AEOS Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt 1 (2014)

What’s interesting about Mockingjay Pt 1 (2014) is the criticism its received for being a movie adaptation of half a book more than being critiqued for the movie it is. That’s not to say I’m hating on my fellow critics and movie fans as much as I’m saying that the film got a bad rap before it even screened.

Of course, there’s nothing the movie could do to repair itself from its already negative standing among critics. To offer up only a first half of a story and leave the audience hanging for a year is a cruel move. But I think punishing the film for this is like pointing the finger at the victim rather than the wrong-doer. Historically speaking, Twilight and Harry Potter started the trend of YA book series being adapted into films, and then slicing the epic finale into two films. The short version we understand this as? A cash grab.

The cash grab has become the center of discussion revolving around Mockingjay Pt 1, thus painting it black and predicting its future location on FYE clearance shelves next to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1 (2011) for years to come.

David Yates let me read only the first half of the Deathly Hallows before shooting this pointless film . . .

Personally, I walked into the theater expecting what everyone predicted: a cash grab that left me bored, disappointed, and unimpressed. But I’ll get back to that in a little bit.

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is now bunkered in District 13, where she’s demanding for the rescue of Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), walking around angry and confused, and desperately hoping she can finally be left alone after suffering and surviving two Hunger Games.

As fellow readers and fans of the book series, we all know that Katniss will still be put on display in the third book. But instead of fighting to the death for public entertainment, instead she’ll become the official symbol of hope, representing the good in this battle against the evil Capitol, run by dictatorial President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

And it’s “moves and countermoves,” as Mr. Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) reminds viewers. It’s all about how Katniss is perceived. She’s to be an ally for District 13, a glimmer of hope for fighting districts, a threat to the Capitol, a demand to come home for Peeta, and perhaps a pillar of strength both for herself and Finnick (Sam Claflin), as they seek strength in knowing they’re loved ones are suffering at the hands of Snow.

RIP, Mr. Hoffman.

Seeing Mockingjay Pt 1 has really made me want to reread the book upon which its based. I wasn’t expecting the action, the blanks to be filled in, and the perspectives outside of Katniss’s to entertain me the way writers Peter Craig, Danny Strong, and book author Suzanne Collins presented them in this third film installment.

This new dark chunk in the dystopian cake seemed to present a new layer of young adult film adaptations to movie viewers. For me, the message was sent that for being a film based off a popular young adult series, that Mockingjay Pt 1 wasn’t required to sit in a box labeled “YA adaptations.” Mockingjay Pt 1 played to its strengths and took risks, not just because studios required the book to be split into two films, but because both the writers and director Francis Lawrence actually seemed to want to make a good movie.

While the previous movies showed Katniss’s struggle to deal with the hypocrisy of the Capitol and ultimately survive in the hunger games, Mockingjay focused its time on how Heavensbee, President Coin (Julianne Moore), and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) along with Effie (Elizabeth Banks) and an entire camera team presenting Katniss to the public, which proved to be a greater struggle than fighting in the games for Katniss. In the games, Katniss could be her true self among strangers, because she understood she needed to survive, and she felt comfortable with a bow and arrow. But force her in front of a camera and ask her to rally the districts while she was still suffering PTSD and desiring to recover Peeta wasn’t working. So they took her to the ruins of District 12 and a makeshift hospital of other districts’s survivors.

It seems like more and more seasoned actors and actresses join The Hunger Games (2012) universe with each movie, and they support the foundation of an already solid script and coherent direction. While Jennifer Lawrence plays the star, it is the supporting cast that ultimately sells the film, from Woody Harrelson to Stanley Tucci, to newcomer Julianne Moore.

I actually pull off the gray hair rather well, yes?

James Newton Howard scores this third film, playing off the original themes he created in the first Hunger Games film. The special effects are even amped up, including explosions and some exciting action scenes. One particular scene had me especially fascinated and on edge, as we got to see some District 13 soldiers go on a rescue mission inside the Capitol while Katniss kept Snow on the line to “distract” him. The additions the movie offers that readers missed out on seem to work well for movie audiences, filling in the holes instead of confusing viewers who haven’t read the books.

Mockingjay Pt 1 did include a few things that bothered me, such as the wigs Jennifer Lawrence donned. It was obvious it wasn’t her real hair, and I found it distracting throughout the film. I also felt like Gale (Liam Hemsworth) wasn’t given enough to do, so he seemed to just be walking around, hoping to add to the film with his good Aussie looks since he rarely got any lines.

Despite those issues, I left the theater much more impressed than I expected to be when I walked in. I think if viewers and critics alike can overlook the obvious cash grab ordeal that has hovered over the film, I think many people can agree that Mockingjay Pt 1 is a solid installment in Collins’s epic book-to-screen adaptations. While the odds were certainly not in the film’s favor to succeed with critics, I give Mockingjay Pt 1

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1/2 EYES ON SCREEN.

It’s your turn now. What did you think of Mockingjay Part 1? Do you think it deserves a place beside the first two films? Sound off in the comments below.

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Month in Review: September 2014

September was not the biggest month at the movies for me, considering I made it to the theater only twice! (Yeah, that little.) However, I have had a lot of fun on All Eyes On Screen, so here’s the breakdown for the month:

Guest Posts

Trailer Breaks

  • Two Trailer Breaks made it into the month of September, one for upcoming movie You’re Not You (2014).
  • And the other break for the next Hunger Games installment, Mockingjay Part I (2014).

Blogathons

  • Possibly one of my favorite types of posts to participate in, I got to take part in a few blogathons this past month. I got to talk about some of my favorite guilty pleasure films in a blogathon hosted by Jenna and Allie over at their site Chick Flicks.
  • I also made my own version of a summer movie lessons that I file under blogathons, inspired by Ryan at The Matinee.
  • My most recent post, “You Call Yourself a Film Buff? Movies I Still Haven’t Seen I consider a blogathon since I was inspired by Mettel Ray’s version of the post, which you can find here. I’ve been offered several recommendations to add to the list, including Apocalypse Now (1979), The Red Shoes (1948), Solaris (1972), The 400 Blows (1959), Gone with the Wind (1939), 12 Angry Men (1957), and Amadeus (1984).

Reviews

  • I finally got around to reviewing What If (2014), a movie I caught the previous month at the theaters. I’d highly recommend it as it’s a great post-Harry Potter film for star Daniel Radcliffe, and I’d consider it the When Harry Met Sally (1989) for today’s generation.
  • This Is Where I Leave You (2014) was one of only two movies I caught at the theater in September, leaving a rather mediocre taste in my mouth despite some of the nice performances.
  • The latest From Page to Screen post also happened to be a guest post AND a review, this time on the YA adaptation The Maze Runner (2014), which while I found a little disappointing, still was fun enough I’d consider it a success.

Best Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

The Maze Runner

It’s funny how it’s difficult to decide between only two movies I saw at the theater this month, primarily since they were both so mediocre, in my opinion. If I had to choose one, I’d go with The Maze Runner, even though I considered it only a hair better than This Is Where I Leave You.

Worst Movie [I saw in theaters] This Month

This Is Where I Leave You

Of course, This Is Where I Leave You isn’t a bad movie. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a pretty good movie with some nice moments. I’d definitely re-watch it if there was enough time between then and my latest viewing of it.

Looking Forward to October

I have to say, I’m far more excited for October movies than I was for September, since we’re starting to enter the next big movie push throughout the year. More Oscar-worthy films will probably be showing up closer to November, but it’s never to early to start with a few in October. Here’s what I’m hoping to catch in theaters, or plan to see when released on DVD, next month:

Left Behind (10/3)

I can’t help but be curious about this remake, since Tim LaHaye, author of the book series Left Behind, sued Cloud Ten Pictures since he felt like the Kirk Cameron version didn’t do his series justice. I’m just waiting for Cage to announce that he’s stealing the Declaration of Independence while Jordin Sparks breaks out into a gospel song. I’d love to take this movie seriously since I actually read and enjoyed the book, as well as the first film version, but this just looks sad to me.

The Judge (10/10)

Yes, the trailer looks convincingly good. And so does Robert Downy Jr. Can the man give a great performance outside of his Iron Man suit? I’m sure he can.

One Chance (10/10)

I noticed this movie in the winter of 2013, and I believe it got released in the UK, but I could be wrong. Anyways, this film got put on the back burner, and only until recently did I notice it’s getting a wide US release date. James Corden was in this year’s lovely Begin Again, which was also about music. I’m not sure if it’s the next Billy Elliot (2000), but I’m curious enough to go to the theater and find out.

Men, Women & Children (10/17)

I caught wind of this movie when I found out it was showing at TCFF, athough I unfortunately will not be attending this year. However, the cast looks very interesting, including both Jennifer Garner and Adam Sandler. I like the idea behind this movie, and I think it could be very good.

Laggies (10/24)

I saw a preview of Laggies before I saw Begin Again, another movie that stars Kiera Knightly. Chloe Grace Moretz also stars in this, another film after If I Stay. Both ladies seem to be making a scene in this year’s offerings, and I’m looking forward to seeing both on screen together.

Horns (10/31)

Daniel Radcliffe is 95% of the appeal of this movie. I loved him in Harry Potter and his post-HP films thus far. He was charming in What If, and I imagine he might not be quite so sweet in Horns. The movie appears to be a darker, similar film to Hellboy (2004), but I could be totally off. It’s fitting that it’s getting a Halloween release date.

Most Anticipated Film of October

I couldn’t close out this section by leaving out the movie I anticipate most not only for the month, but it also makes my top list of anticipated films for the year 2014!

Gone Girl (10/3)

Will David Fincher’s latest film live up to Gillian Flynn’s bestseller? I hope so. Ben Affleck is back on screen again, and after reading the book, I’m convinced he’s Nick Dunne in the flesh. I’ve already purchased my tickets for this coming Saturday, and I’m already prepping my next From Page to Screen review. I think Gone Girl is likely to create some Oscar buzz after this weekend.

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.

What Summer at the Movies Taught AEOS

This past summer passed by so quickly, I hardly saw as many movies at the theater as I would have liked. I did, however, manage to cram a state move, job change, wedding, and bridesmaid duty into the summer, so I tried not to skimp half-heartedly.

A few weeks ago, I read a simple, yet beautiful post by Ryan at The Matinee. Now that autumn has reared its head and summer has ceased, Ryan used one line per movie he saw over the summer months to sum up lessons the movies taught him. I decided to follow suit, so here are what the movies of summer 2014 taught AEOS:

I learned that a reboot with better lead actors doesn’t make it better than the original franchise.

I learned that even Seth Rogen can get away with playing the “responsible” character.

I learned that a movie can deliver on all of its promises when Bryan Singer is at the helm.

I learned that there’s no shame in crying at the theater when I’ve witnessed an actress’s best performance yet.

I learned that while poor marketing can prevent people from attending, a great movie will still perform well from good word-of-mouth.

I learned that funny sequels do exist, but I especially appreciate that they realize it’s time to stop making sequels.

I learned that forcing robot machines to take a backseat to inconsequential and uninteresting humans in a movie about robot machines doesn’t work.

I learned that getting lost in a great movie is the best possible feeling a summer day at the movies can bring.

I learned that heart can be found in the most unlikely of movies.

I learned that a plot works well only when you have good writing to back it up.

I learned that a movie does exist where no one except Chris Pratt should play the lead role.

I learned that Harry and Sally weren’t the only ones trying to figure out this whole opposite sex friends thing, and making a charming movie about it for this generation is certainly worth it.

I learned that sometimes stupid comedies shouldn’t be anything more than stupid comedies. And that’s okay.

I learned that even the best of intentions to adapt a novel to film can leave you disappointed and wanting.

[All images were found via Google Images.]

It’s your turn now. What did summer at the movies teach you? 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.

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.

AEOS Must-See Movies for the Rest of 2014

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

August

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

The Giver

 

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

Guardians of the Galaxy

 

September

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

The Maze Runner

 

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

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

 

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

This Is Where I Leave You

 

October

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

Gone Girl

 

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

The Judge

 

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

Horns

 

November

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

Interstellar

 

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

The Imitation Game

 

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

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (Part 1)

 

December

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

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

 

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

Into the Woods

 

In Summary

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

1) Interstellar (November 7)

2) The Maze Runner (September 19)

3) The Imitation Game (November 21)

4) Gone Girl (October 3)

5) The Giver (August 15)

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

7) The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (September 26)

8) Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1)

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

10) The Judge (October 10)

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

12) Horns (October 31)

13) Into the Woods (December 25)

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

The Woman in Black: Play vs. Film

In a previous post, I mentioned my excitement to see The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, because only months before I had gotten to see the play version. Weirdly enough, when I went to see the play, I had not even realized that a film version was due out in February of this year. So instead of a regular review, I’ll be pitting the two formats of the story of “The Woman in Black” against one another. Be aware that there are SPOILERS, so if you do not want something spoiled for you, I recommend either seeing the film first, or reading about the play only.

Number of Characters

In the play, there is a total of 4 characters. Each actor plays a character, who then, in turn, act out a play within the play as two other separate characters. This sounds confusing, but watching it wasn’t difficult. I couldn’t imagine how harrowing it must have been for the two actors on stage to have to memorize so many lines!

In the film, there are multiple characters. While Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) leads the film, often playing scenes against sound and special effects in the house, a supporting cast plays a bigger role in the film version.

The Element of Time

The play serves time in two parts: in the beginning, there’s an older fellow seeking public speaking assistance from a young actor. The old man is Arthur, and the story he wishes to tell is the story we see in the film. Essentially, we get a play within a play. The actor plays young Arthur back in time, and the older, current Arthur plays the rest of the supporting characters.

The film is told in real time. From the get-go, a crisis emerges, forcing Arthur to travel and locate all the necessary documents of a passed client named Alice Drablow in the town Crythin Gifford, where the people aren’t exactly welcoming.

The Rocking Chair

The rocking chair plays a large role in both the play and the film. Less information regarding the chair is given in the play, however. We see it in the play, we hear the terrible creaking noise throughout the play, and we know it’s located in the locked room that Arthur finds himself wanting to get into while he stays in the house.

The film builds on the story of the rocking chair. In film format, more allowances are given – we receive more background information by watching and listening. While the play offers viewers the same opportunities, the format is more limited in what it can show us, given that there’s fewer special effects. We learn in the film that the rocking chair served a big purpose in helping the woman in black commit suicide, by her standing on it in order to hang herself. Perhaps the chair creaks because her dead body fell on the chair when she hung herself. The film also includes far more items in the room, such as moving toys and a cymbal-playing monkey that reminded me of the one in the Phantom of the Opera.

Arthur

My comparison of the Arthur in the play from the one in the film moves into more subjective territory. The Arthur character painted in the play was far more fearful and reluctant than the one in the film. He was constantly on edge. Even as the actor who played young Arthur from the past, there was this great portrayal of fear that worked effectively to insert fear into viewers’ minds.

The Arthur in the film appeared less phased by the events happening. He seemed to have a greater confidence and desire to end the madness caused by the woman in black. He was more determined to meet the woman in black head on, rather than reluctantly face the cause of the noises in the house.

The Ending

If you haven’t realized already, this post is filled with SPOILERS. So if you haven’t seen the film, I’d recommend reading only what happens in the play and not the film, because the ending is incredibly different in the two formats. Since the play is really a play within a play, the woman in black seems to make appearances in both times. As viewers, we learn of her from the play within the play, but we notice that the actor (who is playing young Arthur) is recognizing her in real time – and making this idea evident to the older Arthur, who seems to wave him off (ironic?). In the end, we learn the woman in black is still around, because the final line of the play has the actor asking Arthur who the lady is that keeps lurking in the shadows.

The film offers an entirely different ending. Arthur has witnessed several children killed at the hand of the woman in black. The story goes that she kills children because according to the paperwork left behind, her own child died out in the marshes and his body was never recovered. She seems to seek to be reunited with her son, but she rather kill everyone else’s children to avenge his death. Arthur believes he has ended the woman in black’s curse by uncovering her dead son’s body and placing it on her bed, joining mother and son together. His four-year-old son has just arrived to meet Arthur in the city of Crythin Gifford, where the woman in black’s home resides. Arthur has decided that everything is finally over, so he and his son decide to take the next train home. But while Arthur is talking with someone, his son seems to have run off and is now walking in the train tracks while an incoming train is headed toward him. Arthur realizes it and suddenly jumps into the track to retrieve his son – and the train goes bustling into them. We’re not sure whether they made it out alive or not. We think they might have–and the film does a nice one over on us–until we realize that both father and son are dead. Need reassurance? Out from the back emerges the woman in black.

All that to say that the play’s ending is vastly different from the film’s ending: real time would not be plausible in its scenario if Arthur had died when he was young.

The strength of the story of “The Woman in Black,” I believe lies in the woman’s character. She remains the same in both formats. She never speaks, but she appears mysteriously throughout both. She’s very creepy, and she acts sort of like an angel of death, especially in the film.

Which do I prefer? I enjoyed both. They’re both incredibly different from one another, that I wouldn’t want to choose. They both work effectively in their own formats, and I enjoyed both for different reasons. I enjoyed all of the background information the film offered regarding the woman in black, but I appreciated how the play ended more than the film. Both seemed to suffer from a slightly laborious and long beginning, as mentioned in Dan the Man’s review on the film. I’d equally recommend both for viewing. I know there’s also a book (written by Susan Hill) on which the play was based off that shares similarities and differences with the play and the film.

Did you enjoy the film? What do you think of the differences? Would you have preferred the ending from the play or the film better?

Trailer Friday – The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black originally was a novel written by Susan Hill, which was later adapted for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt. Six years after the book was published, in 1989, screenwriter Nigel Kneale wrote a TV movie version based off the play. Twenty-three years later, Daniel Radcliffe moves into full post-Potter mode to star in this horror movie directed by James Watkins, who is known more for his writing (The Descent: Part 2, Gone) then his only other film to have directed, Eden Lake.

Last fall, I was able to see the stage play that had only two actors on stage the entirety of the play, with the exception of the “lady in black” making silent, momentary appearances. I really enjoyed the play and the feeling of an old-time, well-structured horror story that worked well without the massive special effects and bright lights that many of today’s horror movies depend on to gain an audience.

From the looks of the trailer, it appears very similar to the play I saw, and I look forward to Radcliffe making his movie debut since Harry Potter. Check out the trailer below and let me know what you think of it!

Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2011

The time has come for me to finally make this list. I haven’t seen Tree of Life or Drive yet, so I feel like this list could possibly be adjusted after a viewing of either, but despite those exceptions, I still had a difficult time compiling this list. Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite movies of 2011:

10) Something Borrowed

Of course I’m the only person out there who will be putting Something Borrowed on my list. It rated 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and received poor reviews all around. HOWEVER, this is my “dud” on the list. There’s a reason Something Borrowed makes my favorites list (as I not so subtly bolded the word favorite earlier), and not the list I consider to be the BEST movies of the year. I know it’s not going to be other people’s favorite, but that’s the point, right? This film resonated with me. I enjoyed the story (and the book it was based off), and maybe part of my problem is that I have this thing for John Krasinski. I don’t know.

9) The Muppets

And now to hit the movies that are on other people’s lists. I ended up seeing The Muppets twice. This is one of the most fun films to come out this year. Jason Segel did an excellent job reincarnating this group of lovable puppets that stole many hearts of earlier generations. From the screenplay to the original music, The Muppets won me over almost without trying.

8) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I found this newest edition to the franchise to be the most adrenaline-pumping of them all. Nonstop action, and some of the craziest stunts I’ve seen take place in a movie. There was great chemistry between Simon Pegg, Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner for the latest IMF team. I really enjoyed the craziness of this movie and am happy to see Tom Cruise phoning in another good performance.

7) X-Men: First Class

This is one of the most exciting movies that came out this summer as well as the best one of the franchise by miles. Originally, I had never seen any of the X-Men movies, but on just a single viewing of  First Class, I was interested in the series. When a prequel can draw a non-fan in without annoying fanboys/girls with excessive detail or repetition (or really, just treating them like they’re stupid), then it can really be a great thing. I really enjoyed being introduced to the awesome Michael Fassbender as well as seeing James McAvoy play a young Professor X. And to top it off, a great soundtrack by Henry Jackman served as background.

6) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II

I was one of the people who waited in line to see Deathly Hallows Pt. II and left feeling exceptionally underwhelmed, most likely due to steep expectations. After a second viewing of it, I came around and started thinking more about it. Deathly Hallows Pt. II was a great end to such a successful movie franchise. Although many fans of the books were left wanting with having many scenes changed or completely left out of this movie, it’s hard to argue that this movie didn’t move you in some way if you’re a Harry Potter fan. I was especially fond of the epilogue and the tone it left viewers with. There were so many great performances, that it’s hard to pick just one or two standouts. For me, it was exceptionally nice to see Daniel Radcliffe give all that he could to his Harry Potter role throughout the series, and then watch it all come together as he gave his life in Deathly Hallows Pt. II.

5) Midnight in Paris

I’m so happy to see all the critical chatter Midnight in Paris is drawing. I had heard almost nothing about it before I saw it, but I read a nice review by Roger Ebert. In the middle of a summer filled with lots of action, superheroes, and monsters comes this beautiful and creative stand-alone movie from Woody Allen. All the locations filmed in Paris alone serve as a great backdrop and historical picture of past and present Paris. I really enjoyed seeing Owen Wilson shine in a newer type of role for him alongside the gorgeous Marion Cotillard. From the music to the costumes to the humble, but smart screenplay, Midnight in Paris was easily one of my favorite movies of the year.

4) The Descendants

Since I first saw a trailer for The Descendants in theaters, I knew I would want to see the movie. I really enjoyed George Clooney’s previous Up in the Air, and I was excited to see him in an indie-styled film. Coming across as very grassroots, The Descendants takes a family that is seriously messed up and lets us journey with them through an especially harrowing time for George Clooney’s character, Matt King. What I enjoyed most about this movie was the realistic touch. Shailene Woodley gives her all in a dramatic role of playing a rebellious, but hurting teenager. It’s a story about family, making decisions, grieving, and dealing with unpleasant situations, and at the same time, it gives the audience a sense of realism. That pain and frustration and arguing and death is a real thing that happens every day, and shapes you as person as you deal with those times by your reactions to certain situations and interactions with the people close to you in life.

3) The Help

Based off the novel by Kathryn Stockett, the story of The Help is both moving and inspirational. This movie was able to accomplish both of those tasks–move and inspire viewers–without the unnecessary pizzazz or cheesiness that tends to accompany many films of the same genre today. Stripped of all the colors from the costumes, The Help makes you think beyond the movie theater and the book. Some of the best performances of the year took place in this movie, from Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to Emma Stone. Jessica Chastain was hilarious in her supporting role as well. Although there’s still controversy over this movie, The Help is no doubt one of the best movies to come out in 2011.

2) 50/50

Barely missing the top spot for my favorite film of the year, 50/50 made me cry and laugh and walk away very thankful for life by the movie’s end. Perhaps because the story was written by the guy (Will Reiser) who was actually diagnosed with cancer–and has now survived it and is in remission–50/50 offers the most realistic look at a young person dealing with a rare form of cancer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is both brilliant and endearing in this role, seeming to act the part from the inside out. A great supporting cast of Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, and even Seth Rogen ties this dubbed “bromance comedy” together. Both moving and hilarious to watch, 50/50 was one of my favorite movies of the year.

1) The Artist

Until this past Sunday, 50/50 held the number one spot in my list of favorite movies for 2011. And then I saw The Artist and couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen one of the greatest films to come out in a long while. I walked in with low expectations, assuming I would be bored or disinterested, but found myself unbelievably surprised and thankful for the opportunity to see this movie gem. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are flawless in this Michel Hazanavicius film filled with great performances, a great score, great writing, and great cinematography. It’s difficult to restrain from overpraising The Artist, not only because was it that good, but also because nothing else remotely similar has come out in ages, much less would be comparable to it. The Artist will probably hit it big at every awards ceremony this year, and rightfully so. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, please do so. It’s definitely my favorite of 2011.

What was your favorite movie of 2011? Did you like any of the ones on my list? What was missing from my list, and what do you think I should see still? I missed out on just about all documentaries in 2011, so I’m definitely looking for suggestions!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2

With a lot to live up to, (think Return of the King, Dark Knight, etc.), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, does not, in fact, live up to its far superior predecessors. It does, however, bring a grand ending to the series while incorporating some humorous and heart-breaking moments. We see the best acting squeezed out of the main characters as well as some surprising nuggets of humor and strength from unsuspecting characters, such as Mrs. Malfoy (Helen McCroy), Mrs. Weasley (Julie Walters), Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis), and Professor McGonagal (Maggie Smith).

This movie was pretty good. It had some great moments, but overall, it was just pretty good. Big moments that could have been built up better were rushed through. The huge battle scene at the end lost part of its excitement when Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) jump off the cliff and start flying around with their hands around each other’s faces. What was the point of this? The book certainly didn’t write the end happening this way.

Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson), the two lead supporting actors in the film, played just that in this film: supporting roles. So supporting, in fact, that their kiss was the only significant and enjoyable moment that either actor had on screen. Professor McGonagal and Neville stole scenes with witty dialogue and heroic actions, while Harry’s two best friends seemed to just fade into the background. In Ebert’s review, he mentioned how the adult actors also owned the scenes. Voldemort was the ultimate bad guy, played with such an enjoyable evilness, that you almost wanted to laugh a couple times.

As the protagonist of the series, Daniel Radcliffe might have given his best performance. After he puts his face into the pensieve and sees Snape’s (Alan Rickman) memories, he learns for the first time that he was born to die. This comes as a hideous shock to both him and the audience. In the book, he doesn’t see Ron and Hermione for a last time, because he realizes he might not be able to go through with dying (by Voldemort) if he sees one of them. Instead, he ends up running into Neville and makes Neville promise him to kill the snake, the last horcrux, which would inevitably kill Voldemort. Instead, in the movie, Harry shares a last moment with Hermione and Ron that is rushed through, and then walks to his death while they stand still with jaws dropped. I can’t help but think that this scene could have been much more powerful had the screenwriter/adapter stuck to the true story.

Another scene that lost its power due to the adapted story is when Harry opens the snitch and the Resurrection Stone appears. There, he meets the deathly shadows of his father (Adrian Rawlins), mother (Geraldine Sommerville), Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), and Professor Lupin (David Thewlis). This is a powerful scene, but it’s so rushed through, that it’s immediately forgotten when Harry walks further into the Forbidden Forest. The book has these dead relatives walking with him through the Forbidden Forest, right up to Voldemort and his army, right before Harry dies. J. K. Rowling’s writing dismissed here is another huge disappointment.

But possibly the biggest disappointment of this film is the flurry in which Snape’s character is killed and forgotten. Although Snape does die, his moment is quickly lost to move onto the next. Alan Rickman gives his best performance, as short as it may be, his last words being to Harry: “You have your mother’s eyes.” When Harry views Snape’s memories through the pensieve, we see the past that closes many holes that the series has created since we started watching the films. Why has Snape bullied Harry for so long? Why does Snape seem to hate Harry? Why did Snape kill Dumbledore? These questions are answered, and more is revealed. Unfortunately, Snape’s memories last only a short while. We, as viewers, lose perspective despite the huge demons that have been pulled out of the closet. We have mixed feelings on Snape now, but no time to focus on them. Snape’s death was so rushed through, that we, the audience, missed out on a grieving opportunity. In the past, Cedric, Sirius Black, Dumbledore, and Dobby have passed away. Huge moments were given to these characters; after all, each of their deaths served as a climax to the films in which they died. Fred (James Phelps), one of the twins and Professor Lupin pass, yet we hardly realize how sad this is because we must keep pushing forward with the film’s agenda.

The end bears the most touching scene, the adulthood of the three main characters. Nineteen years later, we see an adult Harry and Ginny (Bonnie Wright) ushering their kids to platform 9 3/4. Harry shares a moment with his son, Albus Severus Potter. He reminds him that he is named after one of the best wizards he knows – Severus. This special tidbit is included in a perfectly subtle, yet honorable way. There’s just a slight moment where we catch an adult Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), where we conclude that the relationship between he and Harry is now friendly. Last, we see married couple Ron and Hermione with their kids. The ending scene pictures Ron, Hermione, and Harry standing there, grown up and happy. It’s a moment where you can do nothing else but smile. It serves as a grand, but not over-the-top end to the amazing franchise.