help but watch the entire series in one sitting. Whether or not one is a fan of the Harry Potter series, which made Ms. Rowling a household name not only in her home country, but also across the globe, one who enjoys an intense and thrilling crime mystery would have a hard time putting down Cuckoo’s Calling. Of course, I speak from my own experience. I found Cuckoo’s Calling to be the best book I read in 2014. It stayed with me long after I finished reading it.


A week and a half ago, I wrote a few New Year’s Resolutions posts for 2015, one of which is to read more books. I read only ten books in 2014, so I mentioned how I’d like to improve on that number by reading twenty-five this year. I picked twenty of them, and then I asked the rest of you for suggestions for my last five. Per your recommendations, these are the five I chose:

5. And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie

4. The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

3. High Fidelity
by Nick Hornby

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson

1. The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

To view my entire reading list for the year (twenty-five books total), or to see an update on where I am in my reading, check out my New Year’s Reading post here.

Stay tuned for the “best of” in music, TV, and movies this week and next. Thanks again to everyone who offered recommendations for my reading list this year! 🙂

What were the best (and worst) books you read in 2014? What are you planning to read this year?

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New Year’s Resolutions: Blogging in 2015

Here is my last New Year’s Resolution post for 2015. If I haven’t already bored you with my previous New Year’s posts, read on for some resolutions goals for All Eyes On Screen in the upcoming year.


More Consistent Posting

This is the biggie, and it’s where I have the most room for growth. I have all the respect in the world for fellow bloggers who seem to churn out post after post on the most current film news. It’s a constant reminder to me to be more consistent as I strive to make All Eyes On Screen a better and more interesting site for visitors and fellow bloggers.


Add New Series

One of my big goals for movies is to start my first Blindspot Series. I’m still looking for several recommendations, so if you have any classics to suggest, please leave an idea in the comments on that post. Aside from a Blindspot Series, I’d also like to add some other series. I started All Eyes on the SMALL Screen last year, and I’d like to continue it. But I’d also like to try out new ideas as I find the time. I always appreciate new ideas, even if can’t follow through with all of them.


Host/Start a Blogathan

Several of my blogging friends have hosted or started a blogathan in 2014. I’d like 2015 to be the year that I start my first one. I’m considering several ideas, and I’m hoping to unveil the official one I select during a slower time of the year when everyone isn’t talking about the Academy Awards or celebrating the holidays with family.


Interact on More Sites

This is the hardest resolution for me. It’s not that I don’t want to visit, read, or comment on sites, as much as it’s dividing my time between watching movies, writing posts, and interacting on fellow bloggers’s sites. That’s when it gets tricky. So this year, I’m striving to read and comment on more of your sites. I’m constantly learning new things, discovering new ideas, and developing my site, writing style, and opinions as I interact with the growing movie blogging community. You are my teachers, my friends, and my biggest supporters. So I hope to give back more this year than I’ve been able in past years.

Wish me luck as I seek to read more, catch up on TV, watch more movies, and sharpen my blogging skills in 2015! I’m rooting for you guys too!

What are your blogging resolutions for 2015?

New Year’s Resolutions: Movie List for 2015

For me, movie resolutions are the hardest because I feel like I have such a long way ahead. That isn’t to say I’m not excited to introduce myself to new movies, but I do find it challenging to “keep up.” Which brings me to my first resolution for watching movies in 2015 . . .


Watch Movies at My Own Pace

For those of you who watch a lot of movies, have you ever felt like you can’t keep up with the rest of the movie blogging community? Perhaps it is just me, but I regularly struggle to “keep up” with everyone else. That isn’t to say that I need to see as many movies as the rest of you, but there is this feeling of falling behind when many other movie bloggers see films at pre-screenings, film events, and opening weekends. I say this to resolve that I will try to start watching movies more at my own pace, even if that means posting reviews a week or two later than the average viewer/blogger.


Make Progress on My Shame List

I started my own Shame List last September after being inspired by other bloggers who admitted to the Internet that there were a great many classics they have yet to see. So I made my own list of thirty-one titles of popular movies ranging from 1931 to 1999 that I’d like to see. I saw three of those last year (averaging one per month), and now my list is down to twenty-eight. I’d like to set my goal at crossing at least ten more of those movies off my list in 2015.


Start My First Blindspot Series

I realized how much I was missing out on classic films when I noticed multiple other movie bloggers were posting about their own Blindspot Series. I have wanted to start my own for a while, but the right opportunity hasn’t been present until now. I want the goal to be attainable, so copying what many of my film friends have done, I am starting my own list of twelve movies to be featured on my very own Blindspot Series. This series will be different from my own Shame List, because although I took recommendations for that list, I decided on the first twenty films myself.

Similarly to what I did with my Reading Resolutions for 2015, I’ll be taking only recommendations for this list, with one exception. I’m making Singing in the Rain (1952) my January film selection since it has been recommended to me more times than I can count (shout-out to my friend Cynthia who wrote out a list of movies I needed to see a couple years ago, making sure to emphasize that I see Singing in the Rain). I’d like to compile this list by the end of the month so I am set for the rest of the year. I’m all for new ideas in this series since I really haven’t seen many classic films, so include your suggestions in the comments section below. I will choose the eleven most popular choices, so long as I get at least eleven film recommendations.

2.-12. Your Recommendations


See All Films Nominated for Multiple Categories at the 2015-2016 Oscars

This was an unwritten goal of mine for the 2014-2015 season. I’m still working towards it, especially considering that the list of Oscar nominees hasn’t been released yet. I agree that it is a bit of a popularity contest. But the take-away for me is that I get to see a lot of great movies, regardless of whether they “earn” a golden statue or not. Below are the categories that I’d like to see all of the nominees before the award ceremony in February of 2016.

5. Best Picture Category

4. Best Actor/Actress Categories

3. Best Supporting Actor/Actress Categories

2. Best Original/Adapted Screenplay Categories

1. Best Soundtrack Category

After considering all of those hefty goals for this year, I’m excited (and a little nervous) to move forward into unchartered territory for All Eyes On Screen. Thank you for all of your support in commenting, liking, and interacting on the site . . . it has been the greatest encouragement to me, and I’m thankful to count so many of you as friends in my life.

Stay tuned for a final New Years Resolution post tomorrow, this time on blogging. Next week I’ll be posting about the Best and the Worst of 2014 for books, TV shows, and movies I’ve read and seen in 2014.

What are your movie resolutions for 2015?

New Year’s Resolutions: Television List for 2015

Since college, I have been a bigger fan of movies than television. But in recent years, it seems like there have been more and more awesome TV shows featuring some of the most talented actors and actresses. With the inception of Netflix and other Internet-streaming sites, TV shows have never been more accessible to people today than ever before.

Last year marked the first time I decided to review a TV show on the site: The Walking Dead (2010-present). The first half of the season is over, and another eight episodes lie ahead. I’m excited to continue reviewing the show, along with hoping to review more shows as my time frees up.

Below are my television resolutions for the year 2015.


 Watch Less TV

Totally contradictory to a new year’s resolution, right? I want to watch less TV to free up more time for the more important things in my life, such as my relationships with family and friends. I also want to spend my time being more productive on projects, hobbies, and work. Thinking back through last year, I realize that I spent more time than necessary in front of a screen. To remind myself of this goal, I included three benefits specifically for All Eyes On Screen I could take away from watching less TV in 2015:

3. Watch more movies

2. Write more posts

1. Be more interactive on friends’ sites


Check Out “Buzzed About” Shows

“Good” is such a subjective word today. I realize everyone forms different opinions on television shows. Some of these have been regarded as critically-acclaimed hits. I mostly want to check these out because they attracted my interest or were recommended to me over the past year. I have yet to see a show that can top AMC‘s The Killing (2011-2014) for me. And whether these shows do that or not, I’m excited to see what all the buzz is about.

5. Orphan BlackBBC America

4. True DetectiveHBO

3. Marco PoloNetflix

2. The Bletchley CircleUTV

1. The FollowingFOX


Finish (or Catch Up on) TV Series I’ve Started

I like to finish things I start, and that includes television shows. Not all are worth finishing, but there are some shows completely worth my time. Some I have to wait until the next season is available on Netflix, and other shows I haven’t managed to finish yet.

4. Gilmore GirlsCW (Netflix)

3. White CollarUSA

2. Melissa & JoeyABC Family

1. The BlacklistNBC


Check Out the “Oldies, But Goodies”

There was a time in my life when TV was completely inaccessible. Now that I have the ability to watch occasionally, I’ve been itching to check out major shows I missed out on when they aired. These shows might not be current, but some of them are still highly regarded.

5. Friends (1994-2004)

4. The O.C. (2003-2007)

3. Lost (2004-2010)

2. Prison Break (2005-2008)

1. Merlin (2008-2012)


Your Recommendations

This time around, I won’t be asking for a list of shows I will plan to watch this year, considering I’m hoping to limit my TV time rather than watch too much of it. However, I’m still very much interested in what TV shows you’re checking out this year, and which ones you would recommend I keep an eye on for future viewing.

Stay tuned for more New Years Resolutions posts this week and next. Following this series, I’ll be posting about the Best and the Worst for books, TV shows, and movies I’ve read and seen in 2014.

What are your television resolutions for 2015?

New Year’s Resolutions: Reading List for 2015 (Updated 3/13)

Hey everyone! It’s exciting to be back after taking a 2 1/2 week-break from blogging at All Eyes On Screen. I had a wonderful Christmas and fun New Year’s celebration with family and friends in both my hometown state of Illinois and my current residence in Wisconsin. While I was starting to take down all of my holiday decorations, I was thinking through all of the resolutions I have for this new year that has already started. Reviving All Eyes On Screen in 2014 was one of the most fulfilling and fun resolutions to accomplish. As I’m looking to the future, I hope to continue to update and improve All Eyes On Screen, from upping the quality of writing content, to publishing more posts on a consistent basis. I anticipate some major changes happening personally in my life over the next year, but I am hoping to learn to balance my time better, and regularly write for the site. With that all said, I do realize that breaks from writing will be inevitable and necessary to take from time to time; however, I will be aiming to publish posts as consistently and regularly as possible. Looking to the future of 2015, I have been composing lists of resolutions that will serve as an accountability and goal for me to work towards bettering myself and All Eyes On Screen. My first goal related to the site is to read more books. So many of the movies we see today are based on someone’s written work, and I think we often get a more well-rounded view and appreciation for source material when we read it. I’ll admit that I’m not a huge reader, but I’d like to change that. I read ten books in 2014, so I’d like to improve that number by reading twenty-five books over the year 2015. I’ve separated my list into sections that I can work towards. Note: I’ve starred all the books that have (or will have) a movie/TV adaptation (that I’m aware of) with one star. I added a second star for all of the movie/TV adaptations I’ve already seen.


 Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge

This past year, I just started watching the awesome show Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) from the beginning in order, after Netflix so graciously added the show to their streaming service. Gilmore Girls has become my current TV addiction, and with it, a desire to read more, given that Rory always has a book in her hands. I found this awesome list on Pinterest that states: “Over the course of seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, Rory Gilmore was seen reading 339 books on screen.” I selected five on the list that piqued my interest:

25. The Virgin Suicides** by Jeffrey Eugenides

24. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach (Finished 2/16)

23. The Shining** by Stephen King

22. The Great Gatsby** by F. Scott Fitzgerald

21. On the Road* by Jack Kerouac


Finishing (or Continuing) Series

Here is my list of books that are part of series I’d like to finish. It’s embarrassing to admit that I haven’t finished the Harry Potter collection, but I resolve to conclude the series this year. And since we’re talking about J.K. Rowling books here, I decided to add the second book of her Cormoran Strike novels to my series list. Without apology, I also admit to never finishing Tolkein’s The Return of the King after struggling through the first two in the trilogy.

20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix** by J.K. Rowling (halfway through)

19. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince** by J.K. Rowling

18. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows** by J.K. Rowling

17. The Silkworm* by Robert Galbraith

16. The Return of the King** by J.R.R. Tolkein


Five Personal Choices

Here are five books I’ve been looking forward to starting:

15. Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire)* by George R.R. Martin

14. The Count of Monte Cristo** by Alexandre Dumas

13. Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling

12. Divergent** by Veronica Roth

11. The Bourne Identity** by Robert Ludlum


Book Club Selections

When I moved to Wisconsin halfway through last year, I joined a growing book club. Thanks to that club, I got back into reading. We usually have six meetings a year (one every other month). The future ones have yet to be determined, although talk of reading Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken has surfaced . . .

10. To Kill a Mockingbird** by Harper Lee (Finished 1/22)

9. Unbroken* by Laura Hillenbrand (Finished 3/12)

8. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times* by Jennifer Worth

7. To be determined

6. To be determined


Your Recommendations

I handed this section over to readers, commenters, and anyone who mentioned an idea via word of mouth, Facebook, or Twitter. These are the five books I picked, thanks to your recommendations:

5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

3. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo** by Stieg Larsson

1. The Fault in Our Stars** by John Green


Stay tuned for more New Years Resolutions posts this week and next, and don’t forget to check out my Reading Corner on the bottom left of the site, where I list what I’m currently reading.

I’ll be making the rounds on everyone else’s sites over the next three weeks in hopes of catching up to my lengthy feed of unread posts.

What are your reading resolutions for 2015?

My Hometown Blogathon: Chicago

So first, I owe one huge apology to Caz over at Let’s Go to the Movies for being severely late in posting for her blogathon, since it was due right around Thanksgiving. I loved the idea that she came up with for a blogathon, and being from (the suburbs of) Chicago, I was excited to post about some of my favorite films that feature the Windy City.


Here are five of my favorite films that highlight the city of Chicago:

5. My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) is not only one of Julia Robert’s funniest films, in my humble opinion, but it also features multiple Chicago locations, including a very famous chase scene that ends in Union Station. The picture above cracks me up because the girl fight goes down in a bathroom at U.S. Cellular Field (Comiskey Park), home of my favorite baseball team, the Chicago White Sox. Although My Best Friend’s Wedding appears on the surface to be just another bland rom-com, there are some hysterical moments, and it sets the tone for future romance films that don’t end happily ever after. But hey, at least there will be dancing.

Below is one of the most memorable scenes from the film, where Julianne (Julia Roberts) and Michael (Dermot Mulroney) are on a boat, passing under some of the bridges in Chicago.


4. While You Were Sleeping (1995)

Another rom-com that makes my list is While You Were Sleeping (1995), because its most pivotal scenes take place at an L train station in Chicago, the most memorable scene when Peter (Peter Gallagher) falls onto the tracks with an incoming train. Bullock makes for a believable character who could live in the city, and I think she does so successfully in While You Were Sleeping.

I didn’t have the easiest time finding clips from the film, but the trailer for the film below shows that most of the background and setting for the film takes place in the Windy City.


 3. The Blues Brothers (1980)

I have Ryan at The Matinee to thank for pushing me to finally watch this beloved film that features almost more of Chicago than any other film I have seen thus far. So much Chicago scenery, roads, and famous landmarks are shown in the film. One of my favorite scenes is the opening scene in which John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd jump the 95th Street bridge over the Calumet River in a police vehicle.

 

At the time, this climactic final scene (at the “Palace Hotel Ballroom”) was performed at a country club, but later became the South Shore Cultural Center, receiving its name from the neighborhood in Chicago where it started. The Hollywood Palladium is where the indoor concert scenes were shot.


 2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

John Hughes, the director, writer, and producer for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), felt very strongly about the city of Chicago when penning and directing the film.

He’s quoted, saying,

“Chicago is what I am. A lot of Ferris is sort of my love letter to the city. And the more people who get upset with the fact that I film there, the more I’ll make sure that’s exactly where I film. It’s funny—nobody ever says anything to Woody Allen about always filming in New York. America has this great reverence for New York. I look at it as this decaying horror pit. So let the people in Chicago enjoy Ferris Bueller.”

I never realized that Hughes was under fire for choosing Chicago over New York. His passion to have the city play a character in the story shows, as its architecture, well-known tourist attractions, and features are grandly put on display.

I wonder what Ferris would have thought of the 360 degree TILT ride now offered at the John Hancock Building.

 

I never had an experience quite like Ferris’s and his friends at the Art Museum, but it’s still one of my favorite places to visit in the city.

 

And I couldn’t not include the video of the parade scene with Matthew Broderick on a float belting “Twist and Shout.” The scene took two Saturday to shoot in the middle of downtown Chicago. Apparently radio stations announced that people could play extras in a “John Hughes movie,” and 10,000 people showed up for it.


 1. The Dark Knight (2008)

When Caz first announced this blogathon, I immediately thought of The Dark Knight (2008). It’s one of the most well-known films to have been shot in Chicago, probably because Chicago gets to play Batman’s city, Gotham, and that is pretty awesome.

As someone who grew up near Chicago, not in, but visited it often, there are certain areas in the city that I can pick out more easily when I’m watching a film. One of the most prominent locations was Lower Wacker Drive, as well as the Metra entrance at Millennium Park, where Batman (Christian Bale) was chasing the Joker (Heath Ledger).

 

The Gotham General Hospital, which the Joker blows up in the film, was actually the old Brach’s Candy Factory located on North Cicero Avenue. You can check out the explosion below.

 

Of course, there are so many notable films that have been filmed in Chicago, that I just chose five films that I really enjoy. Other major films that were filmed in Chicago include the following:

Sixteen Candles (1984)
The Untouchables (1987)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
North by Northwest (1959)
Nothing in Common (1986)
Home Alone (1990)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Public Enemies (2009)
The Company (2003)
The Fugitive (1993)
Risky Business (1983)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
High Fidelity (2000)

Thanks again to Caz for hosting this blogathan, and apologies for the tardy post.

It’s your turn now. What is your favorite(s) film(s) filmed in Chicago? Are there any prominent films shot in your hometown? Please join in on the fun below!

Not a Review: Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar really is the second film of 2014 to garner this much attention and discussion. Gone Girl struck most people with awe and terrifyingly great casting, performances, and storytelling. Interstellar, however, seems to elicit more conversation, more discussion, more disagreement, more studies, more generated lists of plot holes and questions and subtexts and metaphors linked to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

And that’s all good and grand. Because, folks, even though Interstellar may not be Christopher Nolan’s best film, or considered his best work, it is grand, both on figurative scale to be viewed on seven different possible formats, as well as massive in its ambitious subject matter, as well as tremendous in the spark of conversation and criticism that has quickly followed its release into theaters.

I could continue talking about its reception among film critics, writers, fans, and talkers like myself, who can continue to talk and talk and talk about this film, and yet not really create anything original, or offer any new information that is going to keep you reading beyond this sentence.

It is for that reason I have decided not to review Interstellar for All Eyes On Screen. My common consensus? A great movie. My rating? THREE OUT OF FOUR EYES ON SCREEN. My thoughts in summary? Nothing that hasn’t already been said by so many people.

It’s not that I don’t want to share my opinion, or join the masses of everyone out there who has already graciously and meticulously put into words what I haven’t yet done. It’s that in this case, how I feel about Interstellar truly can’t be put into words in a way that would satisfy me, because it evoked so many feelings, included so many ideas, transcended space and time the same way it transcended my own understanding of what was taking place on screen.

I could talk about about how much I was blown away by the scene in which there is this massive wave, bigger than any wave I’ve ever seen, and how it took over the theater screen the same way it almost took out their space craft.

I could talk about Matthew McConaughey re-entering film fans’s lives with his stellar (pun intended) performance that reminded each of us once again that this man is in the acting business for a reason.

I could talk about how Hans Zimmer has the best relationship with lightning strikes, because he continues to hit them every time he produces yet another electrifying score, yet here he is, still breathing. And this time it features an organ, an instrument capable of sounding so powerful and terrifying as being imprisoned in deep space without a ride home.

I could talk about the actors who seemed like they weren’t given enough to do, or how the heck Topher Grace landed himself a most unimportant role in such an important film with such a popular filmmaker.

I could talk about the “controversy” over who younger Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) looked more like: Jessica Chastain or Anne Hathaway. I mean, I’m all Team Chastain here, but seriously, how did this make it into the top list of questions for this film?!

I could talk about scientific jargon, the plot holes that may or may not necessarily play their role in science fiction, or about how Interstellar was never set on being just a scientific film, but more a study on the science of love’s transcendence that just happened to take place in space.

Then again, I could talk and talk and talk about my observations, but at the end of the day, Interstellar has found its place in critics’s reviews and bloggers’s posts, in discussion and questions swirling around in our minds, begging for more conclusion and understanding.

And a film that could spark that kind of response is a very special film indeed.

So to conclude this totally not a review, but a mixed bag of feelings brought to you by Kristin, I kindly ask each of you who leave a comment to include one to three words to describe your overall description or feelings on this film. Because God knows we’ve all been littering the Internet with our extensive musings on a film that has so much to be said about it. And yet Nolan used only one word: Interstellar.

Matinee Podcast: Big Hero 6 (2014)

Hello all! Apparently I’ve taken off yet another week from blogging without even having realized it. That said, I haven’t taken a break from my TV and movie-watching, and I have several posts I’m planning to put up over the next several days, so stay tuned for posts on The Shining (1980), Interstellar (2014), Whiplash (2014), and the most recent The Walking Dead episode coming your way soon.

That said, I got to see one of the most fun movies of the year . . . and it happened to be animated. Big Hero 6 was one of those films that totally caught me off-guard. It wasn’t that the trailer didn’t make it look appealing. I just didn’t know a whole lot about it. I have never been a huge fan of animated films, although I do have ones that I love (Beauty and the Beast [1991], Aladdin [1992], Monsters University [2013], How to Train Your Dragon [2010], Toy Story 3 [2010] anyone?). But Big Hero 6 not only won me over; it joins the ranks of the ones I love.

Instead of writing my usual style of review for a film, I’m going to direct you over to a podcast I got to be a guest speaker on, because it really sums up my overall feelings for the film better than how I could put it into words for a post.

The Matinee is one of the best organized movie sites I frequently visit. Ryan McNeil is the brains behind the site, and he’s been podcasting for years. About two and a half years ago, I got to meet the Canadian-native only forty-five minutes away from my hometown in Chicago, where we got to talk film with a group of movie-loving nerds.

If you have yet to visit Ryan’s site, I urge you to take this opportunity to do so. You can listen to the episode I spoke on here.

Overall, Big Hero 6 has been one of my favorite films of 2014 so far. It strikes that balance between action, humor, and drama . . . in a kids film. And yet at the same time, I wouldn’t call Big Hero 6 just a kids film. It’s a great movie. I give Big Hero 6

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1/2 EYES ON SCREEN.

 

It’s your turn now. Have you seen Big Hero 6? If so, what did you think of it? Where do you think it stands on the spectrum for animated films? Please share your thoughts below, because as always, I’d love to know them.

All Eyes on Bloggers, Ed. 3 + Month in Review: October

Hey all! I have VERY much enjoyed a week off from blogging to catch up on other projects. Of course, I’ve watched a few movies and TV shows this week too. Since I’m a little behind in my blogging, I decided to combine two of my newer series, All Eyes on Bloggers, which will feature some of my favorite posts I’ve read over the month of October, as well as Month in Review for the previous month, into one post.


 All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 3

There were so many great posts that made it around this month with the premiere of Gone Girl (2014) and Halloween, that I had a difficult time narrowing down which posts to highlight. One post in particular was written by a friend and previous coworker who is a graphic artist in the Chicago area. Doug reviews the movie Fury (2014) from a unique point of view that I would certainly encourage other friends to read on his site, Point of Exquisite Suspension.

I recently started a new TV review series called All Eyes on the Small Screen, featuring currently aired episodes from season 5 of The Walking Dead (2010 – ). One of my favorite sites to follow these days is Girl Meets Cinema, featuring the fantastic writing of Katy Rochelle. Katy recently wrote one of the most interesting posts on the character Beth from the TWD that had me nodding in agreement the whole time!

And while I know the focus ought to be on the October, November seems to be the month of blogathons since I’ve joined two to participate in later this month. Fritzi Kramer is hosting the Fairy Tale Blogathon at Movies Silently, where I’m excited to review Sabrina (1995), a movie with a Cinderella twist. Get the details here, and if there are any movies left, join in on the fun: the blogathon is held November 9-11!

The second blogathon I’m excited to take part in is hosted by Caz at Let’s Go to the Movies. Unlike any other blogathon I’ve participated in previously, Caz’s blogathon allows each participant to write about movies that take place in their hometown, thus naming the series My Hometown Blogathon, taking place November 22 and 23. Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago, I am incredibly excited to write about some awesome films and famous people associated with the Windy City. This blogathon is a great one to join if you’re interested as there’s still a few weeks left.

There’s some exciting news for those who follow Tyson over at Head in a Vice. He’s recently started a new site that focuses solely on the horror genre, aptly titled Talking Horror. With a slew of slick writers and new ideas, Tyson’s site is sure to attract anyone who particularly or casually enjoys a horror flick or show.

Speaking of horror, there were many posts published on scarier movies in honor of Halloween. Since I just saw The Shining (1980) for the first time a few days ago, I was more drawn to posts that mentioned the film over the week. Ms. Coolsville of Coolsville reviews ten horror movies, one of which is The Shining; one of my favorite movie blogger writers and friends, Tom of Digital Shortbread, reviews The Shining as part of his Throwback Thursday series on the site; and Laura at Film Nerd Blog included a character from The Shining in her post 10 Films that Prove Kids Are Scary.

And that about wraps up All Eyes on Bloggers, Ed. 3! Now to recap the month . . .


Month in Review: October

Here’s the breakdown for the month of October on All Eyes On Screen:

Blogathons

  • One of the most unique blogathons I’ve participated in thus far was a recast-athon that was hosted at Andrew’s site, A Fistful of Films. I recasted Oscar-winning female lead roles in the films Up in the Air (2009), Black Swan (2010), and Silver Linings Playbook (2012).
  • The other blogathon I was a part of was hosted at Tyson’s previous site, Head in a Vice. Titled “Recommended by,” I watched a movie that I was recommended by a fellow movie blogger, and then reviewed it myself on his site. The great part about the blogathon is that it introduced me to the “Before” series by Richard Linklater.

Shame List, From Page to Screen,
and AEOS Reviews

  • A little over a month ago, I came up with my own Shame List that includes 31 must-see-movies-for-any-movie-buff. The first one I was able to cross off my list was Roman Holiday (1953), one of the few movies I awarded a FOUR EYES ON SCREEN review.
  • The second film I was happy to cross off my Shame List was Annie Hall (1977), a film that while I didn’t quite dig, I still enjoyed and did not regret watching.
  • One of the most time-consuming posts I enjoy writing are my From Page to Screen reviews, where I review both the book and film adaptation of a story, and then compare and contrast the two. My heavily debated review certainly raised some eyebrows, but I stand by my thoughts on David Fincher’s film, Gone Girl (2014).
  • An unexpected gem that I will not be revisiting any time in the near future is The Skeleton Twins (2014), a depressing dramadey that stars SNL alumns Kristen Wiig and the wonderful Bill Hader.
  • One of the best movies I’ve seen so far this year starred none other than Keanu Reeves. John Wick (2014) was my must-see film for the month of October.

Lists/Miscellaneous Posts

All Eyes on the SMALL Screen Recaps

  • My newest series for the site is All Eyes on the SMALL Screen, which features detailed recaps for the current season of The Walking Dead. The premiere is killer (pun-intended) and a must-watch for fans of the show.
  • I combined my recaps for episodes 2 and 3 in this nifty post here. Stay tuned for Episode 4’s recap coming soon.

Best Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

John Wick

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the theater as often as I would have liked this month. That being said, John Wick was one of the most solid, unexpectedly awesome thrillers I’ve seen so far this year. From beginning to end, it was a fast-paced ride that showcased some great cinematography as well as complemented Keanu Reeves’s growing filmography.

Worst Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

Gone Girl

Let it be known that I saw far fewer films in theaters that I was hoping to for the month. Gone Girl was an exceptionally good movie from David Fincher, although I wouldn’t consider it among his top five best films. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed Gone Girl, and it makes this spot only for the lack of films I saw in theaters during the month of October.

Looking Forward to November

After looking at my previous month in review, I’m disappointed to say that I saw only half the movies on the list that I was highly anticipating. Some of the films never even made it into a wide enough release to be shown in theaters near me, while other movies received negative enough reviews that I didn’t bother spending the money to see them in theaters. Looking beyond last month, here are the major movies I’m anticipating for the month of November.

Interstellar (11/7)

The movie that makes it highest on my list for Most Anticipated Movie of the Year goes to Interstellar, the latest film Christopher Nolan has made. I’m very excited to see it over the weekend, despite the somewhat mediocre reviews I’ve glimpsed so far.

Big Hero 6 (11/7)

Big Hero 6 is a movie I know relatively little about. In spite of that wrinkle, I’ll be participating in a podcast later next week that’s all about the movie, so stay tuned!

Theory of Everything (11/7)

The big pull for me to see Theory of Everything has everything to do with Eddie Redmayne. Of course, the story seems intriguing as well, but it seems very Oscar-baitish. I’m hoping my instinct is wrong and that it will deliver, but then again, I was rooting for The Judge too, and look how that turned out.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (11/21)

Of course this list would not be complete without the next Hunger Games (2012) movie making the list. Mockingjay Part 1 certainly appears to have potential, aside from the fact that it’s adapting only half a book and making us wait an entire year for the conclusion. Having read the books already, I know what will be happening, but watching it unfold on screen is an entirely other experience. I was a big fan of the first two installments, particularly Catching Fire (2013), so my expectations are high.

The Imitation Game (11/21)

Yet another movie that appears full of Oscar bait, yet appears to deliver having already established itself with some solid reviews from critics. No doubt one of my favorite actors, (who is also recently engaged) Benedict Cumberbatch, will offer one of his best performances yet (or so I hope). I think this movie will be making a hit at February’s Academy Awards, but maybe I shouldn’t be that hopeful this soon.

It’s your turn now. What were the best movies you saw this month? What movies are you anticipating most next month? Please join the conversation below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

Score Spotlight: Spider-Man (2002)

love movie scores, often more so than their soundtracks. I’ve purchased several favorites throughout the years, and one of them that recently came up in my shuffle mode was Danny Elfman’s brilliant score for the first Spider-Man film that came out in 2002.

One of the more interesting facts about the score is that Danny Elfman, who is usually known as a big part of the tag-team of Burton and Elfman for their collaboration in film and scores, had actually already worked with Sam Raimi on a couple of his films prior to Spider-Man, including Darkman (1990) and Army of Darkness (1993).

Elfman’s score for the first Spider-Man film was critically successful, winning numerous awards in 2002, including a BMI Film Music Award, a Golden Trailer Award, a Saturn Award, and a Grammy Award Nomination for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media.

There are several notable tracks on the score, but I think its Main Title is one the strongest themes created for a superhero franchise, with the scores for the remakes often making it onto the cons lists when comparing the old and newer films. One of the things I disliked most about the Spider-Man remakes was the score. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) at least offered some better work from Hans Zimmer along with The Magnificent 6, but for me both scores pale in comparison to this genius work of Danny Elfman in the first Spider-Man film.

 

One of my other favorite tracks on the album is City Montage:

 

Although with enough time passed and more remakes in the works, I think Elfman’s score will stand the test of time, even if the film itself doesn’t.

It’s your turn now. What is your favorite Danny Elfman score? Which score do you prefer of all five Spider-Man films? Please join the conversation below, because I would love to know your thoughts.