Rapid Eye Reviews: The Theory of Everything, Wild, and Nightcrawler (2014)

I’ve finished posting about my resolutions for 2015. Before I wrap up last year by posting all of my best and worst lists, I wanted to post some Rapid Eye Reviews for three of 2014’s films that I ran out of time to review during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.


 The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything suffers from falling into the all-too-familiar territory of offering nothing more than an average film on the story of a famous person. What makes the film worth seeing are the performances. Eddie Redmayne is truly the star of the film, and I imagine it will thrust him forward in his career towards bigger and better gigs. Of course, I can’t leave out Felicity Jones, because as viewers, we often saw things from her perspective, whether they were for better or for worse, similar to the feelings that erupt from a confused and tired marriage between Stephen and Jane. You won’t find inspiration from the obstacles both Stephen and Jane overcome as much as you’ll contently sit and observe the lives of two adults struggling to cope with Stephen’s deteriorating health, which slowly drives a wedge between Jane and himself. Don’t be fooled by the title: The Theory of Everything is much more of a relational drama than a history of Stephen Hawking’s findings or belief system.

Thanks to some worthwhile performances, I think The Theory of Everything deserves

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ON SCREEN.

 

Wild

I read multiple reviews on Wild before seeing it in theaters, and after seeing it, I think I felt less assured about my own feelings on it. It’s one of those movies that I felt like missed the mark, but not so far that I would call it bad. It fits within the vein of 127 Hours (2010), but it doesn’t hit quite all the right notes like the latter. Yes, it is the story of one Cheryl Strayed, who strayed so far from the straight and narrow that she changed her last name. I can’t discount the film for my dislike of Cheryl, who ultimately tried to redeem herself by hiking over a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail instead of painfully facing her demons by confronting them rather than hiking to reflect over them. I have to give props to Reese Witherspoon, who admitted herself how difficult the filming was. She convincingly plays Cheryl, both in her older and her younger years. One of my biggest issues with Wild, however, is that it tends to jump all over the place, often forgetting where the focus of the film ought to be. Wild seeks to be in the inspirational hit of the year, but it fails, even with Witherspoon’s transformative performance.

Wild remains in good, but not great territory, earning

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1/2 ON SCREEN.

 

Nightcrawler

I’m grateful to everyone who urged me to check out rookie director Dan Gilroy’s noir night thriller Nightcrawler, because I consider it one of the best films of 2014. Nightcrawler, with its simple plot and focus on a singular character whose shades of gray fade to black as he accurately earns the title of a “nightcrawler,” both in career and literal terms, is a thrilling ride from beginning to end. Nightcrawler is Jake Gyllenhaal’s head-turning film that urges serious film fans and critics to take his acting more seriously in recent years. His changed appearance and his dedication to the slimy character of Lou Bloom makes for one of the most memorable performances of the year. Nightcrawler engages viewers from the beginning and doesn’t let go, similar to Bloom’s grasp on receiving confirmation and attention from others. What makes Nightcrawler barely lose it’s FOUR EYES ON SCREEN rating for me was the less-than-believable actions by Nina Romina (Rene Russo) throughout the film.

Both a thrill and a horror to watch, I’m glad to give Nightcrawler

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1/2 ON SCREEN.

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Ten Critically-Acclaimed Films I Just Don’t Like

It might sound like a bad thing, but truly, you just can’t like every movie, regardless of its popularity with critics, film buffs, or even your casual viewers. While there are positive things I could say about each of these movies (and I will!), I just didn’t care for them, and I don’t imagine I’ll revisit any of them in the future. I got this idea after reading Abbi’s post about Ten Movies People Seem to Love That [She] Just Didn’t Get, over at her site Where the Wild Things Are. She got the idea from Film Nerd Blog. I thought it was a great idea, and just turned it into a list of films most critics (and many viewers) loved (that I didn’t dig).

Here are ten critically-acclaimed films I just don’t like:

Almost Made the List . . .

The Town (2010)

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metascore: 74/100

The Town nearly misses the list, even considering it’s the only movie in the list I turned off in the middle of viewing. I loved the cast, excluding Blake Lively. I think Ben Affleck has established himself as a director not to be toyed with. My issue with the film was the overabundant drug use and language. It’s not that I’m not interested in seeing a town, a group of people, realistically displayed. It just took over the film for me, overshadowing the story.


 10) Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Rotten Tomatoes: 87% RT
Metascore: 76/100

The fashion is stunning. It’s Audrey Hepburn, how could it not be stunning? I know I just reviewed Roman Holiday (1953) and loved it! There’s no doubt there are some great elements in this film that make it the memorable movie it is today. For me, however, I just didn’t feel like there was a great story there, and I couldn’t get into it. Sorry, Holly Golighty.

9) The Graduate (1967)

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Metascore: 77/100

The Graduate – another classic I just didn’t care for. It’s one of the first coming-of-age stories that explores a territory not yet tackled in film. Dustin Hoffman gets famous off of The Graduate. The music is great, and the end scene is emotional. But for me, watching it decades later, I just didn’t connect with the film at all.

8) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Metascore: 86/100

Considered a must-see by anyone who considers him/herself a film buff, I know some heads are shaking as they see this one on my list. It’s a highly influential science fiction film crafted by Stanley Kubrick. I should like this. I should want to watch this, include it on my top ten lists, boast of its greatness. But I missed it . . . even knowing that this film is a work of art, I don’t care for it.

7) The Exorcist (1973)

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Metascore: 82/100

Now we enter the horror genre. A movie that I watched in high school, The Exorcist scared the crap out of me. It’s a mark on the horror film genre, and I can understand why. But I don’t feel apologetic for disliking this movie. It’s not that I think it’s bad; I just don’t like movies that deal with devil/demon possession. It’s not a fun movie for this film fan.

6) Pulp Fiction (1994)

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metascore: 94/100

Perhaps one of the most controversial films on my list, Quentin Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction wasn’t a fun ride for me. I won’t say there weren’t moments when I laughed, or thought I had witnessed something very cool in the film. It’s certainly a well-made piece of cinema; I, however, struggled to enjoy it amidst the overt sexual scenes and language, even knowing it was a Tarantino film.

5) Lost in Translation (2003)

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Metascore: 89/100

Yet another one of the more controversial films on this list, Lost in Translation is a deep film that does succeed to tell its story. I’m not arguing that. It’s just one of those movies I watched and was done with. It includes one of Scarlet Johansson’s best performances, and the movie shows how you can strike up a friendship with the unlikeliest of people. But this movie depressed me to the degree that I have no need to see it again.

4) Avatar (2009)

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Metascore: 83/100

James Cameron brought us Titanic (1997), and of course, he had to bring another enormous budget, technologically ground-breaking film called Avatar. It’s not that I don’t respect the art, the technology, the scope of the film. It’s a feat in movie history. But for all of the special effects and millions of dollars poured into the project, I felt like maybe they could have had a shake down in the writers room and come up with a more original, engaging story. According to my Intro to Film teacher, Avatar was just a rip-off of Dances with Wolves (1990). I haven’t seen it, so I couldn’t tell you. But the movie never stayed with me, no matter how many sequels Cameron’s team has promised.

3) The Tree of Life (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Metascore: 85/100

Jessica Chastain was in four movies in 2011, and this was the only one I really didn’t like. It wasn’t that the cinematography wasn’t gorgeous, because it was. I can’t think of a movie in this decade that is more beautiful to watch unfold on screen. But the idea of being metaphorical doesn’t hold up for me in this movie. I know The Tree of Life aimed to be deep, but Terrance Malick’s film didn’t win me over. To this day, I still don’t understand the appeal. Perhaps I just wasn’t meant to understand.

2) Melancholia (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Metascore: 80/100

Perhaps the must unmemorable movie on this list for me, Melancholia bored me to no end. I distinctly remember forcing myself to sit through this film just so I could watch all of the Oscar-nominated films that year. Like The Tree of Life, it offers some of the most beautiful scenes to watch. But I missed out on watching an actual story. I just remember Kirsten Dunst getting angry, and Kiefer Sutherland popping up in a movie after his 24 (2001-2010) run.

1) Prisoners (2013)

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Metascore: 74/100

It’s difficult for me to find words for how much I disliked Prisoners, especially considering how big a fan I was of the cast. Jake Gyllenhaal, Wolverine, and Viola Davis – it’s got to be good, right? The plot is interesting: someone’s kidnapped children. But it was painful for me to watch Hugh Jackman torture Paul Dano. From start to finish, it was disturbing for me to watch, and I have no desire to revisit it ever again, regardless of its critical success.

It’s your turn now. What critically-acclaimed movies do you not dig? Which ones on my list do you think I need to watch again to consider otherwise? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

15 Writers Who Didn’t Suffer from Writer’s Block

Since the Oscars have passed and there isn’t movie after movie to be discussing, I’ve hit a sort of writer’s block in trying to decide what to blog about next. Writing plays a large role in film, from the screenwriters and editors right down to characters with different writing professions in movies. So I decided to list several different types of writers in movies; this isn’t a favorites list by any means, but just a list of 15 different types of writers played throughout film.

1. The Blogger

– Julie in Julie & Julia, played by Amy Adams

Amy Adams’s character Julie was really searching for her niche, and she ended up finding two: cooking inspired by the famous Julia Child, and blogging about her journey through Child’s cookbooks. It’s interesting and neat to watch as Julie Powell’s blog becomes well-known.

2. The Greeting Card Writer

– Tom in (500) Days of Summer, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I had to include Tom played by the wonderful JGL because there just aren’t that many films about greeting card writers, save Mr. Deeds. Tom’s true passion is to be an architect, but he settles to write greeting cards, and in the process, encounters one of the loves of his life.

3. The Columnist

– John Grogan in Marley and Me, played by Owen Wilson

Midnight in Paris is not the first movie that Owen Wilson plays a writer. In Marley and Me, Wilson played real-life John Grogan, a writer who found his inspiration from a very poorly-behaved but lovable dog. His writing was so well-received, that his boss assigned Grogan his own column to write about whatever he wanted.

4. The Lyricist

– Sophie in Music and Lyrics, played by Drew Barrymore

While Barrymore’s character Sophie doesn’t claim to be any kind of writer, much less a lyricist, Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant), the man for whom she is “watering plants,” picks up on her ability to effortlessly write lyrics, and convinces her to help him write a song when he’s at a lost for words.

5. The Magazine Writer

– William in Almost Famous, played by Patrick Fugit

It seems like “the magazine writer” is overused in film; it’s almost a cop-out career for a character. But in Almost Famous, William, the semi-autobiographical character Cameron Crowe based Almost Famous around, gets the rare and exciting opportunity to write about an up and coming band for Rolling Stone.

6. The Novelist

– Mort in Secret Window, played by Johnny Depp

Based off a Stephen King novel, Secret Window stars Johnny Depp as a writer suffering from writer’s block. In his own way, Depp plays a rather funny writer–he’s unkempt, living in a trashy, hidden away home, depending entirely on his story to keep himself interested in much less besides eating and sleeping.

7. The Playwright

– Richard in Somewhere in Time, played by Christopher Reeve

Somewhere in Time isn’t a film thought of much for being about a man writing plays, but more of a love story that happens in reverse. Richard, played by Christopher Reeve, is a playwright living in Chicago. He manages to go back in time to meet the love of his life. But can he stay in the past forever?

8. The Biographer

– Jo in Little Women, played by Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder gives perhaps her most-well known (and one of her best) performances as Jo, the most obstinate and independent of four sisters. Jo doesn’t make it far with writing to begin with. Maybe because she hasn’t found the right material yet. But when he sister, Beth, dies, Jo decides to write a biography on her.

9. The Screenwriter

– Griffin in The Player, played by Tim Robbins

The Player showcases the world of Hollywood, specifically honing in on screenwriters. People are constantly pitching stories, searching for that million dollar idea to make into a movie. Tim Robbins stars as Griffin, a screenwriter who gets himself mixed up in some dangerous business, but something that may end up being worth telling a story about.

10. The Journalist

– Steve in The Soloist, played by Robert Downey Jr.

The “journalist” is another often used career for actors in films. I decided to choose a rather less-known film and writer, although Robert Downey Jr. is anything but “not well-known.” RDJ plays Steve, a character based (and book written by) the real Steve Lopez, who meets an interesting person who might change his perspective.

11. The Diary Keeper

– Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’s Diary, played by Renée Zellweger

Diaries are kept by many historical or well-known people. Bridget Jones is definitely not well-known where she’s from; she really just wants to lose weight and meet her prince charming. Zellwegers plays the hilarious Jones, who really gets in a bind when she meets two men, one played by the debonair Colin Firth, the other by the enticing Hugh Grant.

12. The Copy Editor

– Josie in Never Been Kissed, played by Drew Barrymore

I tried very hard not to include the same person twice, but Barrymore is really in her own element playing a copy editor/ undercover writer in Never Been Kissed. Although she blows her cover in the end, she still writes a memorable article that boosts the news for The Chicago Sun-Times and apologizes to the man she hurt.

13. The Ghost Writer

– the Ghost in The Ghost Writer, played by Ewan McGregor

Ewan McGregor essentially plays the “ghost” character in The Ghost Writer, who ends up writing and completing British Prime Minister Adam Lang’s (Pierce Brosnan) memoirs. The Ghost Writer is actually the only film I have not seen on this list; however, “ghost writer” really fit the need for another type of writer, so it’s added in the group.

14. The Cartoonist

– Robert in Zodiac, played by Jake Gyllenhaal

While I believe cartooning is in its own writing category, I would have included a section for “Code Writer” or “Killer Writer” to describe the character Zodiac in Zodiac; Gyllenhaal’s character Robert not only plays the role of a writer–he’s a cartoonist, but he also investigates the letters written by a killer.

15. The Poet

– William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love, played by Joseph Fiennes

While Fiennes plays Shakespeare in the peak of his play-writing days, I couldn’t think of a better film to include about a poet. Shakespeare wrote many well-known poems over his time in addition to his plays.