Fairy Tale Blogathon: Sabrina (1995)

I’m so happy and thankful to participate in this awesome blogathon created and hosted by Fritizi Kramer at her awesome site, Movies SilentlyBeauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairytales. It stars Belle, and I’ve had the privilege of seeing the original French film the Disney animated film was very loosely based off. Unfortunately, I found out about the blogathon late enough that someone had already selected every possible Beauty and the Beast-based film, that I almost decided not to participate. However, neither the 1954 nor 1995 Sabrina films, paying homage to Cinderella, had been selected yet. I had heard from a few people that they preferred the remake over the original, so I chose that movie, looking forward to being introduced to something new. And truly, the film didn’t disappoint.

Sabrina (1995) doesn’t exactly mirror the beloved animated Disney film, but it has all the bearings necessary to make it a fairytale without it getting into too corny of material. Julia Ormond plays Sabrina Fairchild, the Cinderella of the story. She’s highly relatable as the girl with a crush who simply has no impression of the man of her dreams . . . at the beginning. But after a trip to Paris to forget the man she’s convinced she’s in love with, she returns home with a new look, a new understanding of self, and wave of confidence.

As the chauffeur’s daughter of David Larrabee (Greg Kinnear) and his family, the man who she’s trying to look past, Sabrina is settled on moving forward with her life after returning home. But David and Sabrina share a meet cute when David notices Sabrina at the train station returning home, and unbeknownst to him, Sabrina is this gorgeous woman without a ride in need of his services. As David drives Sabrina home, he begs her to reveal her identity. Sabrina enjoys this newfound attention from the man she never seemed to be able to convince to notice her; that is, until they arrive home and David’s older brother, Linus (Harrison Ford), abruptly interrupts their conversation and announces that it’s Sabrina.

But the plot truly doesn’t thicken until later that evening when Sabrina falls under David’s spell David falls under Sabrina’s spell and announces to his mother and Linus that he no longer wants to be with Elizabeth Tyson, the woman to whom he is engaged. But it’s not just an engagement David would be breaking: it’s a billion-dollar merger forged between the Larrabees and the Tysons, if David were to snub Elizabeth, and thus the Tyson family’s company, with whom the merger was formed. As the calculating, business-only brother he is, Linus sees the situation as an opportunity: deceive Sabrina into liking him, convince David to stay with Elizabeth, and ultimately keep the billion-dollar merger in tack.

For a movie considered within the romantic genre, occasionally gesturing to the story of Cinderella, Sabrina contains a well-formed plot that while it moves a little slow in some parts, ultimately fits under the classic love-story scenario, and is driven home with three strong performances that pull at viewers’s heartstrings throughout.

Paris is used as the “place to get away,” the place to find one’s self, and it works so well in Sabrina. While she struggles to adjust to her short time away in a new place, Sabrina eventually makes friends, learns photography, and finds her place in Paris. It becomes the place that she looks back at fondly and loves, and it fully confirms what many Americans have always believed about Paris: it’s always a place to get away.

Harrison Ford plays Harrison Ford, but he does it so well under the guise of “Linus Larrabee,” that it’s easy to forgive him for playing a version of himself. The chemistry he shares with Julia Ormond is played convincingly, that you know from the moment they meet and he insults her – and she tells him that she knows what he’s doing – that they’ll certainly end up together, even if Cinderella’s story was significantly sweeter in nature. I really enjoyed Greg Kinnear’s performance as the playboy younger brother David who lacked all the responsibility in the world, but relied wholly on his heart to lead him from one woman to another. The contrast between Linus’s and David’s personality and actions is played out so well on screen, and it seems that only Sabrina is best able to point out each man’s lack of balance between work and play. The lines are blurred among the three titular characters when Linus can’t deny his attraction to Sabrina, and in David discovering his brother really isn’t “the only living heart donor,” David realized he must put on his suit, find where his office is, and play the responsible, logical brother in order to keep the merger in play and rescue his brother’s heart from breaking.

While I didn’t automatically think “Cinderella” when I was watching Sabrina, I did appreciate small cues here and there, such as Sabrina playing the role of a poor, unknown girl, the parties the Larabees threw feeling like the ball Cinderella never got invited to, and the sparkles in the gorgeous shrug Sabrina wore when she showed up to her first ball, earning the compliment of “dazzling” from David. And while Linus isn’t necessary a prince who rescues Sabrina, he does get to be in that overused scene in movies where there’s so much traffic, one is forced to run to said location in order to make it in time. And in time, he makes it to Paris, where Sabrina and he kiss to the fairytale ending of happily ever after.

Of course, Sabrina was one of the best movies I’ve seen that had a fairytale flair on an altogether overdone character story, but its most touching moments were aided greatly with an Oscar-nominated score composed by the legendary John Williams. And while it didn’t strike critics who couldn’t help but compare it the original film, I gladly give Sabrina 

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1/2 EYES ON SCREEN
.

 

Huge thanks again to Fritizi for creating and hosting this fun event! Please do check out her post that links to all those participating in the Fairy Tale Blogathon.

It’s your turn now. Have you seen Sabrina, or its original counterpart? What were your thoughts on the film? Please join in the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

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AEOS Review: John Wick (2014)

I made a spontaneous trip to the theater to see John Wick (2014) last night, knowing very little going in, and only half-excited after viewing the trailer. Tom from Digital Shortbread probably offers a more knowledgeable review on the film than I can, but based off my somewhat limited viewing of action flicks and Keanu Reeves movies, here is my very subjective review on the film.

I’m not sure if I missed all the ads, or John Wick just sneaked up on me. I don’t recall seeing previews for the film before I saw any other movies in theater, so I imagine there wasn’t as much push for John Wick as previous other actions movies to have come out this year.

For those of you who don’t know what John Wick is about, the story can be summed up simply as a revenge action flick. John (Keanu Reeves) has lost everything important to him. The movie opens with us watching his wife’s life flash before his eyes, leading to her eventual death when the doctor pulled the plug. It’s not entirely explained how or why she died, but early on we get a glimpse of John’s vulnerable side as he’s deals with his wife’s passing. After her funeral, John arrives home and receives a dog: a final gift from his wife, with a letter, offering another life to help him cope with his grief.

What appears to be the next day, John is filling up his ’69 Mustang with gas at a station when Iosef (Alfie Allen) and a couple of his friends approach him, offering to buy his car. John refuses, and of course, that’s not the end of it. Later that evening, Iosef and his buddies break into John’s home, beat him up, murder his dog, and steal his car.

And then we’re on to act two of the film, which makes up the majority of the film’s 96-minute run-time.

I won’t mention any spoilers beyond that, because it’s for viewers to enjoy who haven’t seen the film yet. What I will say is that the film takes off with adrenaline, yet as viewers, we don’t feel out of breath. It’s not an original idea for a man to seek vengeance for that kind of act, or for us to see a new hero arise that was living “on the other side” for the past five years. But what we get out of John Wick is a hyper-violent revenge story that introduces the action prowess of Keanu Reeves to a new generation. Reeves is no stranger to the action genre, but John Wick might be his most successful action film since The Matrix (2000), if I dare cross a line in saying so. This isn’t the first time Reeves’s acrobatic skills have been on display, but it’s what he does with a gun that makes everyone keenly aware that his character is not to be dealt with. It is not simply a killing spree when John Wick enters the room. He knows how to make a gun dance, and the scenes where he is in action, killing all those who get in his way, is not just a killing: it’s an art.

Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), Iosef’s father, describes John Wick as “the man who takes care of the boogeyman.” It’s a funny title to hold, but Reeves is adept at playing a believably violent, revengeful man on the hunt. John Wick is certainly Reeves’s movie through and through. The choreographed fight scenes reminded of Jason Bourne in the Bourne series. The film is slickly edited thanks to Elísabet Ronalds’s handy work, who was able to make the action scenes even more interesting to watch on screen. It also seems possible to suggest that “John Wick” could become a action franchise name included with the likes of Ethan Hunt and Jason Bourne if producers decide to turn it into a franchise.

My greatest fear in going in to see John Wick was that I’d see a stylistically-engaging film that was low on substance. The style was definitely present, but the movie did fail to offer a very memorable storyline. Despite that, I still really liked John Wick. Keanu Reeves carried the movie, and there were decent, though somewhat unmemorable performances by Willem Dafoe and Michael Nyqvist. I wish they would have given these guys more to do as they’re both talented actors, but the screenplay lacked the necessary pull to make these characters come alive on screen, even with the actors’s best efforts.

My desire is that producers bank off the critical success of John Wick and turn him into a franchise and build on his story, past the revenge aspect. Lurking behind the scenes is a compelling story that would probably clue us in on Wick’s past, before he was married, and about the world that involves a mysterious hotel with its own private club that deals only in gold coins and proffers a very generous compensation for its limited cliental.

While I really enjoyed John Wick, it did have its issues. Lack of originality is one of them, although despite its generic storyline, it seemed to successfully play the “typical action movie” stereotype and still be interesting. Tyler Bates composed the soundtrack, which while at times, felt like a hardcore gangster soundtrack, managed to work . . . although it was unsteady in parts, making you question exactly what type of movie John Wick really was.

While John Wick is far from perfect, I had such a great time with it from beginning to end, that I am boldly giving it

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1/2 ON SCREEN.

 

(Sorry, Tom :-/)

*Note – I never totally figured out how to make “half an eye,” so I will be updating scores for previous movies I have reviewed to either slightly higher or lower, based off what I originally wanted to score them.

Now it’s your turn. What did you guys think of John Wick? Am I crazy for liking it as much as I did? Please share your thoughts below, because as always, I would love to know your thoughts.

Shame List #21: Annie Hall (1977)

Shame List Introduction

Annie Hall is one of 31 films on my Shame List, a list composed of multiple classics and “must-see”- considered films for anyone who likes to consider him/herself a film buff. I created this list with only twenty films, and have added eleven films since by recommendations from friends and fellow movie fans. I’m always looking for recommendations, and my Shame List is my accountability to the movie blogging community that I have – and will – start watching these movies to earn my film buff status. A copy of the list can be found at my post here, and I’m updating per your recommendations, so please keep them coming!


Here’s my review of the second film I can cross off my Shame List:

Annie Hall . . . for me, the movie immediately makes me think of Woody Allen. It is a staple in his filmography, one of the “greats” of his time, a film in which he wrote, directed, and starred in. Of course, I am more familiar with his more recent films, so Annie Hall has been one of those movies of his that I wanted to see so I could understand all the fuss made about the film.

I want to start off this review by saying that Annie Hall was not one of my favorite films. After watching it, I didn’t feel blown away or moved or quite how I expected to feel after viewing it. As a film with a 98% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I expected to be wowed. However, I just lacked the connection to the film that made me want to revisit it any time in the near future.

Regardless of my personal feelings on the film, I do want to point out that I can understand some of the reasons it is considered a classic. There are certain scenes that come to the forefront of my mind, playing over and over again. Perhaps my favorite scene in the entire film is when Alvy (Woody Allen) and Annie (Diane Keaton) are in line to see a movie. There’s a guy standing in line behind them, who we later find out is a professor. He’s going on and on about his opinion on a certain filmmaker. This upsets Alvy because he believes the professor has no idea what he’s talking about. He’s about to have his own personal fit when he confronts the professor about his lack of knowledge. To further prove the professor clueless, and that he, Alvy, knows exactly what he’s talking about, Alvy reaches behind a machine and pulls out the man who was the subject of the professor’s conversation, breaks the fourth wall, and the filmmaker agrees that Alvy is correct and the professor has no idea what he’s talking about.

If only those moments could happen in real life.

Well, at least that’s how Alvy and the rest of us feel when someone who’s ignorant on a subject can’t stop blabbing about it.

Aside from that quintessential scene, the strength of Annie Hall lies in its characters. They’re real, genuine people dealing with the ins and outs of a relationship. Diane Keaton is particularly strong as the title’s character, Annie, who knows how to pull the right strings to crack up an audience, or when to pull back and reel viewers in again. I couldn’t help but appreciate the simplicity and light humor of the scene in which she convinces Alvy to ride home with her and come up to her apartment for a drink. Moments like those remind you of a character’s vulnerability in asking another person out, even if she had to coyly make up reasons to convince him to join her without coming across too strong.

While it may come across as pretentious or predictable to some viewers, I couldn’t help but appreciate that Alvy used actual dialogue, almost word for word, that he shared with Annie in California, as a major scene in his play. In a movie, sometimes the guy can travel 2,000 miles to win back the girl, and she won’t come with; she won’t be won over; the couple will not be reunited. But then again, that makes for some great writing: real life inspiring art, and art inspiring our lives. It is an endless cycle, isn’t it?

Moreover, Annie Hall is filled with many moments that as a film fan, I could appreciate and enjoy. It’s certainly not a bad film, but just one I lacked a connection with. The film is often described as “a writer who meets a quirky singer.” I saw it more as a movie where a very quirky, opinionated, conspiracy theorist meets another girl who eventually can’t keep putting up with him. That may sound harsh, but I found Alvy to be irritating at times, not only with his conspiracies, but also for his lack of understanding with other characters. He has enough awareness to realize that his first two marriages ended because of him. What he doesn’t seem to grasp is that another woman isn’t going to change things because she’s different from the previous two women. Alvy has to be the one to recognize that he needs to change in order for life to be different. It is his character’s inability to recognize this that made me feel like he was arrogant and frustrating while I watching the film.

My other major quip with the film is that I felt like even though it mirrored real life in moments, even striking a chord with me in how it was able to move on despite times feeling incomplete, is that I lost the whole point of the film. Does Annie Hall truly change Alvy Singer? Does Alvy Singer truly change Annie Hall? Is the movie designed to be open-ended for these very questions? Is it a bad thing that I’m asking them?

The honest answer is that I don’t know. But I got lost along the way while viewing, and not in the best possible way this time. However, because of the strong performances and interesting scenes throughout, I’d like to give Annie Hall 

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ON SCREEN.

 

It’s your turn now. What do you think of Annie Hall? Is it Woody Allen’s best film? What is your favorite Woody Allen film?

AEOS Review: The Skeleton Twins (2014)

The Skeleton Twins (2014) is a movie that originally I wasn’t anticipating. I saw the trailer in a long list of previews before seeing a film, and it didn’t strike me as a movie with a chance of moving me or appealing to me. After Tom over at Digital Shortbread wrote a very nice review on the film, he convinced me otherwise that I needed to give this movie a try. So I did.

Because it didn’t stay in theaters long, and I’ve seen few reviews on the film, here’s a short summary of the film for those of you unfamiliar with the story:

Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) are estranged twins, each who happen to attempt suicide on the same day. Before Maggie can go through with it, she receives a phone call notifying her that Milo is in the hospital, healing after a suicide attempt. In light of this news, Maggie welcomes Milo back into her life, inviting him to stay with her and her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson) in their New York home. As Maggie and Milo start to reconnect, catching up over the past decade and reminiscing over their passed father, high school, and growing up years, each have secrets come to the surface that maybe they weren’t planning to spill.

There were moments when I connected with this story, and other times I felt like I was sitting on the outside looking in. What I wasn’t expecting to see was Bill Hader portraying a hardened, flamboyant, complicated character who could make you laugh in one scene, and be emotionally moved the next. Hader lost himself in Milo, and while it was obvious that his Saturday Night Live run influenced certain scenes, it also aided his chemistry with his co-lead, Kristen Wiig, who turned in one of her best film performances to date.

These two comedians successfully depict an estranged set of twins who honestly tell each other how it is while still connecting in a way neither know how to connect with anyone else. They play siblings convincingly enough that no one would question otherwise.

But even after witnessing this turn in two well-known comedians, The Skeleton Twins seems to shock again with unexpectedly good performances from the resurrected Luke Wilson and Modern Family‘s lovably clueless father, Ty Burell. Wilson might play a familiar and simple character, but he has the tricky job of playing a likable yet naive husband devoid of passion. It is his lack of passion, thereof, that probably helps sets off another major plot point (which I will not spoil for those of you who plan to watch this).

Burell also displays his more dramatic acting chops as Milo’s previous English teacher who was inappropriately involved in his teacher-student relationship with his former student. Milo is still processing, reacting, and trying to figure out himself, even years after the discretion.

Like most movies, things start out bad. Things may get worse, but eventually a light is shining at the end of the tunnel and the film has resolved, be it positive or negative. With The Skeleton Twins, there’s really no light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a story of two adults who have muddled through life over the past decade, from one failure to the next, each turning to suicide as an escape from the difficulties life has thrown them. While one might expect this movie to be cheery, it really isn’t, even amidst the occasional laughs. What The Skeleton Twins does successfully present viewers with are great, emotionally complex characters who feel lost and are searching for something, even if they’re not sure what. It’s what made me both like and dislike the movie’s ending.

Early October is an odd time for a character-driven drama to be released, and with it not turning a major profit, it’s no surprise that it’s exiting theaters and entering your nearest Redbox machine in the next few weeks. But that isn’t a reason to not see this movie. I have personal quibbles with some of the writing, but I have great respect for writer-director Craig Johnson, who was able to churn out such moving performances from a set of actors no one was expecting them to offer.

I give The Skeleton Twins 

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ON SCREEN.

 

It’s your turn now. Have you seen The Skeleton Twins? If so, what did you think of it? If not, are you planning to see it? Please share your thoughts below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

From Page to Screen: Gone Girl (2014)

Because of how closely tied both the book and movie are, and because I just found it easier to combine my reviews of both formats, I decided to make this From Page to Screen post different from previous ones by having only two sections: a single review, and then a comparison/contrast section.

One thing I want to note: there will be SPOILERS throughout for both the book and film. You have been warned! 🙂


From Page to Screen Header

Book/Movie Reviews

You lose some of the suspense, however well created or intentioned to be, when you know the ending of a story.

I went into Gone Girl (2014) having already read the book, yet still highly anticipating watching what I had read unravel on screen. I held onto the promise that director David Fincher, actor Ben Affleck, and book author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn lead us all to believe: the movie’s ending would be different than the book’s.

And here’s the biggest spoiler I can write in this post: the difference was so little, the plot still kept all the same major points, that the simple “adjustments” made to the film were overshadowed by the blatant reminder that readers of Flynn’s thriller were watching exactly what we were suspecting to not witness: the same horrible ending that, while it works as a surprise factor, did not benefit the film, or work as well as Fincher or Flynn probably intended.

For those still interested in why I think this, let me break it down for you:

Those who didn’t read the book are going to be asking varying renditions of this question after they watch the ending: Why would Nick stay with this crazy psychopath even if she’s pregnant? 

That question leads to more questions: How do we know she isn’t just making up her pregnancy? Why does Nick not try harder with Boney to prove Amy’s guilt?

No, Nick pastes on his fakest smile, nods, and later proclaims to his twin that he’s going along with it to save the child from his horrible mother. Honorable? Yes. Enough reason to not fight it, research it, try desperately to get out of it, yet somehow help the child in the process? No, and not even close.

This is where the book and movie separates, and while we realize that we aren’t interested in seeing a replica of the book on screen (This is a movie, after all; Entertain us, Mr. Fincher!), that if they’re going to keep a strikingly similar ending to a book, then they needed solid material throughout the film to support that ending, even if they wanted to change parts or leave out characters here and there.

Here are the two major reasons that the ending works well in the book, but not in the film:

  1. The book presents a detailed enough background on Nick, his past home life, and his drunk, cheating father who is known to regularly debase women (especially Nick’s mom) that Nick is faced with an enigma as he grows up: he doesn’t want to become his father, even though he occasionally recognizes little parts of his father in himself. This is critical to the plot because Nick doesn’t want to be his father; he wants to be a good husband (well, so we think?), but even more importantly, he wants to be a good father who wouldn’t abandon his child. This reason significantly alters Nick’s reasoning for staying with a psychopath: his fear of becoming his father outweighs his fear of his murderous, psychotic wife carrying his child.
  2. While it is complicated and somewhat understandably left out of the movie version, the second reason has more to do with why Nick didn’t question the pregnancy. Fincher dropped only one hint in the entire 2 1/2 hour film’s runtime as to why Nick didn’t question Amy when she presented him with the positive pregnancy test. It happened in the middle of the film when Nick and Margo were fighting, and out of the blue, Nick declares that he was the one who wanted children, and that he wanted them so much, he even went to a fertility clinic. What Fincher and Flynn leave out in the film version is that Amy was so meticulous in her scheming, that she stopped by the clinic, picked up Nick’s sperm, and kept it frozen in case she ever needed it to blackmail him. Of course, she does blackmail him at the end of both the book and film to stay with her because she is pregnant – and the child is most definitely his – and he’s fully aware that she had taken his frozen sperm and impregnated herself. But leaving this vital detail out of the film, yet expecting viewers not to wonder why Nick hasn’t questioned Amy more than “there needs to be a paternity test!” is just odd.

Alas, I’ll end my rant with this: I consider this is a major boo-boo in the film, despite how much I enjoyed it and thought it honored the source material while still making it it’s own. But let me get on with what I did enjoy now.

The casting, from what I’ve mentioned in multiple lead-up posts, was not only a sure thing to attract fans of the book, but also a more wide stream audience. After Affleck’s multiple successful directing credits, especially the most recent Academy Award winning-film Argo (2012), Gone Girl was certainly expecting to attract an audience. Attach the incredibly talented directing name “David Fincher” to most of the ads, and you have a double whammy for getting butts into theater seats. What paid off, however, was not just attracting theater goers, but stellar casting that fit the material as well as anyone could have hoped for.

Neil Patrick Harris, however, felt underused. Despite his creepy, extreme nature that made him a convincing Desi, he just didn’t have enough scenes (which just happens when you’re adapting a book to film) to make us wonder why Amy brutally killed him the way she did. Maybe Amy is just an insane murderer? Perhaps, and no one would be crazy for thinking that. The book, however, gives us more understanding as to why she lashed out: she was feeling trapped and controlled and unable to make decisions for herself, so she took matters into her own hands.

Tyler Perry acted as the comic relief of the film, with some one-liners that were only too true that you knew you were laughing at his sheer honesty instead of a silly joke. The stand-out performance for me came from actress Carrie Coon, who played Nick’s twin sister, Margo. She looked enough like Affleck that someone would have believed they were twins. Her chemistry with Affleck felt genuine, and she felt like one of the few characters you wanted to root for. She acted as Nick’s conscious, yet she stayed completely dedicated to her brother, even as his hidden sins came to light.

Critic Michael Phillips for The Chicago Tribune mentions that Fincher uses a lot of mustard lighting throughout the film, creating a pallet that he didn’t care for. I thought the lighting worked well and aided the suspense of the film. My biggest complaint deals with the raved-about score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. While my seating location in the theater might have had something to do with this, during the opening scene, I was fighting to hear any dialogue over the overpowering and sometimes nonessential score. There were moments when it created or built the suspense, supported the scenes, and gave us a theme when certain characters were on screen. But sometimes it felt completely excessive, taking away from a scene rather than subtly reinforcing it. I was much more impressed with their score for The Social Network (2010).

Overall, I was a big fan of both the book and the movie. Gillian Flynn was successful as both the author and screenwriter for the two formats, bringing her book to life on film in an eerily similar way. Neither are for the faint of heart, both packed with pulpy fiction, dramatic dialogue, and (just in the movie) a murder scene most would die . . . to not see ever again.

I give the book Gone Girl 

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ON PAGE
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And I give the movie Gone Girl 

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and 1/2 ON SCREEN.


Compare/Contrast Gone Girl‘s Book and Film

Which did you hear of first, the book or the film? I heard about the movie first (when do I not?). I read the book right after I saw the trailer, and that prompted my excitement to see it on screen.

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

  • Favorite – My favorite part of the book was how Flynn put it together. I loved that one chapter was from Nick’s perspective, and the next was a diary entry from Amy. Getting multiple perspective made it more interesting and suspenseful. The pace was fast, but not rushed.
  • Least favorite – I just didn’t care for the ending, even given it’s surprising nature and “what the heck?” reaction. I’m a bigger fan of books where there’s justice, with evil losing and good winning. And while I appreciate flawed characters in a book, I felt like the two main characters fell short of being even a little redeemable. At times the language was over-the-top and unnecessary.

Do you think it was inspired by any other books? According to an interview Flynn had with The Guardian, she claimed the novel Mystic River to have inspired her to include a mystery in her book.

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

  • Favorite – I couldn’t have imagined a different casting holding down this movie. Ben Affleck knows exactly how to play both the guilty and innocent sides of Nick Dunne, and you both abhor and like him. It’s a great film to showcase actors.
  • Least favorite – Without repeating myself too much, I’ll just say the score and the poor choice (in my opinion) of how they wrote the ending.

Do you think the movie was inspired by any other movies? I imagine any mysteries, especially murder mysteries, inspired the plot. David Fincher continues to grow as a director with his unique style of shooting scenes and guiding actors. I could see his latest movies such as The Social Network and his remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) inspiring his work.

Will the book, movie, or both forms, stand the test of time? That’s a tricky question, because both have their setbacks. Ultimately, I think the book will just because (of course) it came first. The film is memorable, yes, particularly due to stellar performances, but I think the book has a slight edge over the film.


It’s your turn now. Have you seen Gone Girl? 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.

Shame List #8: Roman Holiday (1953)

Roman Holiday is one of 31 films on my Shame List, a list composed of multiple classics and “must-see”- considered films for anyone who likes to consider him/herself a film buff. I created this list with only twenty films, and have added eleven films since by recommendations from friends and fellow movie fans. I’m always looking for recommendations, and my Shame List is my accountability to the moving blogging community that I have – and will – start watching these movies to earn my film buff status. A copy of the list can be found at my post here, and I’m updating per your recommendations, so please keep them coming!


Onto my review of the first film I can cross of my Shame List is Roman Holiday (1953):

When I was watching Roman Holiday, I couldn’t help but enjoy each scene, taking in everything I could. No doubt, it’s a movie I’ll revisit again and again, which confirms my purchase of a DVD copy before I had even seen it.

Growing up, I fondly remember watching Audrey Hepburn play the infamous role of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1964), and the image of a dirty, cockney woman turned into a stately, prim and proper socialite was burned into my memory. Years later, following my college years, I decided to give Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) a try given its reputation. I got to see another well-known side of Hepburn, although I couldn’t help but wonder what the “wow” factor was of the film. But that’s a whole other post altogether.

My only knowledge of Roman Holiday before viewing it is that it starred Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck as the leads, and that they fell in love but never got together. I was excited to see this movie for that little insight alone, yet I was shocked when the movie opened and Hepburn was playing a princess and Peck was working for the press.

The opening scene, as no doubt many have recalled and talked about, is famous for its simplicity: Princess Ann is on the last leg of her European tour. She’s exhausted, yet she knows how to paste on her happy face and polite voice because she’s so accustomed to doing so. She’s just arrived in Rome, about to sit down when a huge line of Roman higher ups and citizens await to greet this famous princess who’s just arrived in town. She’s plays it calm, only occasionally lifting her right foot out of her shoe to ease the strain of standing and walking in heels, when she accidentally nicks her shoe, unable to retrieve it without drawing attention. One by one, her assistants emote looks of panic as they realize the gravity of the situation: with all eyes on the princess, no one can subtly collect her shoe.

And that is just the first of many memorable scenes that make Roman Holiday so sweet, enjoyable, and of course a staple in classic film history and a model for so many romantic comedies. Multiple modern romantic comedies came to mind as I watched Roman Holiday, explaining the inspiration directors and actors have aspired to imitating in the last few decades.

When reviewing Roman Holiday, as well as others on my Shame List, I know I’ll run into a problem Dan realized when he recently reviewed Fight Club (1999) at his blog: it’s hard not to reiterate in a review what everyone else has already said about a critically-revered film that’s already had everything discussed and dissected in it. Roman Holiday is a beloved film, and I’m so happy to experience why everyone else who has seen it appreciates it for its beauty, simplicity, and mark on film history.

Of course, Gregory Peck stands out in this film, not only for his acting skills and his tall, dark handsomeness, but also because he stands head and shoulders above all the other guys. This is especially noticeable in the end scene when he’s standing in the middle of the front line of press writers and photographers. I imagine William Wyler purposefully set the scene so that Peck stood out in the group. That scene also captured how well both lead performers were able to express their characters with just their eyes, and it made me wonder when the last time I was so moved by a scene that said so much without many words.

When Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck) leaves the royal hall, the scene shows one man taking his time as he strides down the beautiful, rich walls that make up just the hall of where royalty presides. After this end scene, I think of the contrast of the earlier scene with Princess Ann entering Bradley’s room for the first time, and even under the influence of a heavy drug that’s taken its toll, she still inquires if his room is the elevator.

Both leads know how to employ physical comedy, and I can imagine Eddie Albert received his share of scrapes and bruises from constantly getting knocked down or pushed over. I don’t think I’ll ever forget Hepburn impaling a guitar by smashing it over the head over a Secret Service agent while fleeing a dance party.

Despite their best efforts and logical influences, Joe and Ann fall in love in front of us, even if it’s just for a few hours. True love isn’t on display until Bradley pretends he never got the story, because he cherishes his time with Ann more than winning a bet and making some much-needed extra cash. Extending the photos as “scenic photos from Rome” as a gift to Ann reveals Irving’s (Eddie Albert) sincerity as well.

I also really enjoyed all of the fashion, especially on Hepburn (no wonder she’s considered a fashion icon). The dress she wears in the final scene is a great example of how beautiful an outfit can be in black and white. Even with her sporting long and short hair styles throughout the film, her face shines without a single imperfection to be spotted, and it’s assuring that’s her fashionable status is well-earned if she just cracks a smile. I doubt her barber (Claudio Ermelli) really acted too much when melting over the gorgeous actress, like most men did in the film.

Roman Holiday is my favorite Audrey Hepburn film I’ve viewed thus far, and it makes me want to see more of her films. I don’t need any more encouragement to view more Gregory Peck films, although Roman Holiday only confirms my need to see him in more.

All images found via Google Images.

I give Roman Holiday 

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ON SCREEN, crossing my first film off my Shame List.

It’s your turn now. What did you think of Roman Holiday? Would you consider it a classic or a must-see film? Or does it make it on your Shame List? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

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

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 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

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 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.

AEOS Review: This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

Hey guys! It’s been a very busy few days, so I am just now getting to posting. I got to see two movies over the past few days: The Maze Runner (2014) and This Is Where I Leave You (2014). I’ll be posting a From Page to Screen review on The Maze Runner soon, since my sister is co-authoring that post. But until then, here’s my review of This Is Where I Leave You.

I really wanted to like this movie. I purposefully went by myself to the theater to enjoy and soak in the humor and warmth I was expecting the film to emit. Unfortunately, those feelings were not what I experienced as I absorbed the material. There were bits of humor, and about two total times I actually laughed. There Is Where I Leave You is a movie that isn’t exactly sure what what tone it should take, and that’s what the viewers are left with: a confused movie.

Getting a confused audience was probably only partially purposeful when they adapted This Is Where I Leave You into a film, because after all, the story is about a messed up family trying to sort themselves out when the father passes away. It’s only natural to expect some chaos when you place complicated characters in one space. What I think director Shawn Levy failed to communicate to audiences was the actual direction and goal of the movie. What lesson can we take away from this movie? What character moved forward, changed, or accomplished a goal?

Shawn Levy actually has multiple directing credits, two of which probably most influenced him for This Is Where I Leave You: the remake Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) and Date Night (2010). Cheaper by the Dozen has one too many characters, and I think the same could be said for This Is Where I Leave You. Too often crowded movies lose their impact when there are too many characters to focus on. Date Night and This Is Where I Leave You both share Tina Fey, giving each film a similar humor every time the comedian opens her mouth in both films, even if she’s playing different parts.

Overall, This Is Where I Leave You is probably Levi’s most character-centric film. So of course, I expected the characters to progress, change, or at least do something. The movie has a large star-studded cast, its four protagonists playing the children of their just-widowed mother (Jane Fonda). The movie aims to focus on its lead character Judd (Jason Bateman), but it darts between him, his three siblings (played by Tina Fey, Adam Driver, and Corey Stoll), his sister-in-law (Kathryn Hahn), and a few other supporting cast that included Rose Byrne, Connie Britton, Timothy Olyphant, and Dax Shephard.

This Is Where I Leave You‘s plot isn’t original, as I felt like I saw bits of Elizabethtown (2005), Dan in Real Life (2007), and The Family Stone (2005) at different moments, just to name a few. The cast seemed mostly well chosen, although it seemed like Kathryn Hahn had little to do in her role. Jason Bateman played the same character he played in his Arrested Development (2003) run, being the middle sibling in a crazy family trying to make sense of everything. Dax Shephard seems to get himself typecast into douchebag/bastard roles that only further hinder him from getting offered other roles. Tina Fey’s character, Wendy, was the most believable for me, even when there wasn’t much she could do despite the script. Her chemistry with each of her brothers, especially Judd (Jason Bateman) seemed genuine, and they happened to look like they could be related, unlike Corey Stoll and Adam Driver. After What If (2014), This Is Where I Leave You is only the second movie I’ve seen Adam Driver in, and I think he’s absolutely hilarious. That being said, I wonder if he knows how to play any other character other than an immature man-child who has a few good jokes up his sleeve every now and then.

What I found most disappointing with This Is Where I Leave You is that the writing seemed to plummet, it’s lowest point when [SPOILER] Hilary Altman (Jane Fonda) starts kissing her neighbor in front of her children and half the neighborhood. It’s not so much that she’s kissing a woman as much as it’s at the mourning of her just-deceased husband that she chooses to announce she’s coming out, and that she’s been having a relationship with someone outside her marriage. It’s at this point in the movie everyone realizes why four adults have an impossible time sorting out their own relationships: not only did they lack a positive relationship model to look up to, but they’re also witnessing their only living parent promoting cheating near the deathbed of her spouse. I credit the writing behind the story if that was the goal of that scene, yet I feel like the screenwriters did the movie an injustice presenting this major turning point the way they did.

Speaking of the script, that’s what brings me back to the main problem of That’s Where I Leave You: the characters never make progress or learn. Phillip (Adam Driver) remains the hilarious, immature man-child; Paul (Corey Stoll) retains his boring persona as the mean older brother. Wendy (Tina Fey) plays the sister with all the good one-liners and advice to dole out, even though she’s incapable of taking any herself. Hillary (Jane Fonda) is the selfish mother who places her own sexual desires above her passed husband and living family. Judd (Jason Bateman) is the only character who experiences any possible change by actually dealing with his now complicated life instead of hiding under a blanket and pretending everything’s okay when it isn’t.

One of the pleasant unexpected surprises of the movie is how the soundtrack captured the essence of the movie. My favorite track, “On My Own” by Distant Cousins started when the credits rolled; however, there are multiple good songs off the record worth listening to.

While This Is Where I Leave You certainly disappointed, I give the movie props for a solid cast with good chemistry, somewhat realistic responses to a family death, and an appropriate soundtrack to match the film’s tone. I give This Is Where I Leave You 

Eye Art1Eye Art1  ON SCREEN.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of This Is Where I Leave You? If you haven’t seen it, do you plan on seeing it? Please join the discussion below, because as always, I would love to know your thoughts.

Trailer Break: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)

Happy Thursday, all! The latest trailer to make a splash on the Internet is for the next Hunger Games installment, Mockingjay Part 1 (2014), its U.S. premiere only two months away! We’ve seen multiple teasers, but we’re finally getting a a little more footage in this latest trailer.

While I’m excited for this next HG movie, I can’t help but be a bit skeptical about this film just because it’s dividing one book into two movies. As we’ve all seen before, usually the Part 1 movie is dull because it’s lacks the excitement, action, and climax of the story. Part 1 films exist as the “calm before the storm,” so to say. Regardless of what may be the stereotype, the latest trailer boasts an action-packed movie filled with excitement.

Check it out and decide for yourself:

 

“Miss Everdeen, it’s the things we love most that destroy us.”

Definitely get chills when I hear that line! I’m glad to see they’re adding some action to this movie. I’m expecting more drama from this film, because the major action scenes come primarily in the second half of the book.

In addition to a new trailer, there are some great official posters floating around recently. You can find the rest of them at Rotten Tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images found via Google Images.

It’s your turn. What do you think of the latest trailer of Mockingjay Part 1? Are you planning to see it in theaters come November? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

AEOS Review: What If (2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if you never told her how you felt? 

What if I’m still in love with my ex?

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

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

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

Image via Google Images.

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

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

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

Image via Google Images.

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

I give What If . . .

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