AEOS Double Review: Chef and Birdman (2014)

Having just caught Chef (2014), I decided that it would work well to write a double review of it with Birdman (2014), considering both films deal with artists and critics and their relationship to one another. Here are my reviews for two of the best movies I’ve seen so far in 2014.


 AEOS Review: Chef (2014)

I missed out on all of the Chef hype this past summer, so I recently rented it when I had a free night. Many of your reviews I read echoed that there was no major twist to the story, but that it was just a good story told. So I rented it with the expectation that I would get to watch a simple, but good story unfold.

Chef is Jon Favreau’s movie through and through. He produced, wrote, directed, and starred in it. Favreau has worn all of those hats before, but not usually all at once, and not for a film as successful as Chef has become. So it must have been a pretty important story he wanted to tell in order for him to put that much effort into it. And it really does show in his character, Carl Casper.

Casper’s priority in life is to constantly push boundaries in the kitchen. When food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) arrives at the restaurant, Casper argues with the restaurant’s owner about the menu, decidedly bowing to the owner’s demands to keep the menu simple and the same, which pleases the general crowd of hungry customers. The next day, Casper reads Michel’s words that ultimately rips both his work as well as the restaurant apart.

But the heart of the story of Chef is Carl’s relationship with his estranged family, particularly his son Percy (Emjay Anthony). With his family taking a backseat to his career, this minor setback in receiving a bad review somewhat unites Carl and Percy. When news of the bad review travels online, Percy teaches Carl how to set up a Twitter account, thus sparking a somewhat accidental fight between both Carl and critic Michel. Ultimately, Carl loses his job after a YouTube video of him yelling at Michel goes viral. So he decides to open up his own food truck.

Chef is a movie that has a lot of unexpected funny moments, and I think it would entertain both movie critics and families alike. Chef centers around a relationship between a father and his son, and it shows the repercussions from both when Carl is involved in Percy’s life, and when he’s not present. There are touching moments that remind us viewers that we don’t always need a dramatic tale told in order to be entertained. Failure is an inevitable part of life, and the greatest lessons are often learned in how we react when we experience failure. Carl Caspers is a simple character, but he represents a lot of ordinary people who are talented, yet jobless. But more so than that, Carl Casper is a great representation of an artist who wants to be his own boss, but struggles between working the safe job with a safe paycheck, or taking a risk that could fulfill him or leave him empty-handed.

Social media also plays a significant role in the film, showing both how it can destroy or elevate a person’s reputation. I like that this theme wasn’t constantly repeating itself throughout, but that it acted as a more subtle idea in the background.

All of the acting felt very subdued, which worked well for the tone of Chef. I didn’t really think either Scarlett Johansson’s or Robert Downey Jr.’s roles were that pertinent to the film; most any actor or actress could have filled those roles. It almost seemed to me like they were cashing in favors to Favreau, but I could be reading into it too much.

Overall, I think Chef was a great film for the year, although in a few years will probably be forgotten. That said, I appreciated its simplicity, and I liked the relationship dynamic between Carl and Percy. I give Chef 

Eye Art1Eye Art1Eye Art1
EYES ON SCREEN.

 

What did you think of Chef? Did you think the plot was too simple, or did you think that was the strength of the film?


 AEOS Review: Birdman (2014)

A couple months ago, I read a review on a movie called Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). It just looked odd, especially the picture of Emma Stone not looking like Emma Stone. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to see the film, but after all of the high praise for it, I decided I might as well give it a try.

Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, a once hailed and beloved actor who was known best as Birdman, a superhero character he played in not one, but three films. After turning down a fourth Birdman film, Riggan struggles between playing father in his broken family and making himself relevant again in his Broadway debut. Of course, things becomes less simple when theater diva Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) joins his play’s cast.

So many themes are overlapping each other in Birdman, but the primary takeaway is Riggan seeking significance in his career and clarity in his life while trying to come out from under the shadow of his days playing Birdman. Speaking of Birdman, who is he exactly, considering he is the title of the film? I consider Birdman to be Riggan’s alter ego, sitting on his shoulder, shifting between the good and evil sides of Riggan’s conscience.

Usually I would assume a movie with such a multilayered script to gain its strength mostly from its sharp and interesting writing, but Birdman really soars not only because of writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu, but also because of an essential lead and supporting cast who are able to carry Birdman beyond its script.

Michael Keaton makes an astounding comeback, able to access a full range of emotions, but captures the audience in his most vulnerable moments. His conversations with his daughter, Sam (Emma Stone), are some of the most wrenching parts of the film, but you’re happy to go along this trip with Riggan because Keaton uses some of his real-life experiences to play Riggan so genuinely on screen. It is no surprised he has received multiple award nominations already.

Emma Stone might not play a large role in Birdman, but hers is an essential one that gives viewers probably the best commentary in the film. I wouldn’t have expected to see Stone tackle as dark a role as rehab druggie Sam, but she’s definitely proven that she can play more than just comedic and light-hearted characters. Edward Norton also seems to play an exaggerated (?) version of himself in Birdman, resulting in some of the most unexpected and amusing scenes I wouldn’t have expected from him. I could continue to mention multiple actors who added to Birdman, but I don’t want to forget to mention Zach Galifianakis, who played straight to the funny and weird and eccentric, using Birdman almost as a stage to show off that he can be funny without being the funny man.

The ending of Birdman is most telling, because it leaves viewers wondering why. It gave Riggan the critical review he sought from theater critic Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan). It also may or may not reveal what was going on in Riggan’s head, and how he was dealing with everything. I like how it served as the finale of both the play and the film. There was a great build-up, and I was definitely not expecting it.

Complementing the script and acting was a memorable and unique score composed entirely with just a drum set by Antonio Sánchez. Though I wouldn’t listen to it in my free time, I felt like the drumming worked well with the eccentricity of the film, and it set the tone for Keaton’s character and played off his emotions, swelling and diminuendoing as the movie went along.

Emmanuel Lubezki’s camera work is also the big talk of Birdman, and rightfully so. Viewers really felt the experience of working in Broadway, the camera offering the “one, continuous take” of characters walking down the cramped, claustrophobic setting of a theater backstage.

I found relevance in Birdman in watching actors play characters that loosely mirrored their real lives. Beyond that, we get to witness the relationship between the artist (in this case, actors) and the critic. In addition, we get a behind-the-scenes view of a play, a washed-up actor’s life, and the consequences of how fans, viewers, and critics perceive artists in a different light when an actor seeks relevance in a fictional world where relevance is rarely long-lasting or authentic. Did that end scene give Tabitha Dickinson the sincerity she demanded from Riggan? What was Alejandro González Iñárritu trying to tell viewers in Birdman?

Although Birdman doesn’t dispense the same conversation Interstellar left us with this year, it does ask questions about how artists want to be perceived, and it also points the finger at critics to consider how we critique by offering a look behind the curtain. However, not all critics play hard ball like Ms. Dickinson, and not all actors are looking to be authentic like Riggan.

Birdman will likely make its mark on 2014 awards ceremonies, hitting reviewers’ and critics’ nerves. I found the conversation and thought process following the film to be more eye-opening and interesting than the film itself. Perhaps it’s my own fault. It’s not a movie I want to watch over and over again, but it gained my respect in offering up such a multi-dimensional character as Riggan Thomson in such a sharply edited film that only boosted its already strong writing. I give Birdman 

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1/2 EYES ON SCREEN.

 

What did you think of Birdman? What was the ultimate takeaway of the film for you? What are your theories on the ending?

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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.

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.

Sherlock Holmes 2: All Looks, No Depth

A Game of Shadows reminds me of the pretty girl in the room that every guy wants to meet. She’s hot, she’s confident, she’s available. And then a guy meets her, and within about 10 minutes, he realizes why no guy is wasting his time talking to her: she’s all looks and no substance.

In a nutshell, that’s the best way I can describe the second installment of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

What Was Good

  • This film was visually appealing in so many ways. My biggest comparison of it was last year’s TRON: Legacy that came out right around the same time. The story line lacked, the writing was weak, but it was pretty to look at. One of the very first scenes in the film where Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) fights off four guys at once was incredible. At one point in the scene, the camera made a complete 360 degree turn. It was visually dazzling. The other memorable scene, visually, was the run through the forest. The slow motion action, the fight sequences, the explosion–by far, one of the most stylistic scenes of the movie. I had thoughts go back to when I had seen 300, but I found myself more enthralled with the visuals and special effects in Game of Shadows than I did in 300 or in the previous Sherlock Holmes installment.
  • Robert Downey Jr. Need I say more? Although I’m of the strong opinion that there are far better British actors out there to portray the famous criminal investigator, RDJ has a special magnetism to crowds of people. He’s funny, he has great facial remarks, and he knows how to make people laugh without blinking. He talks fast, moves fast, and looks good all the while doing so. Although he makes a far better Iron Man than Holmes, he knows how to attract a crowd and then hold its attention.
  • The bromance between RDJ and Jude Law. No one can deny the hilarious chemistry between Holmes and his partner in crime-solving, Dr. Watson. Although Watson is practically forced to accept his sidekick role, he keeps Holmes alive and works as a pretty good support system when needed, be it shooting at people, shooting him with adrenaline, or completing part of a mission. And at the end of the day, there’s this unspoken care for one another.
  • Perhaps one of my favorite parts of this movie were the fight scenes. Not only were they visually appealing, but they were also fun and interesting. The choreography, the narration preceding what RDJ was about to throw down on the villains, and then Professor Moriarty’s interruption in that final narration–all captured and edited well.
  • The ending stayed true to the story. While the movie franchise is utterly miscast, poorly written, and held together by a storyline that is both confusing and disjointed, the ending proved to be a rare part of the movie, with both Sherlock Holmes and the professor falling to their deaths. This is how Arthur Conan Doyle wrote it. And yes, Holmes does come back to life. This is the only scene I would applaud Ritchie for forming.

What Was Bad

  • I’m very disappointed to admit that the soundtrack was a letdown. Hans Zimmer is one of my favorite film composers today, but this soundtrack didn’t do it for me. While it held onto some of the same themes as the first film, it failed to go anywhere beyond that. It was all over the place, and it lacked the build up and the originality of the first soundtrack.
  • The writing is probably the most obvious problem with the film. Difficult to follow, with random things happening, and no one understanding why. Lots of running, fighting, shooting, and overall craziness, but not much point to them. Or is there a point, and we just don’t know it because it’s just bad storytelling? I’m going to have to hand this baton to the screenwriters, Michele and Kieran Mulroney. While the first movie lacked the spunk, thrill, and overall enjoyment that the second offered, Game of Shadows failed to explain itself and decided that looking pretty was a far bigger priority than making much sense or explaining itself.
  • Although the cast really brought it together for this second film, it added great actors, but misused the supporting cast in practically every way. Stephen Fry, who played Holmes’s brother, was funny and added a nice element to the movie. So what’s the problem? In the Sherlock Holmes books, Holmes does have a brother–a twin brother. While this may seem like a nit-picky dislike, the fact that RDJ and Fry share literally no level of similarity in look is just a poor choice. With today’s CGI capabilities, why not use RDJ for his twin? Noomi Rapace, another great addition to the cast, was also poorly used. While she did the best she could with the material, she really had nothing to do except function as an onlooker. This is disappointing when you have such a great physical actress on set. The choice for a better villain was then utilized, bringing Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) into the story. Harris, portraying an intimidating foe to the much-loved Sherlock Holmes, was great. What wasn’t great is that Moriarty rarely, if ever, talks in the stories. Someone is always playing messenger for him. This is just another big, purposefully-made mistake–we lose the ability to be surprised or taken aback when the villain is constantly showing himself when mystery could have been played well here.
  • Guy Ritchie’s direction is the biggest issue to blame, bad writing taking second place. While he likes making visual beauty on screen, it seems that he wasn’t interested in creating a Sherlock Holmes franchise that is much like Sherlock Holmes in the least. From the onset of poor casting choices, to forcing the stories to be more of summer popcorn flicks with big explosions and witty dialogue than anything much like is true to the story of Sherlock Holmes, Ritchie’s misguided attempts at making a good Sherlock Holmes has proven itself to be a failure once again.
  • As much as I appreciated the ending, as Richard Roeper mentioned in his review, Ritchie decided he rather have the audience leave on a happy note than leave anything to mystery by ending the movie with the return of Sherlock Holmes. As funny as it was, Ritchie blew a great opportunity to leave viewers in the dark and be able to present a great surprise in the next film while leaving everyone in suspense. It’s ironic, seeing that viewers felt completely lost during the movie, but had all suspense removed at the end.