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.

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AEOS Review: The Hunger Games

The phrase, “The Truman Show Meets Gladiator,” was dubbed by Chicago film critic, Richard Roeper, in his review of the vastly marketed picture The Hunger Games, which opened this past weekend.

I make a regular habit of reading/watching film reviews by my two favorite Chicago film critics, the internationally acclaimed critic, Roger Ebert, and one of the guys Ebert used to rate films with–the above mentioned Richard Roeper. Although I have to hand it to Ebert for staying on top of more film and pop culture than any other critic I’m aware of, I’ve got to hand the torch for The Hunger Games to Roeper in this case, because unlike Ebert, Roeper read The Hunger Games series and was able to better review the film as a viewer, critic, and fan of the books. Do check out Roeper’s review below.

There’s a lot I can say about the film, so let me break it up into parts. Keep in mind that there will be SPOILERS. First, let’s get out of the way what I didn’t like.

What Didn’t Work

  • Poor Visual Quality for The Capitol – Unfortunately, the special effects did nothing for me in the middle section of the film. Gary Ross’s vision of The Capitol hardly lived up to Collins’s description. From the fake screens passing through the windows of the train, to the far-off screen shot of the tributes riding in on chariots to the ceremony, to Katniss’s Capitol quarters, the film lacked visual prowess, color, and quality overall. I was hoping Ross would have pulled out all the stops for the film, but the setting of The Capitol fell short.
  • Madge and Plutarch MIA – Madge– This complaint comes from someone who read the book. The introduction of the Mockingjay pin is given by District 12’s mayor’s daughter, Madge, who befriends Katniss in the series. In the first book, she gives this to Katniss. Instead the film attempts to make up for this poor revision by having Greasy Sae hand Katniss the pin in the Hob. Plutarch– My sister brought up this point to me. Although I wouldn’t regard this as a dealbreaker or major fault on Ross’s end, I have to wonder why Mr. Plutarch wasn’t present within the film given that his role becomes more pertinent to the plot in the following sequels. My conclusion is that they’ll bring him along in the later films, and they didn’t regard him as necessary in the first.
  • Low Katniss/Peeta Screen Time – While many fans are overjoyed to not have another one of their beloved series taken over by a tween love triangle, the two leads of The Hunger Games shared fewer scenes together than what I had hoped for. Although film is a rather limited channel for time in telling a story (well, Peter Jackson defied that problem with LOTR. I digress.), Katniss and Peeta’s relationship–or should I say the relationship put on for show–wasn’t built well enough to convince us that the love displayed between Katniss and Peeta wasn’t entirely false. Katniss is confused, and we grasp that a little at the end; but watching the film, we don’t see enough of a relationship or friendship built between Katniss and Peeta to know that Katniss isn’t entirely genuine. Her actions are questionable, and rightfully so, but they’re questionable for the wrong reason. Instead of wondering whether she really has genuine feelings for Peeta or not, we’re questioning how she could be having feelings for him having not shared many scenes with him on screen.
  • 50% Finale – Did anyone else take notice that the third part of Suzanne Collins’s novel ate up over half of the film’s running time? Put in perspective – Each of The Hunger Games novels are built like a play, each having three acts. “The Games” acts as the third and final act of the first book. The games took up half the film. Many little moments were lost within the first half of the film, most likely the plan being – let’s really make the “the games” the movie. I hope they don’t botch up the second film like this.

What Did Work

I was more than content with everything else in the film. Clocking in at a little over 140 minutes, The Hunger Games still felt short to me in comparison to reading the book. The adaptation of the story from book to film, however, along with its flaws, was still crafted with sharp attention to detail and articulated in a way not to bring justice to the book, but more so to the story and its characters. Going into The Hunger Games, I expected to experience more low points than high. Happily proven wrong, here are the points I consider high in the film.

  • The Entire Supporting Cast – Perhaps one of the strongest supporting casts to graze the screen of a teen series turned major film–Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Willow Shields, Wes Bentley, Donald Sutherland–these were the people who really made The Hunger Games a hit aside from the incredible Jennifer Lawrence heading them.
  • Every Scene with Caesar Flickerman – Every scene with the blue-haired Stanley Tucci on screen was met with laughter. Since The Hunger Games is told entirely from Katniss’s perspective, we miss out on everyone else’s personal thoughts. Not so in the film. Flickerman serves not only as host and questioner of the tributes, but also as something of a news anchor who worked as narrator, offering updates every now and then. This was well-placed in the script, aiding to the pacing of the film and answering questions of those who haven’t read the book.

  • Casting – I’ll say it once, I’ll say it a million times. The casting worked really well in The Hunger Games, despite the highly questioned Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. Winter’s Bone is enough to support the widely-ranged actress, and her performance in The Hunger Games speaks only more of her talent to capture the necessary emotions as well as play out the action scenes. Josh Hutcherson has an innocent presence on screen. Perhaps because he’s a little shorter and has the cutest face ever, but he looks the part of Peeta enough. His acting backed the casting choice.
  • The Games – The Games section of the film was the focus of the film, and easily the best part. Full of intensity and grit, viewers sense the dire situation Katniss and Peeta are in. It’s life and death, and it’s kids we’re dealing with here. Ross really placed the heart of the film into this section, unmasking the rage of the characters, dotting the film with more attention and detail here than anywhere else.
  • Movie Additions – Watching Seneca Crane administrate actions behind the scenes or seeing Haymitch snatch a deal from sponsors on behalf of Katniss and Peeta were treats for those who read the books. We were able to appreciate the element of surprise, too, in the crafty, creative way President Snow killed off Seneca Crane in the end. It’s rare to admit that a movie scene added to the story rather than take away from it.
  • Rue’s Death Scene – Perhaps the most heart-wrenching scene in the film, the raw emotion Katniss emitted, the flowers decorating Rue’s body, the signal Katniss gave toward the camera, the uproar in District 11 following the death–a powerful scene in a seemingly depressing story–followed the book pat, refusing to give a PG version of what happened.
  • Attention to Detail  While some parts could have been stronger, I must admit there were little details only readers would especially appreciate. Notice how Katniss always tied herself in a tree to sleep so she wouldn’t fall out? Appreciate that Katniss decorated Rue’s body with flowers? See that white rose on President Snow? Katniss’s orange backpack? Cinna’s gold eyelids?

Favorite Moments

  • The powerful scene featuring the uproar in District 11
  • A rock that turned out to be . . . Peeta?!?! (The name Peter is translated in the Greek, meaning “rock.” Ironic much?)
  • The theater erupting in laughter when the camera panned on Gale watching Katniss kiss Peeta.
  • Rue in the tree signaling the trackerjacker hive to Katniss.
  • “I’m not allowed to bet, but if I could, I’d bet on you.” –Cinna
  • “That is mahogany!” –Effie
  • Peeta: “You’re our mentor. Don’t you have any advice?” Haymitch: “Yes. Embrace the probability of your imminent death.”

Final Thoughts/Queries

  • MPAA Rating – My biggest question and thought following my first viewing of The Hunger Games regards its MPAA rating. Yes, it was rated PG-13, so some parts had to be cut back to take away from the grisly violence of kids ultimately killing each other. I have to wonder what the film would have been like had it been rated R in terms of violence. Roger Ebert mentions in his review how it’s actually silent in the opening part of the games, with kids dropping like flies. While the scene is powerful, I tend to wonder if the sound was taken out in order to keep the PG-13 rating. It only makes sense to keep the rating no higher than PG-13 in order to not cut out the target audience of the film. But if there were an extended or R-rated version of the film, I wonder which scenes would be different. Would Clove actually cut Katniss’s lip when she has her pinned down? Would Peeta actually have a far more severe leg injury? Would we hear the effects of an arrow piercing a child, or a knife cutting flesh?
  • The Bar Is Set for Sequels – With the growing success of the film, how will the sequels play out? Will they pale in comparison, or will they rise above? Compared with other series such as Harry Potter, whose finale rated high, will The Hunger Games be able to top itself in its sequels, or go down in popularity?
  • Will Gary Ross Continue? – Unless I have misheard (a high possibility in itself), no director is set for Catching Fire, although a release date of November 22, 2013 has already been announced! Should Ross direct the sequels? I certainly think so. Other series have proven that a consistent continuity strengthens–not diminishes–from film series.

OK, folks. Lots of questions for you now. First, what did you think of the film? Second, what did you like, and what disappointed you? Have any favorite moments? Consider the final thoughts and add your opinion.