First Thoughts on the 87th Oscar Nominations

The 87th Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and I’m excited to finally post about an awards ceremony on All Eyes On Screen. This Washington Post article showed which movies received the most nominations this year:

Birdman/The Grand Budapest Hotel – 9
The Imitation Game – 8
Boyhood – 6
American Sniper – 6
Whiplash – 5
Interstellar – 5
Foxcatcher – 5

Continue reading below to see what got nominated, along with my first thoughts on the nominees.

Best Picture

American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

First Thoughts: None of the entries on this list surprise me. The only movies I haven’t seen on this list are American Sniper and Selma, both of which I’m planning to see in the next couple weeks. What has me super thrilled is Whiplash making its way onto the Best Picture nominee list. It’s a great films that hasn’t gotten the mainstream attention the majority of the films on this list has.

Actor in a Leading Role

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

First Thoughts: Pleasantly surprised to see Bradley Cooper nominated once again for Best Actor in a Leading Role. I think American Sniper really picked up steam following the Golden Globes. What is surprising is that David Oyelowo’s name missing, who I’ve heard turned in an award-worthy performance in Selma. And while I can’t say I’m surprised, I am disappointed that Jake Gyllenhaal didn’t make the list for his transformative role in Nightcrawler. Also, how crazy is it that from now on, before Steve Carell’s name is mentioned in movies, it will be preceded by the words “Academy Award Nominee”?!

Actress in a Leading Role

Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

First Thoughts: It seems like I completely missed out on Still Alice, because Julianne Moore won the Golden Globe as Best Actress, and now she’s nominated for an Oscar. So that one has just arrived on my radar. The other movie I’m excited to check out is Two Days, One Night. If Moore doesn’t score this, I think Rosamund Pike will take it.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

First Thoughts: I realize that now I have to check out The Judge. I don’t really want to. However, I’m happy for all the other nominations on this list. J.K. Simmons is probably the favorite to win, and I wouldn’t argue that after witnessing him in Whiplash. Although, Ethan Hawke’s performance in Boyhood makes me sentimental . . .

Actress in a Supporting Role

Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Emma Stone, Birdman
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

First Thoughts: I think Patricia Arquette is the shoe-in for this award, but I’m happy Laura Dern is getting some credit for her work in Wild. It’s no surprise that Meryl Streep is nominated, although I think she’s far from winning this. I’m very excited to have two of my favorite young actresses get nominated, Emma Stone and Kiera Knightly, although neither will likely win.

Directing

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

First Thoughts: I actually expected Ava DuVernay for Selma to get nominated, not only because of how much Selma has been praised as a film, but also because she’s one of the few incredibly talented female directors working today. From what I’ve read, this is Wes Anderson’s first Oscar nomination, and I think it’s well-deserved. At the end of the day, I imagine the real race is between Inarritu and Linklater, the most notable directors on this list.

Animated Feature Film

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

First Thoughts: I’m legitimately shocked and disappointed that The LEGO Movie wasn’t nominated. Has anyone else heard of Song of the Sea?

Cinematography

Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
Robert D. Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lynzewski, Ida
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
Roger Deakins, Unbroken

First Thoughts: I’m now entering unchartered territory, where I have less I can say because of my limited knowledge. Considering that Interstellar does indeed get a few nominations this year, I’m a little surprised cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema doesn’t make this list. Emmanuel Lubezki has become the “household” name of cinematographers in recent years. Now I have a legitimate excuse to check out Mr. Turner . . .

Costume Design

Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner

First Thoughts: I imagine this is the win for Into the Woods, if there is one. The Grand Budapest Hotel‘s costumes were memorable as well. I almost thought Guardians of the Galaxy would pop up in this category.

Documentary Feature

Citizenfour
Last Days in Vietnam
Virunga
The Salt of the Earth
Finding Vivian Maier

First Thoughts: Am I the only one who was hoping for Life Itself to make this list?

Documentary Short Subject

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Joanna
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

First Thoughts: N/A

Film Editing

Joel Cox and Gary Roach, American Sniper
Sandra Adair, Boyhood
Barney Pilling, The Grand Budapest Hotel
William Goldenberg, The Imitation Game
Tom Cross, Whiplash

First ThoughtsBirdman seems to be the one missing from the nominations, but perhaps it will make it up by winning Best Cinematography? I will be rooting for Tom Cross for Whiplash given that Miles Teller appears to do all the drumming in this movie, thanks to Cross’s incredible editing. I could see Sandra Adair winning for piecing together twelve years of filming for Boyhood in a fluid and coherent way.

Foreign Language Film

Ida
Leviathan
Tangerines
Wild Tales
Timbuktu

First Thoughts: Although I haven’t seen any of these, I’m surprised to not see the popular Force Majeure I have read about. Oh, and hey, there’s Ida again!

Makeup and Hairstyling

Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, Foxcatcher
Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, Guardians of the Galaxy

First Thoughts: Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose in Foxcatcher might be most memorable, but I’m rooting for Guardians of the Galaxy. Those characters really did look other-worldly.

Music – Original Score

Alexandre Desplat, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar
Gary Yershon, Mr. Turner
Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

First Thoughts: Double nomination for Alexandre Desplat meeans he has a 40% chance of winning in this category. Hans Zimmer’s score for Interstellar was my favorite. Go, Mr. Zimmer! I wasn’t rooting for it, but I’m shocked to not see Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score for Gone Girl make this list.

Music – Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” by Shawn Patterson, The LEGO Movie
“Glory” by Common and John Legend, Selma
“Grateful,” by Diana Warren, Beyond the Lights
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond, Glenn Campbell: I’ll Be Me
“Lost Stars” by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois, Begin Again

First Thoughts: “Lost Stars” in Begin Again might be my favorite original song of the year, and it’s certainly the song I’ll be rooting for. Another pleasant surprise is seeing a song from Beyond the Lights make the list. I also love “Everything is Awesome,” and I feel like it would be a step in the right direction if The LEGO Movie won after being left out of the Best Animated Film category. My only disappointment is not seeing “The Last Goodbye” in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies make the list. Question: What is Glenn Campbell: I’ll Be Me?

Production Design

The Grand Budapest Hotel, Production design: Adam Stockhausen, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
The Imitation Game, Production design: Maria Djurkovic, Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
Interstellar, Production design: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
Into the Woods, Production design: Dennis Gassner, Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Mr. Turner, Production design: Suzie Davies, Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

First Thoughts: Both Into the Woods and The Grand Budapest Hotel had memorable sets and design, so I could see either of these movies taking the prize. But dude, apparently I need to see Mr. Turner, which keeps showing up in the nominations . . .

Short Film – Animated

The Bigger Picture, Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees
The Dam Keeper, Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi
Feast, Patrick Osbirne and Kristina Reed
Me and My Moulton, Torill Kove
A Single Life, Joris Oprins

First Thoughts: N/A

Short Film – Live Action

Aya, Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis
Boogaloo and Graham, Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney
Butterlamp, Hu Wei and Julien Feret
Parvenah, Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger
The Phone Call, Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

First Thoughts: N/A

Sound Editing

American Sniper, Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
Birdman, Martin Hermandez and Aaron Glascock
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
Interstellar, Richard King
Unbroken, Becky Sullivan and Andrew Decristofaro

First Thoughts: A lot of people complained about the soundtrack drowning out the actors in Interstellar, yet it’s still getting nominated in this department. I actually had a bigger issue with Trent Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’s score drowning out the actors in Gone Girl. And hey, look, The Hobbit and Unbroken decided to show up to the Oscars.

Sound Mixing

American Sniper, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
Birdman, Jon Taylor, Frank A Montano and Thomas Varga
Interstellar, Garry A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
Unbroken, Jon Taylor, Frank A Montano and David Lee
Whiplash, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

First Thoughts: N/A

Visual Effects

Captain America: Winter Soldier, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
Guardians of the Galaxy, Stephanie Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
Interstellar, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
X-Men: Days of Future Past, Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

First Thoughts: Hello there, every superhero movie from 2014. Either Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for Andy Serkis’s work or X-Men: Days of Future Past  for that scene with Quicksilver should win this category.

Writing – Adapted Screenplay

Jason Hall, American Sniper
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game
Paul Thomas Anderson, Inherent Vice
Anthony McCarten, The Theory of Everything
Damien Chazelle, Whiplash

First Thoughts: There’s a big discussion behind why Damien Chazelle’s screenplay for Whiplash is making the Adapted list rather than the Original list, thanks to the oddball rules of the Academy. Regardless, I think it deserves to be nominated for its writing. Compared to the major change in characters and plot in The Imitation Game, I would rather root for Anthony McCarten’s writing for The Theory of Everything for honoring the people he portrayed. I’ve also heard Paul Thomas Anderson’s work in adapting the novel for Inherent Vice was quite good.

Writing – Original Screenplay

Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler

First Thoughts: Well, it’s about time to see Nightcrawler show up. I’m a big fan of Dan Gilroy’s script for the creepy thriller, but it’s likely to lose to literally any of the other nominees. I couldn’t argue with any of the nominations in this category: I like them all.

What are your first thoughts on this year’s Oscar nominations? Which ones are you most excited for? Which snubs are you most disappointed about?

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

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

All Eyes On Bloggers, Ed. 2

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

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

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

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

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

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From Page to Screen: The Maze Runner (2014)

From Page to Screen Header

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

Book Review

By Jennifer Griffin

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) More trials await the Gladers.

I give The Maze Runner book

Eye Art1Eye Art1

 and 1/2 EYES ON PAGE.

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Film Review

By Kristin

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

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

I give The Maze Runner

Eye Art1Eye Art1

 and 1/2 EYES ON SCREEN.

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Compare/Contrast THE MAZE RUNNER’s Book and Film

Answers given by Jennifer Griffin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

If you’re looking for a family-friendly, entertaining and fun movie, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is the movie to go see this summer.

I have to admit, when I first heard of it, I wasn’t super excited to see it. This isn’t because the trailer didn’t look intriguing, because it looked funny enough to me. I now love the song “Hooked on a Feeling” because of the trailers. But a movie with a tree and a talking raccoon and green, pink, and blue people . . . I wasn’t sure if there would be too big of a learning curve to understand the terminology, characters, and places within the Guardians of the Galaxy universe. I wasn’t sure if I were geeky enough to be a fan.

The movie opens with a young Peter Quill Star Lord, who awkwardly watches in terror as his mother dies. We don’t know anything about his father, other than that he will eventually arrive to take care of him. Then suddenly, little Peter runs outside, and a space ship sucks him up. And then we’re somewhere brand new.

Introduce a whole new space world where it’s normal to be blue or green or probably any other color for that matter. Twenty-six years have passed. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) has grown up, and he’s on a mission to retrieve an orb. After he duels it out with Korath (Djimon Hounsou) and escapes, Korath reports back to Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) that Peter has made off with orb. Ronan assigns Nebula (Karen Gillan) the task to reclaim the orb, but Gamora (Zoe Saldana) proposes she go instead.

Meanwhile, Peter’s partner, Yondu (Michael Rooker), wants the orb for himself, but Peter decides to sell it to another buyer. Everything seems to be fine until Peter mentions the name “Ronan,” and the buyer suddenly loses all interest in the orb.

Quill, however, doesn’t have much time to decide what he wants to do with the orb, because others are interested in it. Enter Gamora, who doesn’t bother flirting for more than thirty seconds before snatching the orb and making a run for it. Enter one crazy, gun-toting raccoon named Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), followed by his tree partner, Groot (Vin Diesel), who handles the heavy-lifting end of their team. They’ve discovered the bounty for capturing Peter Quill, and they’re out to retrieve him, while Gamora and Quill are fighting over possession of the orb. Soon we have four characters in a tangled mess, while we still are not exactly sure why the orb is so important.

Unfortunately for the four thieves, they are captured and thrown into a space prison by Nova Headquarters, headed by Nova Prime (Glen Close). In prison, we meet Drax (Dave Bautista) who has a score to settle with Ronan, who murdered his wife and daughter. Drax has it out for Gamora, who he believes is in league with Ronan. Peter, Rocket, and Groot team together to break out of prison. Gamora strikes a deal with them, offering up money to let her join in on the prison break. We learn that Gamora has her own plans aside from Ronan’s, and seeks to get out from under his heavy grasp. Drax eases his way into the group, also wanting to be released and gain vengeance for his loved ones by killing Ronan. The five fight together to break out of prison, and we start to learn each of the character’s goals, their desires for what each would like to do with the orb, and the importance behind the orb.

While I feel like the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy is a little convoluted, involving a lot of strange new characters and places, I do feel like the film picks up speed, gets to the point, and has such a fun time doing it. I recently read a very helpful article over at EW that answered some questions and explained some of the terminology and overall storyline regarding the purple infinity stone and the infinity stone belt. I’d recommend it to anyone, like me, who isn’t very familiar with the universe.

During some of the space fights, I felt like Guardians was inspired a little by the original Star Wars films, and I couldn’t help but think of them as they were flying around. Bradley Cooper does great voice work as the snarky, sarcastic Rocket Raccoon. Plus, I think it’s the first and probably only time I thought a raccoon could be cute. Chris Pratt, instead of needing to rise to the challenge, seems to naturally fit the role to play a silly, meaningful leader in the film. It’s as if he’s discovered the role he was always meant to play. Both the villains and heroes were played by a strong cast proven to be fully devoted to the film’s script and tone. For me, the writing seemed to get sharper as the film continued, and the humor seems universally-appealing to a large scope of viewers. The line “finger to the throat means death” made me laugh, followed by Drax’s explanation that “nothing goes over my head!” The editor inside of me is glad he eventually learned what a metaphor is.

Aside from the humor of the film, I felt like it touched on some deeper ideas, balancing the film with action, emotion, and humor, with some intentional deep thought throughout. I was caught off-guard to hear Rocket bitingly respond that although everyone’s lost people, it’s not an excuse to give up. It’s true that everyone has lost someone. That fact doesn’t make a person exceptional, nor should it exclude one from moving on in life. I appreciated the emotional lesson of his line, although his lack of compassion seemed more balanced by Drax’s character, who admirably fought Ronan, quickly learning that although he couldn’t defeat him, he would die trying if necessary. Even Peter revealed his softer side, risking his life to rescue his walkman with the “Awesome Mix,” which is, by the way, awesome.

And speaking of the Awesome Mix, one of my favorite parts, and perhaps one of the best parts of Guardians of the Galaxy is its soundtrack. Some of the people who attended the movie with me mentioned they had never heard any of the music before. I guess that says something about my age, considering that I knew most of the music already. It’s a great soundtrack, and I’m sure it will boost sales for the oldies that haven’t been bought in a while.

The Marvel cinematic universe has launched another successful film. I give Guardians of the Galaxy

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Now it’s your turn. What did you think of Guardians of the Galaxy? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts!

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.