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.

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All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 2 + From Page to Screen Review: The Maze Runner (2014)

Today I’m offering two posts combined into one, because today marks one month since I posted my first edition of All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 1a series that features some favorite posts I’ve read around the blogosphere over the month of September. Without further ado, I present . . .

All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 2

I’m a new reader to Getter Trumsi’s blog, Mettel Ray, the place where she talks a lot about the small screen. I’m definitely a new fan, and one of my favorite posts of hers includes her recent Shame List, a list of movies that are considered classics or popular or must-see for any film buff, but ones she hasn’t actually watched yet. I love this idea for a post, considering that my list would likely be just as long as hers.

One movie I’m certain to see in the near future is A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014), given the positive reviews by both Tom of Digital Shortbread and Dan of Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews. Meanwhile, Chef (2014) has become an absolute must-see with great reviews by Nostra at My Film Reviews, Jaina at Time Well Spent, and Ryan at The Matinee. And if it ever shows in Milwaukee, Ruth at Flixchatter has all but convinced me that my fall will not be complete until I’ve seen The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (2014), thanks to her review.

I have joined two blogathons after being inspired by other bloggers’ participating posts: Caroline posted about her favorite guilty pleasures films at her site Let’s Go to the Movies by participating in Jenna and Allie’s Guilty Pleasure Movie Blogathon (you can check out my guilty pleasures movies too here!). One of my absolute favorite posts I’ve gotten to read so far spawned from the The Matinee, where Ryan wrote about what the movies of the summer taught him. You can read my copycat post and feel free to write a similar post if you’d like.

I also read a couple of interesting posts about two popular animated flicks: first, this post from one of my new favorite blogs to read, Writer Loves Movies, poses the question, What do you think makes Toy Story such an enduring animation? second, Mark at The Animation Commendation continues to ask questions about the background of unknown characters in animations films, this time focusing on “The Lady with the Kids” in Pixar’s Monster’s Inc (2001).

And that wraps up edition two. Thanks everyone for all the great posts this month . . . looking forward to reading this October!

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From Page to Screen: The Maze Runner (2014)

From Page to Screen Header

Switching gears here, I’ve been very excited to see The Maze Runner (2014) ever since I read the book (okay, all three) and saw the promising trailer for this YA adaptation. While I’m growing tired of teenage protagonists leading the fight to end the government in a post-apocalyptic world, I felt like James Dashner’s idea was a bit different, and the movie was worth giving my attention to. My sister, Jennifer, has written for All Eyes On Screen before, even if it has been a couple years. She helped me with this second From Page to Screen post, writing both the book review and participating in the compare/contrast section at the end.

Book Review

By Jennifer Griffin

TMR coverReleased in 2009, James Dashner’s The Maze Runner (2009) is another novel belonging to the currently trendy, young adult post-apocalyptic sci-fi/dystopian genre, and it is often compared to The Lord of the Flies (1954), a book about a group of British boys who find themselves stranded on a deserted island. The Lord of the Flies, The Maze Runner, The Giver (1993), The Hunger Games (2008), and other young adult dystopian fiction center around the theme of welfare of the individual vs. the welfare of the community.

Instead of a teenage heroine turning into a modern Joan of Arc archetype, The Maze Runner’s plot centers around 17-year-old Thomas, who wakes up one day in a metal cage realizing that he remembers absolutely nothing about himself except for his first name. When the cage stops moving, he finds himself transported to an unnaturally isolated environment in which only boys ages 12 through 18 reside and band together to survive. Every boy he meets refuses to tell him anything about what has happened or why he remembers nothing about his past. They consistently call him “Greenie,” and have added other strange colloquialisms to their vocabulary such as “shank” for idiot or “klunk” for poop. One book reviewer, Jessica Harrison of the Deseret Morning News, states that the main drawbacks of the book The Maze Runner are that it “starts out a bit slow,” and the “fictionalized slang gets old pretty fast.”

As time goes by, Thomas learns that all of the boys have been trapped in what they call the Glade, where each boy works in his own unit for the good of the group, the Maze preventing them from finding a way out because its patterns change every night. The other problem that plagues the Gladers are the nightmarish, blubbery robot creatures they call Grievers which can either kill or sting the boys, a blow that would force them to go through “The Changing” process, which will kill its victims if they do not receive the Griever serum (supplied by the Maze creators) in time. Those who experience “The Changing” also remember fragments of their past before they were marooned in the Glade. After Thomas arrives in the Glade, Gladers who went through “The Changing” target Thomas, specifically Gally and Ben, both who claim Thomas is to blame for their predicament. Ben also tries to kill Thomas at one point. Three days after Thomas’s arrival, a girl named Teresa comes up in the cage and immediately recognizes Thomas. She’s holding a note that says she will be the last person to arrive in the box.

These events prompt the gladers to mistrust Thomas until one night Alby, their leader, and Minho, the keeper of the runners, do not come out of the Maze as the doors are about to close. The Gladers consider being left inside the Maze overnight a death sentence, left to be the victims of the Grievers and the changing Maze walls. As the Maze doors are shutting, Thomas runs into the Maze to save them, trapping himself inside. Minho has given up and run; Alby has been stung and left for dead. Not only is Thomas instrumental in saving Alby’s life by hiding him in the Maze walls from the Grievers, but he also outsmarts the Grievers into jumping off a cliff to their deaths, saving Minho and himself in the process. The Gladers gain a newfound respect for Thomas, making him their new unspoken leader. Thomas motivates the Gladers to find a way out of the Maze using the patterns that the runners have compiled with the help of Teresa, with whom he can inexplicably speak telepathically. The Gladers finally discover how to leave the Maze by going through the Grievers’s entrance into the Maze and inputing the letter codes from the Maze patterns they discovered. Thomas leads a group of Gladers to their final battle with the Grievers in front of the exit, many of whom die while fighting. Only Thomas and nineteen others survive and make it through.

At the end of the book, the head of W.I.C.K.E.D., the agency responsible for putting the boys in the maze and experimenting on their minds to interpret their reactions to the trials, reveals two key pieces of information:

1) They are experimenting on more than one group of people.

2) More trials await the Gladers.

I give The Maze Runner book

Eye Art1Eye Art1

 and 1/2 EYES ON PAGE.

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Film Review

By Kristin

So I let Jennifer handle the book review, and since this is a longer post, I’m going to keep this film review fairly short. If you’ve read the book (or the review Jennifer wrote), you’ll have a pretty good idea of The Maze Runner‘s plot. So instead of reiterating the story, I’ll separate my thoughts on the movie into two categories: negative and positive. Let’s start with negative first, and get it out of the way!

Negative
  • Tangled Plot – I supposed I mean the pun when I say “tangled,” give that this movie is about a maze. Puns aside, The Maze Runner is a bit of a mess when it comes to the plot. It’s partially understandable given that the source material was complicated. You have all of those terms down that were mentioned in the book review, right? Haha. Unlike this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which introduced us to a new universe, characters, and story, The Maze Runner struggled to communicate its reasoning behind why the characters did what they did. The plot moved forward so quickly at some points, that characters were making decisions where I was left scratching my head and wondering why.
  • Too much change – While I actually applaud screenwriters Noah Oppenheim, Grand Pierce Myers, and T.S. Nowlin for leaving out some unnecessary explanations and scenes from the book, I think they failed to include enough explanation, leaving the actors to try to be really, really convincing when the story didn’t support their actions.
  • Not enough characterization – This is one point my sister discussed with me at length, but like any good story, you can’t care about the characters if you don’t know enough about them. While Thomas seemed to be the most evolved on screen, prominent characters such as Chuck, Teresa, and Alby didn’t receive enough screen time or dialogue for us to care about their characters.
Positive
  • Great casting – This is such a subjective point, but I loved the cast, specifically Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who stood out as Newt. Dylan O’Brien plays a convincing enough lead who will undoubtedly be offered more opportunities after The Maze Runner. Aml Ameen (Alby) and Ki Hong Lee (Minho) were great in their roles as well, although they functioned more as needles in a haystack with the large cast of youthful boys in an unmemorable film.
  • Memorable soundtrack – While John Paesano doesn’t have the largest resume, he composed a fitting, fast-paced score to match the intensity and energy of The Maze Runner‘s action scenes. Apparently Paesano is also the composer behind this year’s When the Game Stands Tall‘s soundtrack, which I might have to check out now.
  • Ideal set – While I normally don’t comment much on a film’s set, the set for The Maze Runner was not only massive, but also as scary and intimidating as I imagined it could have been when reading the book. The maze acted as a character in this film, and I certainly wasn’t surprised to read that it was filmed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a fitting place for a set as large as that one must have been.

I give The Maze Runner

Eye Art1Eye Art1

 and 1/2 EYES ON SCREEN.

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Compare/Contrast THE MAZE RUNNER’s Book and Film

Answers given by Jennifer Griffin

Which did you hear of first, the book or the film? I heard about the book first. After I read The Hunger Games (2008), it was a book series recommended to me being of the same genre. Only thing is, instead of a heroine, we have a hero.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the book?

Favorite – My favorite part of the book was the interpersonal relationships between the characters, and how they all seemed to work together. They’ve all been marooned for almost 3 years in the maze, and they all have established this society that has helped everyone survive, and actually in some respects, prosper more than what they would in their dystopian world in which they’ve come from.

Least favorite – My least favorite part – there’s not necessarily one thing that’s horrible or great – obviously they establish their own language, which for me took a long time to get used to. Something that was an even bigger deal to me: in the book, Thomas and Teresa can communicate with telepathy backand forth, and Dashner never explains how or why they can do it, or why they’re special, or even why the characters remember certain things, but don’t remember others.

Do you think it was inspired by any other books? A lot of people compare it to The Hunger Games, but there was no way Dashner could “taken” an idea away from Suzanne Collins because of when it was published. He’s definitely inspired by Ray Bradbury, because Fahrenheit 451 (1953) is one of the first dystopian books. I also think he’s been inspired by Lord of the Flies (1954), which The Maze Runner shares a lot of the same ideas.

What was your favorite and least favorite parts of the movie?

Favorite – I would say the actual maze. It was very interesting to see how they showed how the maze change, the different noises it made, and just the terrifying concept of running into this maze in the middle of the night.

Least favorite – The explanation of things: I understand how you can’t explain all the terminology throughout; it would take forever. But I felt the like the whole explanation of “The Changing” made no sense in the movie; also, [it was never explained] why a person would go through “The Changing” and what that would explain for them. In addition, the character Teresa is made to look like an idiotic, throwaway character in the movie. (She actually fills in a lot of the blanks in the book.) One other part I really disliked is that I felt like the movie had a lot of missed opportunities in the scene with just Thomas and Minho.

Do you think the movie was inspired by any other movies? One thing that makes the movie appealing is that you don’t really see anything like this; it doesn’t really remind of anything except for maybe The Matrix (1999), but it’s so different it’s really hard to compare.

Will the book, movie, or both forms, stand the test of time? No, because I don’t feel like [the story] is original enough in a lot of ways. The whole idea of studying people for years on end and seeing how they react to things, even international crises going on, is not a new idea. The only new idea is that they’re testing it on teenagers. And both the book and movie have been released at a time when a lot of other young adult franchises that have come out that are either more well-written as a book or more effective as a film.

Thanks again to Jennifer for both her book review, as well as answering all of my questions about The Maze Runner.

It’s your turn now. Have you seen The Maze Runner? If not, do you plan to see it? What do you think of the film compared to the book? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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